Saturday, June 17, 2017

Things I Learned from My Own Personal Daddy - DON'T BREAK THE MAGIC

In January of 2010, I lost my Dad.  I was 41.

Like many (most?) other girls in the world, my Dad and I sometimes had a tumultuous relationship.  Ups, downs, sideways, and every other way in between.  It wasn't until I was a little older and had some distance in my 20s that I really understood that his intentions were ALWAYS to help me be a better person. To guide me, to love me, to point me in the direction he thought I should be going, although we OFTEN struggled to understand each other. 

I appreciate his INTENTIONS even more now than ever.

My Dad was a choir director for jr. high and high school kids at a public school in Mississippi, and at the church in which I grew up.  He did the music.  My Mom, also a music major, and at that time a piano teacher, children's church choir director, and choreographer of a dance line at the local community college, often accompanied the choir and choreographed and taught all the dances for my Dad's choirs.

He started way back in 1970, at a time when Mississippi was still struggling with the results of integration. (not that we aren't still struggling, but that's a topic for another day). 

I can tell you one thing 100% - my Daddy did not care if you were red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, or violet.  If he saw a spark in someone, he did anything he could do to foster that spark.  He picked people up and dropped people off for rehearsal if they couldn't get there on their own.  I have vivid memories of pick-up-truck beds full of kids going here or there to practice.  (It was the 70's and 80's in the deep south.  Yes, we rode in the back of pick-up-trucks. Put down your pitchforks.  It was a different time.)  He called parents to convince them to let their kids participate. In the days long before cellphones, I overheard many of those conversations as he stood at the phone in our kitchen.  (Yes kids - we used to have phones ATTACHED TO THE WALL and you couldn't walk very far away because the cord was only so long.)

He raised money.  He got sponsors for kids who couldn't afford to go on the choir trips. He hired kids to do jobs around our house to help them out.  He advocated for them with teachers, coaches, and family. He made the kids participate in the fundraising too.  I sold enough M&M boxes to fill a warehouse, and there were car washes and yard cleanups and I can't even remember what all else.

He did a lot of this work behind the scenes.  Although in some ways he liked the limelight, he didn't like the spotlight.  Know what I mean? He liked the stage, but didn't love it.  He was so talented, but never really 100% confident in it.  He had stage nerves big-time, often not helped by the fact that he waited until the day of a performance to learn the words to a song or lines in a play.....GEE I WONDER WHERE I GET MY PROCRASTINATION GENE?? ha!

His comfortable place to shine was behind the scenes.  Making the phone calls.  Building the sets.  Promoting the kids. Pushing the kids to believe in themselves.  He never stopped believing in the kids.

He was a mentor, advocate, and father figure to a LOT of kids over the years.  I'm not gonna lie.  Sometimes I was really, REALLY jealous of this, because I felt how much it took out of him.  Sometimes it left us at home a little short, to be honest.  It happens to the best people - when they invest so much of themselves in others. But that's why I call him MY OWN PERSONAL DADDY.  He was a lot of things to a lot of people - but only My Daddy.

But BOY did he expect us kids to put in the work!!  If we came in to rehearsal goofing around, talking, lazy, slow, tired....we would find ourselves quickly out the back door of the rehearsal room running laps on the school's football practice field.  Oh and did I mention this was the deep south and the rehearsal room had no air conditioning and no windows?  That is also a story for a different day....

I only got one paddling in school in 12 years - and it was from my Daddy.  He paddled the entire choir - one lick each.  We were talking outside before a performance and the people inside could hear us.  He made me be first, because he said I should have known better than anyone to be quiet.  hahahaha. 

Dad expected THE BEST from his kids.  ALL his kids.  He took choirs all over the south, to Disney World, to competitions here and yon, to perform at the World's Fair (I was in that choir), and to perform all over Europe (I was too young to be in that choir.) He had just as much fun on those trips as the kids.  He loved it.  He loved giving kids opportunities to go places and see things they may not otherwise see.

My Mom was right there with him, teaching us to spin and sway and kick and turn, until her own career as a middle school choir director and her work with the children and youth choirs at the church had her so busy he had to turn to professional dance teachers for help. 

I learned many things from my Daddy, although some have taken me lots of years to realize and truly understand.  Here are just a few that come to mind today - this day-before-Father's Day.

1> Believe in people.  They often are not capable of seeing the magic within themselves.
2> If people have taken the effort and time out of their lives to come and see you in a play or a concert or anything else, DON'T BREAK THE MAGIC. Don't ripple the stage curtain when it's closed.  Don't peak out to see who's in the audience.  Don't make noise backstage. Let people believe you are who they think you are (if it's a good thing;P )
3> Be humble.  Don't brag about your accomplishments, just work to accomplish more.
4> Light red, white, and blue smoke bombs in your back yard when you are feeling patriotic.  LOVE AMERICA.
5> READ.  Read books.  Read newspapers.  Read every plaque on the side of the road and at every informational blurb at every museum or historical site or zoo
you visit.  NEVER STOP LEARNING and paying attention!!
6> Go down roads you don't know. You never know what magic it may lead you to.
7> Laugh. He once said to me, "A person can make themselves miserable in Disney World."  He meant BE HAPPY WHERE YOU ARE. BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.  Make the world around you - no matter how small that world is - a better place.

As people do, we had both grown, matured and learned to communicate with each other better over the years.  Our relationship in his last few years was very different than it was during my own tumultuous teens and 20's, and I'm so very thankful for that.  We were in a good place when he left us, and I miss him.


DCshutrbug said...

Love this. Great advice - I will share with my kids!

BENN BACOT said...

As one of those kids touched by Don in the 70's I'm living proof of his generous spirit. One of those sparks he saw that he helped to shine. I can remember many of the things you mentioned of how he made it possible for many, me included, to realize our musical potential. A trait I have to say of all of my Denman & MHS music teachers.
40 years later I am still using all that he taught me. I've reached for heights I never imagined I could reach but tried because of his voice in my head tellin me I can do it.
He was a great man. And the hundreds that he cleaved to him as his own are greatful and appreciate the loan of your dad.
As I've said before every time I step on a stage he and Kay go with me and I know he's cheering me on.
Bravo Don!
Happy Heavenly Father's Day!

Spickens said...

Thank you so much Bennie!!!! :)