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The Lessons of My Father

It’s 2017 and as Father’s Day approaches I can’t help but think of the beautiful song, Stop This Train, by John Mayer.

In the song John talks about wanting to get off the train of life to go home again because he’s scared of getting old.

At 34 years of age I can relate to John, but for me it’s not about getting older that makes me want to take a break from the train of life to go home again and start all over.  It’s all the responsibilities that comes with getting older, it’s the realization that practicing life was over a long time ago; now it’s the real thing.

But there are times that I want to go home again and take a break from the train of life because of the childhood I had.  Being a child under my Father was so easy and some of the best times I had in my life. I never had any worries in my childhood, just fun, love, and happiness.  I couldn’t have asked for a better Father, it’s one of the most precious gifts I have received in my life.

I have come to a few realizations as I listen to John Mayer’s song.  The first is that even now on my train of life my Father is still the conductor of this train.  As my Father conducts my train of life and I sit next to him in the head railcar, it’s the passengers in the railcars behind us that carry the lessons of my Father.  With my Father now being 65 years old, I know that my time with him being the conductor of my life train is past the halfway point.  I know that now is the time to reflect on how the ride has been, and think about all the passengers we have picked up so far that carry the lessons of my Father with them.

Even now I look at my Father as a hero in my life.  I view him as someone that is larger than life and as a survivor.  My Father did not have the easiest childhood.  He grew up with a alcoholic Father, who happened to be a genius, and a Mother that took the flaws of my Grandfather out on my Father, and who showed love to people only under certain conditions.  On a much lighter note, my Father also has four younger sisters that he had to fend off from having himself and having his clothes reek of perfume.

So many times we see children normalize the dysfunction of their parents because this dysfunction is all they know, and then this dysfunction carries over to the next generation.  My Father was able to figure out at a very early age that his upbringing was not a normal one.  Because of this he would escape his house for long periods of time and spent his time at friend’s houses that had healthy family dynamics in order to learn what is normal.  It amazes me to this day he came to that conclusion about his parents early on, and wanted answers to what a healthy upbringing looked like so he could carry that with him.  This is why I call my Father a survivor.

These are the lessons of my Father, it’s the lessons of questioning everything and everyone.  What my Father has taught me is asking the question is not enough, we also need to seek the answer.  We need to be radicals and get to the root of our questions.

When I hear others heap praise on their Fathers a lot of it starts with their Father’s work ethic and his ability to “outwork” others.  This isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind with my Father.  I remember seeing my Father get lost in his love for attaining knowledge.

Knowledge is the head passenger in the railcars we drag long as my Father conducts my life train.  Growing up I always saw my Father reading something and he would share with me what the latest knowledge was that he acquired.  My Father values knowledge over wealth and possessions, he understands that knowledge breeds creativity.

Creativity has been bred into my Father.  My childhood consisted of seeing him play the guitar and building various things for our house.  With the knowledge he attains, he creates.  And it is finally now, at 34 years old, that I take these lessons of my Father and have found a creative outlet for myself through the knowledge I have obtained and continue to seek.

And through it all my Father is caring and gentle towards the ones he loves.  He’s bold, yet reserved.  His boldness comes from not always conforming to what society wants us to conform to, yet there is a reservedness to him since he is at peace with his passions and beliefs.  He’s not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve for those closest in his life.  It’s that special side to him that very few people are lucky enough to see.

His boldness exudes passion.  There’s a passion behind his beliefs, and if you question them you better be prepared, otherwise you’re going to get called to the carpet.  My Father and I have debated many times, but as a Seimetz you learn to enjoy the art of the debate.  We love it because we challenge and learn from one another.  We discuss our passions and our beliefs, we discuss the things that make us feel alive.

These are the other lessons from my Father that occupy the remaining railcars my Father and I ride with on my life train.

Towards the end of the song, Stop This Train, John Mayer asks his Father to help him understand how to live with the speed his life train is moving in.  His Father tells him to live in the moment and take it all in because “John, honestly… we’ll never stop this train.”

This to me is the realist moment in the song, and it ties into an answer I give to people for questions I have been asked.  People want to know why I am an “activist” and why I am so angry, mad at the world, and/or hate life?

My answer to this question is that I am not mad at the world and I do not hate life.  I see the beauty in life and see how beautiful life can be, but what I also see is a world that is in collapse with systems in place that take away this beauty in life on a daily basis.  I can’t sit back and be silent about this.  I have to be bold and passionate about the beauty in life that is leaving us.  These are the lessons of my Father.  This is what my life train is compelling me to do.  As my conductor, my Father, has helped lay the tracks my life train will go over.

As the world is in disarray and decay, and more freedoms and beauties get taken away, realize the things in life that are here to stay.  No matter what happens no one can take away your heart, your mind, and your soul.

So when you use your mind to think about who and what your heart loves make sure your thinking reaches to the depths of your soul to figure out who you are and what you want out of life.

We can’t stop our life trains but we can figure out who the conductors of our life trains are.  We can tell them we love them and never take for granted the time we have with them.

So Dad… Happy Father’s Day and even now as I write this the words expressed here do not even do justice to the love and admiration I have for you.  Thank you for conducting the ride of a life time.

What I realize now is that the reason why I want to stop this train, get off, and go home again is because I never want it to end.  I want you to be my train conductor forever, but I know sometime down the line you will get off the train and turn over the train conducting duties to me so I can help lay the tracks for someone else’s life train.  In the meantime I am going enjoy the ride we have left and am excited for where you steer this life train of mine next.

So to quote John Mayer, “don’t stop this train, don’t for a minute change the place you’re in, and don’t think I couldn’t ever understand, I tried my hand, John, honestly… we’ll never stop this train.”

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