A Teacher, a Painter

My mother was a teacher, and my father was a painter. I grew up in a house full of her books and his paintings.

I think it is safe to say that the modern world has as strong an interest in identity as any age before it. I chose to identify my parents by a profession (for my mom) and a hobby (for my dad) even though she didn’t become a teacher until she was around 40, and he gave up painting before I was born.

Defining an identity as being boiled down to single word or concept is part of our human tendency to want to substitute simple things for complex things. My mom was a singer, a reader, a union organizer, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a swimmer, a humorist, a melancholic. My dad was a pilot, a windsurfer, a track runner, a human rights advocate, a chorus director, an insomniac. And that only scratches the surface on each of them.

As storytellers — and I assume anyone with a blog or reading blogs is a storyteller — we struggle to transfer our known perspective through the prism of the unknown perspective of readers. So much that has become part of us — so much we have experienced — has been done without words, and that context informs our every thought. So we try to say how we feel, but our words fall short of conveying our meaning. I can describe my parents to you, though, and can bring parts of them back to life through stories. Which is just one reason why storytelling is magic.

I’m grateful to my parents, now, in ways I probably wasn’t while they were still alive. That is sad, of course, but I suspect it is common. My children, and their children, will one day describe me in some way: maybe, “he was a mathematician” or “he was a pianist”. They may also see in me some light I’ve long since lost track of. Or, they may truthfully remember the darkness in me, for there is plenty of that.

My mother was a teacher who taught me that I should never stop learning, and never stop wondering. My father was a painter who loved to show others the hidden beauty in things, and encouraged me to do the same, as best I could. And I hope for all of you the same things: truth, goodness, and beauty.


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Beleaguered Servant

Owen Servant is an online poet working in a style that's been described as "compulsive". In real life, he is an actuary, because being a poet wasn't unpopular enough.

2 thoughts on “A Teacher, a Painter”

  1. What a truly lovely post Owen. We are what we are and there’s probably no chance of us changing anything now, but there are always those who would wish to redefine the dead or concentrate on one facet rather than considering the whole.

  2. I love your exploration of the idea that defining an identity is a complex thing. And it’s wonderful that you keep the memory of your parents alive through your writing. This has given me something to think about. My father is not just a translator, my mother is not just a teacher. It makes you think that when describing someone to someone else, you don’t have to define them by what they do, but what they are. Hello, this is my husband, he is a thinker. That says much more than ‘he is an engineer’. Anyway. All this to say, this was a beautiful post.

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