A. Leavitt Crowell, 1922-2000
Today I'm remembering and missing my father, who died eight years ago today...the following is excerpted from the eulogy I gave at his memorial service, and speaks to the profound influence a parent can have on a child's way in life. ...I have a black and white photograph, taken outside on a suburban lawn, of my dad and I in 1957. We are flying a kite—you can’t see the kite, but you can see the string extending off to the left. My dad is staring upward, presumably at the kite, and I’m watching the string. This picture strikes me as a metaphor for our relationship and the kind of father he was...I’m the one holding the kite string, all by myself, even though I’m only 2 and ½. No doubt, from my expression, I’m fascinated by the way the string is moving and pulling on my hold, and the sense of power and control over the kite that I’m feeling. My dad is not hovering over me, needing to have his hand on the string—instead, he’s slightly over to the side, gazing at the kite in the sky, the outcome of our little project, and he looks pleased.
In just this way he offered support and encouragement, but never stifling over involvement, or insistence on managing things in the decisions and undertakings of my life. In doing so, he gave me a sense of confidence and belief in my abilities that I would find my own way.
...My path as an artist was one with which he was totally unfamiliar. But true to form, he, along with my mother, supported my interest early on with materials, lessons, and museum visits, and later he encouraged me in my formal education. Dad always took my art work seriously, made an effort to understand it, and rejoiced in my successes. In recent years he made some very insightful comments about my paintings, which surprised and pleased me, coming from a man, who in his own words “couldn’t draw a straight line.”
...His philosophies, when expressed, were simple and direct. One day when I was about ten I was crying about bad things that had happened to me at school and saying it had been a terrible day. He came into my room, hugged me and said, simply, “Always remember this, a day is just what you make it.” And I have remembered it, many times--a statement that was somehow both comforting and challenging.
He was an exceedingly generous man. It used to embarrass me to shop with him because he was so eager to buy whatever he thought would please me. But his generosity was not in material terms only—he was most generous in spirit. A masterful storyteller, a man who laughed loud and long, gave crushing bear hugs, sang off-key sailor songs, a man who welcomed and appreciated many sorts of people, and was never judgmental, who enjoyed (and sometimes cooked) excellent food, and who truly had a zest for life.