Dancing and Heart Shaped Boxes: Christmas, 2014

Right now it’s Christmas Eve. The kids have gone home or up to bed and I’m siting in the dark alone. By the time I’m done, it will be well into Christmas. Want to go for a walk with me?

This holiday for me has always been about family. The blood ones, the ones who married in, and the ones we invite to the table. You are loved, and I consider you family. You’re welcome at my table … bring a story, a song or something you made.

This year was creative. We all reached out for each other’s hearts. For myself: Carlaysle made me a porcelain dragon lamp, Avalon Rose Stuffed a Joy Tea box with inspirational quotes and petals from flowers I gave her once, Grace made desserts in the kitchen of her newlywed first house and Braiden brought us his music.

 

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“The book of love is long and boring, and written very long ago. It’s full of flowers and heart shaped boxes and things we’re all too young to know.” ~ Magnetic Fields

When I opened Avalon’s gift and saw what she created for me, it brought me to tears. Literally. I sat there with water pouring down my face, unable to breathe. I was very moved, especially since we’ve had some friction lately. I’m more than a little afraid we’re growing apart like I did with my father. And it’s largely my fault. But that is another story. Tonight she showed me how much she thinks about me, and how she still feels about her old man. All the kids showed me: I am surrounded by love.

Tonight sparked memories of my father.

My father and I were never really close. I wasn’t quite good enough to be the son he wanted. That’s a quote from the man himself. Dad was an architect and an electrical engineer. Smartest man I knew. A real straight line thinker. Conservative in his living and no-frills. His vices were whiskey and golf, and those in moderation. He was in the Army and played college football with Sonny Jurgensen. (Look it up). I was non-athletic and a real let down. He tried really hard to get me into baseball and football, but I just had no talent for it. My only asset was that I could take a hit. Even as a young, skinny man, my low center of gravity and … solidity made it really difficult to get me off my feet. Anyway, I couldn’t play very well and had no skill at all. Dad bitterly gave up when I was about 15.

At that age I picked up theater and music in earnest. My path went far and astray from what my dad considered respectable. We quite simply grew apart and I just … started talking to myself and working things out on my own. When I became a magician, he threw his hands up completely. I was a waste; a dime a dozen. His words. Art and frivolity were nice for some people, but he just knew I was supposed to be something … worthwhile, and it mad him very sad that his only son didn’t follow his footprints.

Now … Dad loved to laugh, and I could usually make him laugh. You can’t tell it from any of his photographs, but he had a big, hearty laugh. He just didn’t think show business was a good way to raise a family. On more than one occasion I spied him dancing when he thought no one was watching. Turns out … he was a hell of a good dancer.

Pancreatic cancer took my father swiftly. From diagnosis to the end was just a matter of ano few pain-filled weeks. I kind of got to say goodbye. He was high on pain meds and didn’t really understand that I was even there. He died while I was onstage. I got the news when I got back to my room after.

When I attended his wake, I got a shock. Stranger after stranger came up to me to tell me how much my father bragged to them about his son, the great magician. Apparently he told many stories to them about my shows, the contests I was in and the places I traveled to. And then:

And then …

And then I went to clean out his house. In the back of his bedroom closet I found two boxes. One was full of trophies. Recently dated trophies. The other was full of newspaper articles about me. Photographs. Magazines and video tapes of television programs I had appeared on. A box full of love and pride. Color me boggled.

The trophies? They were for ballroom dancing. My stepmother explained that at fifty years of age, found his passion in dancing, and he was quite good at it. He won several awards and competitions. Rather than display his trophies, he put them in a box, carefully in the back of a dark closet. That is the man my father was.

In a twist of serendipity I bought myself a pair of dancing shoes for Christmas. I saw them and bought them with my father in mind. A few days later a very dear friend gave me a certificate for ballroom dancing lessons. I’m turning fifty next year.

 

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 “The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing. It’s full of charts and facts and figures … and instructions for dancing.” ~ Magnetic Fields

Suddenly … because of this gift, I feel a little more in touch with the man he kept hidden. Perhaps we shared more than I ever knew. Thus a thoughtful gift changed my life and my heart. I want to embrace you all as family … scars, shyness and everything. Come as you are.

This table has plenty of seats available.

In your hands and in your heart you have the simple gifts to make a real difference. Love, caring, and compassion.

Will you give?

1 Comment

Filed under Musings, Public Diary

One response to “Dancing and Heart Shaped Boxes: Christmas, 2014

  1. Billy Haake

    Incredible. I never suspected we had so much in common, Chris, especially about our bittersweet relationships with our Dads. There is a blurb on the cover of the book “I Never Sang For My Father” that states “For every man who loved his father and hated his old man….”. The phrase has stuck with me for decades, We should talk more.

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