Years ago I bought a Leo Kottke album entitled “My Father’s Face”.
The title is taken from one song called “Jack Gets Up”. This song that I listened to fifteen to twenty years ago has begun to haunt me.
In the song Kottke laments the grind of daily life. He seems to be frustrated with the pointlessness of it all. It’s kind of like reading the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. The song is fascinating in a sort of depressing way. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not depressed and I wake up every morning eager to seize the day. Give me my cup of Bulletproof Coffee and my gym bag and send me out the door. I revel in the beauty of the sunrise and the slamming of barbells. I praise God for morning. I love morning.
But for some strange reason, these lyrics have started sticking in my head:
And there’s tears in the bank and the credit card
In the back yard, in the back yard, in the back yard
If you look in the mirror it’s your father’s face
Everyday in the morning when you get up and you crawl out of bed
The lyrics, “…If you look in the mirror it’s your father’s face, Everyday in the morning when you get up and you crawl out of bed” have all of a sudden hit me like a sledgehammer. Why? Because though my mirror frequently lies to me, the camera never does. Recently I grew a goatee. No particular reason; just because. I thought it would be a different look. A change. It grew in white as snow. That didn’t phase me in the least. Then I posted a photo of me smiling. Oh my goodness! For the first time in my life, I saw Dad in my face.
My WOD pal from the gym, Julia, sent me this photo yesterday. One of the first things I thought was, “what’s Dad doing with Julia?”, he doesn’t belong in that picture. Several years have passed since we have buried the last of our parents. When Suzanne and I left the gravesite after burying her Mother, I said to her, “Honey, we just moved to the front of the line.”
There a strangeness that comes with being aware of your own mortality. There is a beauty in aging. There is a tension that grows between what you know and what you can do. I no longer fear failure, there is no shame in failing. There is only shame in not trying. When I fail, I simply rise again tomorrow, to fight another day. I revel in my daily pain, because I know I am alive. I lift weight to stay alive. I eat real food to stay alive.
When I am shocked seeing my Dad in my face, it’s not that I don’t love my Dad. I love him, I admire him, I respect him and I am grateful to him and I appreciate all he taught me. But some of what he taught me was through omission. Once he retired, he didn’t revel in the wonder of his body, he rested.
A key law of physics is “A body at rest, stays at rest”. Dad lived a long life, but his last decade was fraught with illness, much of it was perhaps due to lifestyle choices. Some of his choices may have been obvious, but many were not. I am not a body at rest. Lord willing, I will not rest until I Rest in Peace. So I set my clock, I rise before the sun, I lift weights and I praise God that I share another sunrise with people I love.