I find late September bittersweet. The transition from verdant summer to russet autumn is one of life's sweetest annual rewards. The loss of my father, Hascy Tarbox, 26 Septembers ago, is one of life's bitterest lessons.
Dad strode the world with grace, wit, confidence, and intelligence. With an artist's gimlet eye, he gleaned and recorded much during his span of 73 years in paint, clay, wood, and words.
To know him was a reason to rejoice, which I did recently when I unearthed a letter he wrote me when I was an undergraduate at the University of the Americas in Mexico City, in response to an epistle of mine dripping with adolescent angst:
"Occasionally, I ask myself what am I doing in Mexico?" I wrote him. "Did I come to this country to run from responsibility or seek it out? Life is one endless question. What is success? What is failure? What is the point of anything/everything?"
Dad responded, "Your letter arrived this afternoon, and it had indeed all the overtones of universal youth. Trying to look over my shoulder, with my middle-aged myopia, squinting backward into the past doesn't reveal much. I can't remember exactly when it was that I stopped worrying about being a failure (whatever that is), and found coping with each day and each step just about all I was capable of handling. Life to a degree is illusion, so we attempt to dazzle 'em with sleight of hand, tongue, and footwork. Before you can hope to reconcile your conscious self to the world around you and in you, a philosophy, like an emulsion, is necessary. Something comparable to an allegiance to yourself, with an open end that permits growth.
"I appreciate, and have great sympathy for what you're going through. Almost a light year has passed in my life, and I still haven't shaken the not-too-fond recollection of those dreary days in my personal history. All I can contribute is, that it isn't Mexico, or any other physical state, but rather a state in time, that's causing a good deal of the friction. There is an irony about here, like there is usually an irony lurking around in the wings of almost anything worth doing. As in this case, growing up. For the vast multitudes, the effort is entirely too much, and they give up the struggle, and don't grow up. But rather stay suspended, and just grow old. And, for all I know, they are happy doing just that. But, for my part I keep struggling, toward what, and for what purpose, I can't tell. In a sense, I'm glad some of the family curse has rubbed off on you. Another irony.
"What indeed is success? This question comes close to nosing out 'what does it all mean?' - the philosophers, homespun or otherwise, have been gnawing on that tough old gristle, and receiving very little sustenance for their efforts for centuries.
"I'll attempt to put some of my thoughts on the subject on paper for our mutual ingestion. To begin with, the neat trick in life is to keep your built-in gyroscope as balanced as possible. If it strays too far off centric, you fly apart. Or, if it runs down, you fall with it. The Greeks had a word for it, they usually did: balance.
"The real secret in life is to be lucky enough to limp through it with a mate, preferably of the opposite sex, who reads you. Who is a perfect ying to your yang. And let's overlook the sophomoric humor. There you have balance with a capital "B," a mate that zigs when you zig, and zags when you zag, and isn't belittling herself in the process. Rare find. And damned if you aren't zigging when she's zigging, and zagging at the right time, and who knows, or who cares who's leading, who's following.
"The neat trick is to pick and choose with a certain eye toward what's worthwhile. This can range from the smile on a child's face to the treasure locked up in the Rosetta stone. And, the wonder of life is just that."
A song that resonated with my father was "Life is just a bowl of cherries" that he first heard in his early teens and became a touchstone.
Why are we here? Where are we going? It's time that we found out
We're not here to stay, we're on a short holiday.
The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned.?
"The wonder of life is just that."
Todd Tarbox is a Colorado Springs author.