My dad was an anarchist. He could be rough around the edges, often speaking his truth without censure or care for social mores.
But to me he was more than John, the rebel artist. He was my father. I strongly believe that he loved his daughters. For the last 12 years of his life, we spoke at least twice a week. His voice was often gentle, he rejoiced at my son Richard’s journey with music, always curious to follow every progress and success. He always told me that he loved me.
He introduced me with pride to his friends, always highlighting that I was a doctor, and that his grandson was a great musician-in-the-making. He loved hearing Richard play the saxophone.
As a child, he would pick me up on the weekends and he would take us to the children’s art carnival in Brooklyn, where he worked, and teach us how to draw and play with instruments. What he believed in the most — art — he cared to teach us to love and understand. He also helped me to be open-minded.
Dad made me laugh. He had a playful, joyful side. He used to walk down the streets playing the flute.
My father was a survivor. He always found a way. Choosing to live on the margins of a social system he discredited and despised, he remained keenly observant and accepted the consequences of his choices. Mahatma Gandhi said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonesty.” My father was honest. My father spoke the truth. My father was very wise.
I will never forget, in a pivotal and painful moment of my life, when he said just what I needed to hear: “What’s done in the dark comes to the light.” I felt protected and understood by my father.
I believe my dad hid his gentle side because he had been too hurt by life. He hadn’t experienced much love growing up, and he developed prickly, steel walls that could easily ward off human connection. He grew to enjoy solitude. But the few he allowed to get close to him (me, Andrew, Maggie, Dalton and Vanessa, for example) got more than his visions and creations, but experienced and knew his loving, gentle and sensitive side.
It was a grand gesture of love that dad left his apartment to my musician son. I am so grateful to have had an incredible, complex, genius, funny and loving dad.
“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly,” Franz Kafka wrote.
My father, John Farris, did just this.
Chinyelu “Bibi” Duxbury