I’m in Simi Valley today hanging with my fam. Its my Dad’s birthday today! Don’t ask me how old he is. Once he passed 50, it didn’t seem to matter. I wonder if it will be that way when I turn 50.
This a picture of me when I was young. I was thinking on bringing this look back. On stage for my next concert. The knee-pads will especially bring character, and the reflective stripes on the helmet would do wonders with the stage lighting.
This is actually a picture of me having a little fun and imagination. I think the idea had something to do with being an astronaut. Notice the cabling between my backpack (respirator) and my….well, leg. Ok, whatever, that’s the beauty of being a kid. You can justify the sense of a chord being attached to your leg somehow.
The outfit I made up largely revolved around my dad. I was born and raised in Albuququerque, New Mexico, and my dad worked as a scientist at Sandia Labs. To save gas and to get exercise, my dad rode his bike to work when he could. I remember him coming home every evening with his super cool white helmet with bright orange reflective stripes. He often wore reflective orange to fend off New Mexico drivers.
I wanted to be my dad. At least what little I knew about him, I wanted to become. At the time, becoming my dad meant wearing orange and a sweet looking helmet. I also knew that my dad was a scientist and that he rode his bike to the lab where he did important scientific stuff. So what that meant for me as I continued to grow as a boy was that I too needed to become a genius science/math guy as well.
It was always quite apparent though that the math thing wasn’t really happening for me. I knew that every time when my dad got frustrated as he was trying to teach me simple algebra. He kept saying something about not being able to add oranges to apples. All I could tell so far was that you could add numbers. But when they threw strange letters at me the goal was no longer about adding, but guessing the answer so you could be finished with homework. As much as I knew math wasn’t my thing, I did try to enjoy the science area. My dad always took me to science museums and observatories. I was fascinated by it all. It was like magic but real.
When I grew to the age where I could do science projects, I was excited to prove myself as Dad’s prodigy by doing the most genius science project any kid had ever done. I prided myself on reading articles that my dad brought home. I can’t say I understood them, but I liked the pictures and diagrams, and most of all I liked how they made me feel smart like my dad. My memorable science project was about the reflection and refraction of light, and I got to use one of the lasers my dad brought home from work. Although the concepts were a bit beyond my age, when one of the judges if I knew what “sine” or “co-sine” was, I told him it was “the opposite of the hippopotonuse” or something. In other words, I did my best to give the best rendition of what my dad was so great at.
I’m pretty bad at math and science in general. The subjects absolutely fascinate me. But when I get too interested and I want to understand, the concepts get kinda jumbled up and start hurting me. Music doesn’t do that. Becoming a musician has been a relief. When I get myself into a pinch with melody or song, I an always find my way out. It is what I not only love, but what comes naturally to me, like science comes to my dad.
My dad and I have grown very close over these last 3 years. For what seemed as a departure in career interests, we have now discovered are similar experiences in life. While he spent his years exploring the properties of light and electrons, I am spending my years exploring the properties of sound and notes. While he was in the lab fooling around with big toys just to see what would happen, I have been recording the clicks from toaster oven to make the new groove to one of my songs. These last few years have been the most important years of our relationship. These are the years in which we revel in what seemed like differences but are actually similarities and bonding experiences. About five years ago, I might have been lucky to talk to my dad once a month over the phone. Yet, for the last few years now, we talk sometimes a few times a day.
It is reflections like these that outshine everything else that goes on my life. How small everything is compared to the people we have to love. How sad it would be to rewind even five years back. In all of my ambition and ministry and searching, I was missing one of the most real and tangible touchstones to true life that I would ever have. Family.
Finding a relationship with my Dad, in many ways has been a pathway to finding who I am. I am realizing my Dad is a lot more than a scientist with a white helmet and orange reflectors. He is a man who deeply and painstaking loves people. He is man who is honest to the core and who hates injustice. He is man who gets obsessed with details and totally focused on something to the point of genius discovery. He is a man who wants in all things to do good and to love God.
These are the things that drive me every day. And through my life’s deep successes and failures to become these things, the desires never-the-less are ingrained in me. I did not understand how important this was. Yet, as we have become everyday friends, I wonder how it was that I missed this for so many years. Maybe I was running from a scientist to become a musician. What I discovered was that the process of exploring the worlds of science and music is the shared experience of being God’s children. I have learned with him of how little we know in this world and how little power we have to control life and its course. I have learned with him the fragility of success whether it be a scientific discovery or a great melody. We are small. Life is big, far too big for us to wrap our arms around. Without God, we are insignificant specks of dust, swimming in complexities. But with God, we are beloved children of Heaven who are given the opportunity to play in His most spell-bounding playground.
Dad, thanks for sharing this experience with me. Happy birthday.