“Glasses half full and not half empty, Kaia,” my dad often said to me before I’d step out of the car for school each morning. If it wasn’t this one, he might have chosen “Carpe Diem” or even translated it to “seize the day” instead. I know I was grateful for his attempts at sending me off with a light dusting of positivity, but the painfully overused clichés frequently left my eyes in a squint. I’ve always been naturally anxious and stubborn, and he sensed I could use the reminders regardless of how many times I’d heard them before.
The irony, perhaps, was in the fact that my father was the least likely person to use clichés. Like a character from out of a movie, his words were ones you would write down, ones you would hold on to. His entire disposition was eccentric. He was the most particular eater on planet Earth and could leave you in tears of laughter for two whole days at one-liners delivered with a straight face. He sported a jacket made entirely of old newspapers. I grew up hearing about his strange vehicles, like a green Plymouth with no door handles that had to be unlocked from the inside and an old mail truck he purchased not for employment, but for the principle of the matter. As a devout lover of the fine arts, he was so musically gifted that it might have left him off-center in some areas.
My dad was every bit as loving and wise as he was interesting. Equipped with a peaceful sense of understanding, he didn’t need excess validation or reconsiderations. I’ve realized that he didn’t need to make original the wisdom that resides in such oft-mentioned phrases. In such an often-gloomy world, a simple saying told him that looking toward the light while in the dark would prove fruitful. It isn’t pessimism and half-empty glasses that help you trudge onward.
This approaching Father’s Day holiday is the second I will spend without him. Father’s Day is the occasion to celebrate paternal bonds and the influence they have had on you and your life, so it’s an understandably difficult task to not feel melancholy without your own. Though I miss him endlessly, I hear the echo of his voice telling me to look on the bright side. There can be no better way to remember and honor his legacy.
An old friend of my dad’s recently reached out to me with a few letters he wrote to him. Aside from the surreality of it, I was transported back to a time before me, before so many of the things that led to his becoming my father. In reading over his cursive scrawl, I am reminded of his diligence, passion, and enthusiasm for life and everything that makes it worthwhile. In his words lie his history, my family’s history.
Perhaps the most notable defining characteristic in my father of all was the hope so deeply embedded in his soul. Hope is simultaneously miraculous and irrational. Sometimes it’s all we have. Painful things are to come everyone’s way. Confrontations with the beautiful, the ugly, the heartbreaking, and the absurd will make scattered menageries of our pasts, leaving each of us a choice: to view our glasses as being half empty, or half-filled.