By Chuck Fuqua
Executive Director, Strategic Communications
Daddy. This is the name I go by these days through most of my non-work life, and it is the name I am most proud to carry. Being Daddy is an experience that defies the five senses. It is felt, seen and heard at greater depths than I’ve known. I remember the first time I was called Daddy - by my oldest son on Easter Sunday, 19-months old at the time. Before that, it was more of a ‘Dada’. But in an instant, it was clear in tone – Daddy.
Many such memories are seared into my consciousness. Yet, some details begin to fade until I look back at the tangible reminders we carefully have saved. My wife and I have our own system
of keeping papers, projects and pictures from our children’s lives that come from daycare, preschool and school. Just this week, our boys wanted to look through their baby books for bedtime reading to see pictures of their growth and to read/hear what was happening each month along the way. My wife deserves the credit for constructing these baby books for them, and even shared her own with them to compare.
Such memories also provide reflection and perspective on the moments in my own life with my parents, grandparents, family and close friends. Those experiences inevitably shape my own fatherhood. One memory I’ll touch on involves my maternal grandmother. She taught piano lessons in her house for more than 50 years. I lived in her house for several years as a young boy, and the sound of kids playing piano all day had an impact on me, I’m sure. Not only did she teach others how to play piano, but she also taught me and my cousins (though I’ve forgotten how myself). My grandmother was a saint, and I don’t come close to being the person she was. But those inherent lessons stuck with me, only to be understood later: practice and repetition; kind instruction; and joy in recognition.
In those lessons and observations, I learned that there is a rhythm to life. Some days offer a constant beat at 4/4 time. Other days provide variety and excitement that can rise and decline the scale of octaves. That old Yamaha piano she used now sits in my parent’s house. Whenever I’ve looked at it, I remember my grandmother sitting in her chair immediately to the right of the keys, while thousands of people, ages 3-63, alternatively sat at that piano and learned the rhythm of life from her. Amidst the music lessons, she somehow managed to provide snacks, lunch, compassion and laughs to her students. The wood almost speaks to you of these memories through the scratches and nicks from decades of use.
My grandmother never sat me down and told me explicitly to teach with kindness and recognize achievement - even at the most incremental of steps. She showed me through her actions. I still have some of my music books from those days that show the songs I learned: each book adorned with a gold star for achievement and my grandmother’s unique handwriting laced through the pages. In items such as these, I get to relive moments; revive old feelings; treasure relationships; and learn lessons I may not have grasped at the time but appreciate today.
All of us need a gold star in the music book of our life to feel accomplishment and a teacher who provides comfort and reassurance. I can only hope I’m able to nurture my two sons in such a way that she would have been proud. Being their father is the greatest adventure of my life. With them and for them, I am Daddy. There is no name I’d rather have.