a self-made man

Posted on Aug 1, 2010

August 1 is my father’s birthday. Today he would have been 100 years old.

Cecil Moore Robertson was born August 1, 1910 in a small town in Virginia. His father ran the town grocery store. He went to school on the back of a horse drawn cart. At the age of 17 he left school and home to go north to work on the railroad. My father was what my mother called “a self-made man”.

My father always said that our greatest problem as a society is that we are too mobile. He saw the birth of the automobile, the airplane, the interstate highway system and the NASA space program. He watched the dispersion of families in pursuit of better jobs, the rise in divorce and the increase in crime.

Communities that once grew up and grew old together now don’t know each other’s names. Families that once took care of each other through tough times now put their weak and feeble in ‘special care facilities’. Families who once were closely knit for life now seem to be the exception to the rule.

I didn’t fully appreciate my father’s profound wisdom while he was living. I was too identified with my mother’s intellectual ambition. After he died, when I wrote a song to honor him, I called it The Man Who Knew How to Be. That was his contribution to everyone he encountered: he offered us an anchor, a rock, a stable place to come and go from.

As a young adult, Cecil ended up in Texas for the work, and there he stayed until he died. Twice divorced when he married my mother, his commitment to her was, “If anyone in this marriage gets a divorce, it will be you.” I, growing up as his only child, felt his commitment too. I always knew where Home was, and I could leave it freely to explore and discover new worlds and return again to the familiar and secure.

On the Wheel of Creativity, Home is the starting point of the creative process.The Wheel of Creativity describes life as a creative adventure, and each of us makes a unique journey to take our place in it. Home is where we know how things work and life feels secure. But, if we are to grow, if we are to create new things that enrich the world, we must leave Home; we must leave what we know in order to learn what we do not know.

My father has been gone almost 19 years now. I have missed his physical presence in my world. But his departure demanded that I take his place in my own life, that I hold the space of Home for myself even while I am out on the journey. Today I celebrate his life and thank him for the gifts he has given me.

Some people invite us to leave Home; and others wait for us at the end of the journey. Both play an equal role in the creative unfolding of our lives. Let us not forget that we contribute to the communities we call Home by the very way we lead our lives. This is what will remain in 100 years, when all our moving is done and our bodies lie still in the Earth as dust.

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