The Beacon Blog: Edmonds Kinds of Stories

My Dad's Boat

By Maria Montalvo | Mar 25, 2014

When I was about 25, my dad and I were talking about some of the cultural and social challenges facing America...we have that conversation daily, really. He questioned, as he had taught me to do every day of my life, the underlying logic or basis for so many of the things we believe to be inherently true. He did not propose that America is a bad place but rather, do we allow America to get worse by assuming that all we do is correct simply because of who and what we are… the birthplace of modern democracy.

After this exchange, I used my then primitive graphic expertise to create an image of my dad's face in Captain America's body, with a caption that read, "Captain America Dad, promoting American values wherever he goes." He still has it framed on the wall of his office.

I remember our exchange so vividly and often wonder why I was inspired to create what many would misinterpret. Oddly, I saw his questioning to make things better as the only way America can hope to keep up with the inevitable change that is all around us and not allow it to swallow our progress as humanity. That deserves a cape.

When I think about it now I believe I created Captain America Dad because I wanted to capture that moment of learning, of inspiration, and of, well, what I perceive as the awesome brilliance that is my father in an exchange that I was able to comprehend so fully.

Over the years I have created many of these such "intellectual still lifes" of my dad. When I write (in this very column) of the scientific proof of the connectedness of our essences through protons and electrons, expressing a limited understanding of the continuity of things, it comes from a reading of a theory that I discussed with him and processed in my own mind as knowledge that has enhanced my life. When I remember moments of profound impact in childhood, both good and bad, I always remember the context he put around them to help me grow from the experience. I have created a set of memories about my dad that create the person in my heart and mind that I see and talk to and respect and love.

To use an old philosophy riddle, I have somewhat created a boat of Theseus of my dad. The story goes that if Theseus is floating on the ocean in his boat and as pieces fall off and are replaced one by one, the boat is still Theseus' boat because he is sailing it. But if someone else builds an exact replica of the boat with the cast-off pieces, should that not also be Theseus' boat?

I have recreated a version of my dad that came from his cast-offs, or his sharing of the thoughts and images in his mind, and I have put them back together through my interpretation. I used to describe my dad as my rock, or foundation, but as a boat, he is my method for transport through this life and one that has taken me to many wonderful places.

He would probably say that I have created a nicer boat than the original, but I do not think so. The fact that he could present so much of himself to his beloved daughter in a way that created a better life for me… the fact that he continued to grow and question and learn with me, once I was old enough to settle for what could be perceived as good enough… that he continued to use the word why whenever I missed an opportunity to contemplate a way that things could be better.

I love the boat I have built. I will likely sail longer in this life in this boat than he will in the original, and I am so lucky to have the waves under me. I have always been amazed by how insightful he is that it bordered on superhuman (like Captain America Dad). Luckily for me, I have a pop who raised me to question, so he was never a hero but something even better.

Honestly, I cannot imagine how he could have provided better pieces to build a boat.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.