Turns out my Dad was a much bigger deal than I'd ever realized. I knew he was a good bird watcher and smart and a consultant and all but... I had no idea. It seems he was a major league birder. I just knew him as Daddy. He never boasted about all he was doing. He just did what he did because he loved it and it mattered to him. It took him away from home a lot but when you're raised with it, and your Mom doesn't mind Dad traveling for his "hobby", it doesn't seem unusual.
Turns out Dad kept some impressive company too. I was packing up some of his books and realized that half of them are written by Dad's friends. I can't part with them because they are all signed with wonderful inscriptions. I knew Dad was loved and admired but, again, I had no idea how much. The friends I affectionately call the Nerdy-Birders are all incredibly well respected and accomplished doctors, biologists and authors. Who knew? I just thought they really liked road trips and chasing birds around the state.
At first I was a little upset by my level cluelessness. How could I not even know my own Dad? I quickly realized that I only knew him as a good Dad because that's all he ever wanted me to know him as. I wouldn't even know now how influential he was except that while going through his things I'm finding thank you notes and publications that say some extraordinary things about him. There are incredible artists, authors and biologists out there because they met Dad at an impressionable age, liked what Dad had to say and do about birds and the environment, and their life paths took a turn for better. It's such a nice discovery. I've told friends that it's sort of like being one of those kids who hung out in her Dad's jazz bar and never knew her Dad and Uncles Dizzy, Louis and Miles were a big deal.
Today, it happened again. One of Dad's oldest and dearest friends, Bill, came down from San Francisco with his wife to visit Mom. We all went out to dinner and I started asking Bill about his yoyo hobby. I knew Bill had traveled some as a sort of ambassador for the sport of yoyoing but that was about all. Well, Dad once mentioned that Bill was a Yoyo World Champion but I just knew him as a super nice guy from my childhood. I didn't really recall the champion title but it all came back as Bill started talking about the traveling he'd done. Even then, Bill was just like Dad, he wasn't boastful, he just spoke about how great these kids are today and how much he enjoys judging them in competition. After dinner he did a yoyo demo for us. My brother's kids were in awe. Bill was amazing! It was dark out and hard for him to see what he was doing but people still stopped to watch him. The only story I remember hearing about Bill and his yoyoing was that he used to practice outside during his lunch break at work in San Francisco. People regularly stopped to watch Bill practice and would drop money in front of him thinking he was a street artist.
When I got home from dinner I Googled Bill. I learned that he is a Grand Master who is called a "living legend" and "The Yoda of yoyo". Who knew?! I sure didn't. I guess the moral of the story is to pay more attention to all of these people in my life who are really good at their "hobbies".