Home > Liken the Journal

My Father’s Daughter

By Melissa Young

I remember when I first discovered my dad’s love of poetry. I was struggling with my homework, voicing my frustration with audible groans and sighs.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

“Analyzing poems for English,” I grumbled.

“Which one?”

“‘Thanatopsis’,” I said, convinced that the title alone would elicit sympathy.

He closed his eyes and smiled. “To him who, in the love of Nature, holds/Communion with her visible forms she speaks/A various language…”

My petulance melted into awe as he quoted several stanzas by memory. “It’s one of my favorites,” he said.

Though I knew the poem was old, somehow my teenaged perspective considered it a new misery conjured by my teacher to torment the students. No one had been asked to read something so difficult. No one had ever had to deal with such convoluted language. The idea that students had been studying these words for years had not occurred to me. That someone would memorize it for pleasure blew my mind.

The ground shifted under my feet as I listened to my dad.

Since then, I’ve developed my own love affair with words–the way they can shock or soothe, connect minds and hearts, or just they way they roll around on the tongue. I’ve played on the screen and on paper, switching here and there, learning how to manipulate the meanings and effect. The sheer miracle of the written word has captivated me.

My dad says that I have a gift. How easy it was for me as a naive young adult to spin his admiration into some sort of glamorous destiny.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’m not really that gifted, nor was I destined for fame as a writer. In Sue Marchant’s essay “I’m a Yamaha,” she describes the effect of learning a similar truth about her singing voice. Her teacher told her, “Some people have Steinways…Other people have cheap little Casio keyboards. You, I think, have a very nice, serviceable little Yamaha.”

Even though she already knew her voice was not Broadway caliber, it was crushing to hear a definitive pronouncement.

Nice. Serviceable. These words are not the stuff of dreams.

I can relate. I’ve wondered what purpose gifts should serve–are they supposed to be directive, signalling what we should do with our lives? What about less quantifiable gifts? Why do we seem to value some gifts over others?

I’ve always liked this quote. I believe that everyone has greatness within them, and that anything is possible with hard work. But I also know we can’t all be gorgeous and talented in the superlative sense.

And that’s when my thoughts circle around to my dad. He is gifted, though not recognized. Yet his gifts had a profound influence on me and helped me discover my own. If I had ever been labeled as a Yamaha, he would have said that Yamahas were what he enjoyed more than anything else. In his eyes, I am glorious.

What a gift.

If I can use my gifts to benefit those around me in a similar way, I’ll feel extremely fortunate. Thank heaven for a loving God who bestows gifts so abundantly–gifts that enrich our lives and enable us to bless others.

Thanks Dad, for memorizing that poem.

Happy Father’s Day.

Next:
Previous:

About Melissa Young

(Emerita) is a native of Utah and lives in Cache Valley, Utah, with her husband and three of her four children in their emptying nest. She has an MA in TESOL from Brigham Young University and currently volunteers with the English Learning Center.

10 thoughts on “My Father’s Daughter”

  1. As the owner of a serviceable, Yahama-class writing talent myself, all I can say is that yours is clearly being well-used.

    And I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

    Thanks.

    =)

    Reply
  2. What a beautiful moment. I remember the first time I came across a John Dunne poem and was totally confused. Once I learned how he used words, I was hooked on him.

    My dad gave me a similar gift as yours did. It wasn't poetry, but it was a love a words. He's a linguist, and I could never get enough of etymologies and learning about how language works.

    Reply
  3. I've always been able to relate to Salieri, in the stage play and movie of Amadeus. He wanted the gift of musical genius and musical immortality, but instead he was only given the gift of recognizing and appreciating the musical genius and immortal music of others (like Mozart). I only have Salieri's gift in music and writing, but I've learned to be grateful for the gift because it does bring me much joy. My father died when I was eight years old, but he left behind several sweet poems he had written when he was flat on his back for several weeks after surgery. I know he shared my love for words and Melissa, your post helped me visualize what it would have been like if my dad had lived longer. I've never really thought about that before, but it helped me feel closer to my dad… Thanks for a poignant post…

    Reply
  4. I agree with your dad. You do have a gift.! Your writing is beautiful and your tribute to your father is heartfelt and moving. Thanks for celebrating the sweet blessing of having a father who truly loves and cherishes you.

    My father taught me to love words, good music, learning, the scriptures, and the Lord. Although he died 42 years ago, I thank God that I was blessed with such a wonderful dad.

    Reply
  5. "Since then, I’ve developed my own love affair with words–the way they can shock or soothe, connect minds and hearts, or just they way they roll around on the tongue. I’ve played on the screen and on paper, switching here and there, learning how to manipulate the meanings and effect. The sheer miracle of the written word has captivated me."

    Yes, yes! Oh, me too!

    And what a lovely tribute to your father.

    Reply
  6. I've been blessed with the influence of two dads — each has taught me a love of music and the arts in their own way — whether it be in being able to critique a show, or appreciate a piece of jazz, both are treasures, and I am grateful.

    Reply
  7. When my husband called my Dad to ask for my hand, his response was something along these lines:

    Kristin is amazing. She is brilliant and very capable of making this choice. If she thinks you are worth marrying enough to say yes, then you have my blessing.

    Considering the fact that my mom only recently became supportive of my marriage (coming up on 11 years in October), the support of my Dad was invaluable. I knew it was the right choice for me, but my mom managed to cause me to second-guess myself. It was a rough engagement, and I am so grateful for my Dad's unyielding vote of confidence, not just in this case, but throughout my life.

    I often think about how important it is to give our children the gift of our confidence in them such that they will feel it and be empowered by it. And I wonder if I am doing very well at following through with my intentions. This was a nice reminder.

    Thanks for this post. Very meaningful for me.

    Reply
  8. Lovely post. I agree with your Dad, too.
    I do NOT agree with definitive pronouncements declaring that people are talentless or just "fair". I think the main difference between professionals and "lay-folk" is in their mind. Determination is a powerful thing.

    I have had many a voice student (who I had assumed had a small amount of talent) that excelled and exceeded my "bursting-with-talent" students because they practiced, took direction, and were focused and determined.

    Reply
  9. Michelle, you bring up an interesting (and a comforting) point. I think we all have varying aptitudes and our work ethic makes a huge difference in what we're able to accomplish. Often times it comes down to how much we're willing to sacrifice to reach our goals. I would have to sacrifice more to excel in something I have less of a gift for, so I'd have to decide if it's worth it. It's always hard to know how to spend our time (good, better, best) and I've wondered how much direction we should take from our gifts. It's such a personal thing.

    Reply

Leave a Comment