April 19 • 02:41 PM

Thirty years, 30,000 valuable lessons

May 30, 2007
It's the expression, now I see it. Do you think he knew? That he realizes what his naive flower child will soon be up against? That he's lived it, and he knows.

I'm 17. Just about to graduate from high school. Engaged to be married to the man behind the camera lens. In love with the world. In love with my idealistic beliefs, one of which is that I'm ready for what my dad seems to know I'm not. He accepts it anyway, guides me as best as anyone can steer a yet-to-be-awakened-to-how-things-work-in-the-harsh-cold-light-of-day-17-year-old-poet-artist-dreamer-type.

Me and my dad around 1975. Pictures paint a thousand words, character lives forever. Dig out your photos and enter our Father’s Day contest. Details on page 3-A.
"That's the order of things," he says when I struggle to understand some sort of cruelty in nature.

It's the mid-1970s and I am a byproduct of the times and believe in things like a peaceful existence among all living things. In beauty, poetry, love, equality and all those floaty concepts and ideals. Then I stumble upon major inequities in the world—startling truths that bear absolutely no resemblance to my naive notion that nature—including human nature—is inherently good and generous and kind. That the creator, if there is one, is artistic and benevolent and if I just tap into that I can figure it out and the world and the people and creatures in it will be as beautiful as I imagine.

But life insists on proving me wrong. A dog whizzes by with a baby rabbit in its jaws. An entire family we know from the swim club is wiped out in a car accident. Disease strikes. A moth fries in the flames it's drawn to. How Can This Be? I'd implore.

"That's the order of things," my dad replies with confidence—his conviction coming from a place I'm not yet familiar with.

I don't yet know that he'd struggle, too. I don't know how much I'll appre-ciate and relate to those struggles years down the road. All the things you do in life. All that's required, all that's expected, all that's unacknowledged. All that it takes to know yourself, to know what drives you and keep the fires burning just because you must, often for reasons you don't even understand so you come to that place where acceptance reigns and where "that's the order of things," including your own internal order that gathered itself over the ages and generations, the ancestors' blood.

Wistfully, my dad sometimes refers to 'The Last of the Mohicans,' a favorite story of his that I don't know. I'm 17 and uninterested in its harsh cruelty, its raw reality, its insistence on demonstrating in painful and poetic detail the truth of human nature and human struggles.

Today, I know what he's talking about. Now that I'm right around the age he is in the photograph I know that my dad is 'The Last of the Mohicans.' With the heart of a warrior, the soul of a sage. The spirit of compassion, the light of knowledge—and even regret—that terrible and joyful things happen, that life is bittersweet.

"That's the order of things," I say now, with full and complete understanding and gratitude that we, too, the sisters and me, are also 'Mohicans.' We all carry a bit of the spirit that manifests itself in ways as diverse as we are. We are unique. We are the Minollis. We are blessed and "That's the order of things," I know, now. The frontier is not a place, it's a way of life and "that's the order of things. Animals are killed so people can eat. "That's the order of things." Physical strength reigns—survival of the fittest— "That's the order of things." Hawks prey on gentle, defenseless ducks and "that's the order of things," and coyotes snatch unsuspecting chickens and "that's the order of things," and butterflies get trapped in spider webs and "that's the order of things," and a girl is still a girl—not a woman—at 17, and "that's the order of things," and endurance and conviction pay off internally, naturally with the progression of time and "that's the order of things," and human nature is sometimes selfish and greedy and cruel and while it's all not very pretty, or poetic or dreamy, that, too, is "the order of things."

And it's the order of things that I know and understand who I am. I am my father's daughter. Gifted by his wisdom and strength, blessed by his love.

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