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Amazing Grace

For me going to the Hollywood bowl is as synonymous with summer as swimming pools and eating ice cream.  Live music, communing with friends under the stars on a warm night, the good stuff of life all in one place…  I inaugurated summer 2014 with James Taylor this past weekend.   Sitting there listening to the lyric “shower the people you love with love” I was jetted back to the summer of 2006.

 When I was 12 and my sister was 6 we got a new dad and three new brothers.  Russ wasn’t a step dad to us, he was just dad.  He breathed life and love back into my mom, my sister and I.  The kind of love you knew you could fall back on and it would catch you.  He was the complete opposite of everything our lives had been up to that point.  A gregarious, life of the party kind of man, he taught us to be out in nature, to water ski and camp, to just relax into life, and simultaneously toughen up our outer thin skins.  He had a weathered, manly exterior stuffed with a nougat of kindness and compassion.  He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he propped it up there with the one hand while enjoying life with the other, dancing at parties and singing in the car. He taught us to work hard and play hard and that a man can contain multitudes of love and emotion.

 My sister and I had tickets to see Al Green at the Hollywood bowl near the end of August 2006.  By the time the concert rolled around we had learned that Russ at the age of 65 had pancreatic cancer.  When people talk about the five stages of grief, they’re not kidding, it’s not a cliché.  So with just two weeks of cancer under our belt my sister and I were fully steeped in denial.  We all spent our free time looking up healthy diets, alternative treatments, curative teas – certain we could beat this thing.  We were a strong, tight-knit family who had overcome so many odds; we could definitely get to the other side of this.  There had been tears, but not when we were together.  When we were together we were proactive, positive, busy…

So there we were under the stars in the warm night air my sister and I, doing what Russ had taught us to do relaxing into life.   Al Green lifted the mic to his reverend – rock star lips and sang Amazing Grace and the crowd of thousands sang too.  And the tears came and came.  Finally, we cried together, we held hands and saw a glimmer of  “acceptance” that lay far ahead in the distance.  As we left the bowl, inching along in a penguin waddle the way you do when you dismount a stadium full of people.  The crowd broke into song, hundreds of people squashed together with no care of whether they had a good voice or a bad voice belted out “Let’s Stay Together” in unison.

My sister and I, faces swollen with sadness sang too, we sang because Russ taught us no matter how bad things get, go ahead and sing, go ahead and let happiness win.  In the egotistical way that we humans can sometimes believe that things are meant just for us, it felt like that crowd wrapped around us in a cumulative hug as if to say it’s ok – go ahead and feel this sad thing that’s happening to you, we’ll be here to catch you.

 Father’s Day is coming up, I think of Russ I still miss him but I am so grateful that we got a second chance at a dad, that our dad was a man who let both his strengths and weaknesses show.  A man who let us know in words and action that he loved us completely – we kids who were not his own flesh and blood – he loved us completely anyway.

This story has been contributed by Barbara Stanifer. Barbara writes a great deal about human relationships. Her life experiences are enriching for others. Shirley and now Russ, the Chatoveracuppa team is grateful to Barbara for being so forthcoming in sharing her personal stories always. 

To Be Or Not To Be

Foreword by Piya Mukherjee: To Be or Not to Be like your parent. A Dad writes for his son, while remembering his own dad. 

I have known the author of this post, Phalgun for many years now. A great human being, creativity and humility are ingrained in him. He is also quite a dreamer and chases his dreams till they come true. But that is a story for another day. Today he shares with us his views as a parent, as a Dad. It is important because I personally know the influence Phalgun’s Dad had in his life. I know how much he misses his dad today. And I know how much this picture means for him. 
Phalgun and his Dad

Now days, I constantly think about how we as parents (me and my wife) or even me as a father, how can we/I make my son’s life better than ours/mine.

When I was a kid, my mom was always around because she was a house wife but she was always busy with chores because we almost always had guests in our house.  We were two families living in the same house and even had one room was reserved for my mom’s oldest sister’s family who would come down to India from the UK for vacations. But I don’t remember my mom ever giving me any form of guidance because she herself was a living example. All she knows is to care for people. 

On the other hand, my Dad worked in an Engineering company and headed the Quality department. So we would see him in the evening for a few hours but he was always there with us on Sundays. We would work on some fun projects together. Like for example, we made our own Monopoly Board game, drew the cities on a cardboard, made the Chance and Community Chest cards, etc. Same with playing carom board.  I don’t remember him teaching me that much but I used to just ape his moves and tactics, he was too good at it.  

There was also one special game which we used to play. The main door of the house was considered as the goal-post. My dad would throw the ball in random angles and I had to protect the goal. I will never forget the time my dad spent with me. 

My mom taught me how to care for people without judging them. And my dad taught me to be a perfectionist. To always dive deep into the details. I think now I realize that these are the most valuable things I have inherited from my parents.  

I have been thinking that even before we plan on how we want to make an impression on my son’s life. We need to realize that we are directly or indirectly influencing our child’s behavior, thinking, actions, etc. Therefore, we need to sharpen/polish that one good thing in us to such an extent that our child notices that and considers that as our specialty.

Now you may wonder why did this thought trigger in my head. Well, I blame it on the 100 Pipers advertisement. It starts off by saying do you want to grow up to do what your parents did day-in and day-out? Well, that’s when I started thinking what my parents did was it bad? Or Great? Or just normal?

Does it really matter?  As an individual you need to figure out what you want to do in life and your parents influence will always be there, you can take what you want selectively. I have always been a rebel and challenged conventional thinking every minute of my life. My wife on the other hand is not as aggressive as me in that aspect. It’ll be interesting to see how my son grows up and to see his own personality develop.

But one thing is for sure. My top most priority is to watch out for streaks of talent in him, whenever that happens and give my son the right choices early on in his life. Whether he decides to be a sports man or a journalist or a scientist or just build software, it’s all up to him, I am just here to show him the choices he has. The decision is entirely his.   

This story has been contributed by Phalgun Polepalli. Phalgun is the Founder and Creative Director for CuspConcepts. His stories are through his lens. His pictures make everyone go weak in their knees and want to take a plunge, make a walk down the aisle. He is also a doting father and has been actively blogging (quite secretly) about his views on parenting.

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