Sunday, February 10, 2013

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to My Daughter
Sunday, February 10

Rodger Dodger Jessicca

Good Morning Jessicca…

Going back many years when I was young I had a minor job at the Palo Alto Cultural Center in Northern California.  I helped set up and take down exhibits and generally make myself available for small tasks to do.  One afternoon I set up the chairs in the Center’s large auditorium for the evening’s one man performance by a noteworthy actor.  The paid audience grew to standing room only.  The evening was an enormous success and when the actor concluded his performance everyone gave him a rousing ovation to show their appreciation. 

The performer’s paycheck was in an envelope handed me the following day to deliver to him personally.  His address was in a pleasant neighborhood.  It was that of a shaded room with its own separate entry onto a brick patio, behind a large, imposing home.  He met me outside, a man in company with a cat harboring about his legs, both appearing in need of a kick start morning coffee.  Like many an actor, musician, artist and writer, he probably chose his calling early, when ideals meant youthful adventure.  Now, middle-aged, he undoubtedly had been given reason enough, long ago, to abandon his plans. 

Society is built with the labor of people, like my uncle, who chose a career because it offered the kind of steady wages needed to raise a healthy family.  One’s own dreams are often subordinated for the sake of a marriage, one’s children, and a safe home near good schools.  My uncle chose engineering even though mathematics gave him no joy.  Still, the Thanksgiving table was guaranteed abundant with good food, there were always presents under the Christmas tree, the driveway had a reliable car available and there was a set of Encyclopedia Britannica in the living room.  Sure, he sometimes had to move to follow the work – often buying homes at inflated prices and eventually selling them when there was no market.  It was Indiana to Texas to California to Florida to Oklahoma and then, back to Texas.  On this basis he raised four children, saw each of them married and have children of their own.  His own marriage lasted over fifty years. 

When making our choices it is important to keep in mind that we can’t have it all.  Life requires commitment from us if our values are to have meaning.  We are not born with our character fully formed.  It is built from the actions we take.  Every major decision made by us involves both satisfying gain and a degree of personal loss.  The loss we experience has value, as well.  Knowing what we’ve sacrificed is knowing something of who we are – the degree of our passion, the determination behind our commitment… and maybe the folly of our choice. 

The actor sits reading in his room shared with a cat, waiting for that rare call to appear live upon the stage.  If only I had listened to my Dad and become an engineer.  How good would life have been?


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