My Dad visiting me in Chicago, 2004.
"You can study anything you want in college… as long as it's not art."
That was my Dad's advice to me oh so long ago.
I know I'm not alone in this. Many artists are discouraged from pursuing art as a career, and I get it. One can almost hear the siren's blare, "Danger, danger. Prepare yourself for a life of starvation."
But art was my thing. So when Papa said what he did, it stung. I wanted his approval. And respect. I wanted him to be proud of me. He was my Dad, after all, and to me, he was formidable: a three-term politician, super smart and full of charisma.
Back in the Philippines, in rural Santa Barbara where we had our
country home, I remember gazing up with awe at Dad's "wall of fame". Framed certificates from law school hung alongside bronze-gilded plaques while several trophies lined the credenza. The most prestigious of all was the coveted Governor of the Year award, which he won when he was merely 40.
Even the kitsch souvenir bullfighter's poster hanging nearby – emblazoned with his name – didn't seem out of place. He was a world traveler, a master bridge player, and he liked to sing, dance the boogie and bang out a tune on the piano.
But he was an absent Dad.
During one of his absences (by then, my Dad worked in Manila while the family lived in Toronto), I stumbled on graphic design.
I was temping at an ad agency as a receptionist, and loved the creative energy that filled the air. That was it. I went back to school and became a graphic designer.
This particular career in the arts proved to be financially remunerative, at least for me. I even won a few awards, and appeared on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation "Venture" show, my two seconds of fame.
Decades later after moving to NC, my career took a left turn and I found my creative self drifting out to sea. I was dabbling in online businesses, and when that didn't pan out, I dipped my toes into physician recruiting.
By then my Dad was retired and living back in Toronto. During one of my visits when he
would treat me to lunch, he asked, "Why don't you return to the arts? You've always been good at it."
I was surprised, and pleased to hear him say this. I doubt he recalled his earlier admonition to me about a career in the arts. This time, he was encouraging it and acknowledging that art was my thing.
It was a poignant moment, a father giving advice to his daughter. And he was being present.
A little gesture, I know, but it meant a lot to me, and still does.
Thank you for the unexpected gift, Pa. I'm happy to say that I'm honoring your advice. And this weekend, I honor you. I feel you smiling. Happy Father's Day in heaven.
FATHER'S DAY SPECIAL:
To celebrate my Dad and yours, I'm offering 30% off reproductions.
Offer is valid until Father's Day, June 18, 2017.
Use code PAPA30 at checkout.