(From a writing exercise* recorded in June of 2012)
I am looking at a drawing of my father done in charcoal on coarse sketch paper when he was 19 or 20. His hair strikes me, so sculpted and perfectly groomed. So well-suited to his attire—the coat and tie look men used to wear, even to ballgames and dinners out with the family.
But it's Dad's earnest expression, the serious stare of an older, more mature, world-savvy person, that impresses. My mind fills in the details of his emotions and his outlook on life from that forthright look, his eyes intent on the artist capturing this image on manila hemp (to be studied six years after his death by his still-grieving daughter).
I see, in those eyes, a tinge of sadness. I read into his intent gaze all that I know about his early life: his parents' emotional detachment; their early divorce and respective remarriages; the sense of not belonging anywhere which led him to leave home at 16. Yet I see no self-pity there, merely a hint of disillusionment.
And the underlying element of determination comes across as well. The drive toward self-sufficiency that shaped his professional ambitions. A certain self-confidence and forbearance that has set aside the pain, has refused to wallow in the adversity, has decided to forge its own fate, undeterred by life's stumbling blocks. A resolute refusal to limp, wounded, through life.
*Writing exercise suggested in Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg