Dad quoted Tolkien — more specifically Gandalf — on the back of the envelope, a reference to The Hobbit. Dad collected quotes about adventure in a special journal, the way some people collect sports memorabilia or comic books or vinyl records.
From Ernest Hemingway: “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
And Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
And T. S. Eliot: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
And the movie Up: “Adventure is out there!”
Maybe that’s one reason he died. He had lived all of his adventures here and was ready to move on and see what was next.
He always wondered if there were dinosaurs in heaven.
A week passed before I could bring myself to open the Gandalf-quoted envelope. On a piece of blank white paper in blue ink from his favorite pen, Dad had written:
Clue Number One:
The Adventure Begins
It is a drink
A marvelous drink
A drink that makes me quite giddy
It is a drink
A famous drink
A drink first named for a city
Order one there
Then pay for your fare
Soon you’ll be feeling rather witty.
I don’t know how many times in my life I prayed to have a normal dad. I guess that’s one of the prayers God answered, “No.”
Dad was once asked to pray for the offering at church. He had a thing about praying in public. He preferred to keep them short and painfully honest. He said he trusted that God was actually God and could do more than we dared to imagine if we trusted God to be God and would quit rambling on and on telling God what being God should look like.
I hate speaking in public, but actually volunteered to take Dad’s place. I know he heard my offer, but he chose to ignore it.
After the offertory song, the Minister of Music invited Dad to the microphone and podium at the front. I debated between running out of the sanctuary or sliding under the pew.
“Will you join me in prayer?” Dad said, and the entire congregation fell silent.
“God, you don’t crave our money like a cosmic Ebenezer Scrooge, keeping tabs of every last cent we spend. You ask that we would trust you when nothing else in our lives makes sense. But it’s easier to throw a few dollars your way and think you’re happy than to give you all of our hearts. Thank you for how you faithfully provide for us, even when we’re faithless. Amen.”
I was surprised. I actually liked the prayer, not that he was speaking to me in the first place.
Dad was never asked to say another offertory prayer.
I don’t have the time or financial freedom to just leave and go…
Go where, exactly?
I live alone, in the country, in the quiet. My place is near Fordland, Missouri, but it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. My closest neighbors are on the other side of the woods, and Dad’s place is only about a thirty-minute drive up the highway.
At home, I can marvel in the stars and catch a glimpse of the swirl of the galaxy. The crickets sing symphonies to put me to sleep. I live away from city lights and congested traffic, and all the stresses that come when half a million people try to do life in close proximity. I have a small farm — a glorified garden, really — and a dog and a shed that doubles as an art studio. In that art studio, I create, pouring out my heart and soul in paintings. Some are commissioned, and some are personal projects. I lose track of time in this studio, lost in my creations and turning the visions bound in my brain into reality.
I have a very simple blog where I post pictures of finished paintings and the stories that inspired them. Potential customers can email me if they are interested in purchasing a painting or hiring me for an original piece. I don’t use social media at all, because when I was younger, one of my pieces was copied and put on a t-shirt. The shirt made a few thousand dollars, and I received no credit whatsoever. I eventually had to file a lawsuit, but everything I gained just went to pay off a lawyer. Honest, never-ending hustle and sheer hard work, and I am able to live sufficiently.
I have deadlines to meet. People have commissioned me to create pieces for their offices and houses, and to use as gifts for loved ones. I spend time in my studio every day, working on those projects, as well as the new pieces I’m creating to expand my portfolio. One of these days I’d love to see a piece of mine hanging in an “important” museum, to have reason to purchase a beautiful dress for my new collection making its debut. And to do that takes a lot of work and some ridiculous luck.
I couldn’t remember Dad ever drinking a Manhattan or a Long Island. Dad was meat, potatoes, and sugar. Dad wanted his coffee black, his hot dogs burned, and a bowl of sugary cereal before bed.
“Helps give me sweet dreams.”
He’s weird like that.