Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

To my father on his 61st birthday

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A Tuscan sunset

I’m on another of those journeys where I wake up some mornings not really knowing where I am.  The only difference is that I’ve been given a little more space to breathe: thanks to the delightful coincidence of being invited to three German government-related conferences spaced at least a week apart each, I’ve been able to steady myself in between by basing myself in Florence, where a friend with a couch lives.

It is from there (well, Fiesole to be precise) that I type this while listening to the sanguine sounds of a new friend’s band while attempting to catch up on a weekend’s worth of email that inundated my inbox while I was in Istanbul.

Something has shifted in me this trip, and while I can speak to all sorts of excitement and professional opportunity that’s come about from some of the wonderful connections I’ve made of late (particularly at Mobilize! in Berlin last week), I’m not sure I can put a solid finger on the rest.  Some of it, I know, comes from a comfort that I feel around the activists scene(s) here, some of it from deeper conversations shared over wine and/or beer and or/rakı, but some of it is not, as of yet, placeable.

One thing that I am acutely aware of, however, and that is weighing on me is that today, April 1, would have been my father’s 61st birthday.  It occurred to me this morning whilst wandering through a cute little market in the village center, where these lovely wooden carvings were being sold…something I would’ve bought for him back when.

Since September, a pile of his writings that my mother salvaged from his laptop have sat in my inbox, awaiting my eyes, and today, I finally read a few of them.  And one broke my heart a little:

I can be convincing, charming, entertaining, intellectual, ignorant, funny, friendly, gregarious, pensive, fun ,reliable, trustworthy, kind, generous, brave, loyal , courteous, kind, and interesting. But I can’t be myself, I don’t know how because there is no “me”. Never has been a me. I can be whatever I think anyone wants; an actor, a tough guy, a sensitive guy, a musician, a teacher, a trustworthy salesman. Anybody, but I have never been able to be myself. Ever felt like you were the only one in a crowded room? I always feel like that. I am whoever I’m with. And on my own I’m a lost soul.

And being this way makes me believe I’m the only one that IS this way.

I wasn’t privy to these before his death, so there’s no point in wishing this, but I do, I wish he’d told me that while he was still here.  Because, in some sense, understand.  And I wish I didn’t.

Part of the journey of no regrets, as I’ve come to call it, is finding balance in purpose, happiness, and reflection.  Ensuring that it’s not just one or the other.  Ensuring awareness.  And hearing my father’s voice today, in a sense, brings me a step closer.

 

3 Comments

  1. This beautiful post can be retitled: From Jillian, on his 61st birthday.
    I’m sure your dad is smiling full of pride right now.

  2. What a touching post. I second what Gabriela said.

  3. I *love* the Tuscan sunset (why can clouds be such a seeming signature?), and I love your Father.

    I’m 65, and when you get to where he was and I am, you can write things like he did, clearly. I agree with him, am no doubt different, somewhat, but Good to hear his clear thought. Hope it’s Ok to be in touch. This reminds something for me (a Canadian Camper) like declaring peace with a neighbouring American Camper in some –perhaps fleeting– provincial park.

    Time and Tides, and the Ok times, we innexorably roll and push around an inevitable plate in front of us.

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