|My father and me, 1954|
Around this time of year, I start to think about my father, Leo Blacker, who died on November 9, 1969. It's hard to believe that he's been gone for close to 50 years. I was 15 years old when he died, and I'm lucky to have many happy memories of him. He was a larger than life person, a powerful oldest brother to 5 siblings, a man who befriended people he liked, and had no use for people he didn't like.
He and my mother had a standing date every Saturday night. He'd come home from our family fruit and vegetable store in the afternoon, take a nap, and then they would go out to Storyville, a jazz club in Boston where my mother was a waitress for many years. They would dress up in fancy clothes, smelling strongly of after shave and perfume, say good-bye to me and the babysitter, and go off into the night. Whoever was playing at the club would end up back in our suburban home, partying until early in the morning. I have many memories of waking up to the thumping sound of the stereo, coming downstairs in my nightgown, the babysitter long dismissed, to encounter crowds of people drinking, eating and smoking, jazz musicians and their fans and friends. And my father was often at the center of the action, hugging people and making them laugh, filling their plates and glasses. Those Saturday nights were when I saw him at his happiest.
It's only recently that I've recognized the similarity between my parents' lives and my own. It turns out that I am also at my happiest when I'm at a certain kind of party, what I sometimes call a party for introverts. At Boundless Way Temple, we sit together morning and evening, mostly in silence, learning on the deepest level who we truly are. I have the good fortune and privilege to be in the role of teacher to many people wishing to encounter the Great Way. At the Temple, I am one of the hosts, making sure that people are getting what they need to feel supported in seeking the Dharma.
Not everyone is always happy with my hosting, and, in the way of these things, people sometimes express their displeasure and leave the party. But most of the time, people keep coming back, as they did to my parents' parties in the 1950's and 1960's, enjoying the silence and the stillness, and even more, the opportunity to see into their own hearts, and through that seeing, into the hearts of others.