My dad went back to his hometown in New Mexico when he was 61 years old. There he had a dream to grow his hair out long like our great, great, great grandfather and he came back home vowing to never cut his hair again. Before this he was a high school teacher and before that a cop. He grew up in an adobe his father built, left home when he was 15, moved to East Los Angeles and found some trouble. He survived the trouble, went to college, met my mother, had a daughter and a son, grew tender, gave up booze for good and now he writes poetry and stories, adorns his long hair with feathers and braids and his name is Dream Dancer. Yes, Dream Dancer. When Dream Dancer was a kid he was smaller than the others in his class and so he learned quickly to be mean to show them who was boss. It was important to be very tough and extra smart so as not to be run over or pushed aside and this worked for a long while. About 58 years. Then something else happened. Something miraculous and heartbreaking in the best possible way.
My dad stopped being what he wasn’t.
He literally just stopped. He stopped handling his fear with booze. He stopped letting his temper ruin the best of days. He stopped denying his pain and his passions. He stopped pretending to be anything other than who he truly is and a new life began. Everything before that, although important, pales in comparison to the days my dad inhabits now. Last summer my dad told me that he had always wanted to do arts and crafts and make things like bookmarks and holy cards and asked if I could show him how. He never wanted to give into this desire for arts and crafts before because it wasn’t “manly” but he had watched his sisters make things with paper and always secretly wanted to take part. Instead, he puffed out his chest and made fun of them, of course. But these days are different. These days my dad is only interested in being exactly who he is. What a giant relief! And all the while he only had to give himself permission to love what he loves no matter if it is This or That. My dad has taught me that you can change your story at any time, at any age, to whatever you want. You can pivot and redirect your course. You can love what you really love.
Change is doable. Transformation is natural. Reinvention is possible.
Recently my dad told me that he is making his great pilgrimage back to the source (this is really how he talks). "Pops, that's gonna take a while, right?" "Oh, yes," he replied. "At least another 20 years." But still, I grabbed his broad shoulders and kissed his gray hair with urgency. We all have such a limited amount of time to do the things we have always wanted to do. What part of your story are you leaving out?