After many years it is interesting to see who suddenly shows up. Deb and I were best friends in High School. It started when her Dad, Mr. Musick, became the new principal at our high school. His daughter, a year younger than I, came with him. I learned so much from Deb. We could spend hours together without even talking. I’d never known the peace and the power of silence before. And her laugh was spectacular. Deep and wide. I think we laughed a lot together. Deb and I hadn’t been in touch for about 25 years and just recently have been in regular touch. She shared this piece about her Dad with me and I learned things about Mr. Musick I’d never known before. To me he was a gentle giant with an immense combination of kindness and strength that made me want to be my best around him. But Deb tells the story best…
“Hands of Time”
As far back as I can remember, my dad was a doodler. If he wasn’t otherwise occupied, he would have a pen or pencil in his hand and would be doodling on scraps of paper, napkins, old envelopes, or anything else with enough space on it to draw something. Whenever I would ask what he was doing, the answer was always the same, “Oh, just messing;”
and then I would have to wait for whatever it was to magically appear on the paper. I was always amazed by this, as I could never draw a whit; although Dad maintained that anyone who could write, could draw. “It just takes practice, like playing the piano,” he would say. I’m not sure if I’m convinced of this yet, to this day.
When he was thirteen, Dad won a state poster contest for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Kansas, which made his mother, who was a tried-and-true member of the aforementioned group, immensely and intensely proud. (They were a fairly intense group.)
While at college, he played on the varsity football team— the irony of the situation being that because his hands could be injured playing football, he wasn’t allowed to major in art anymore and had to choose a different major.
I was fairly indignant when he told this story to me many years later when I was in college, probably to make a point about college majors, although by now, I don’t recall exactly what. “How could that have possibly been fair?” I complained. But “It was what it was, “ as the saying sort of goes; and so Dad chose biology.
It was during his senior year of college that Dad was drafted by the Detroit Lions football team.
As it happened though, at nearly the exact same time, he was drafted by Uncle Sam’s team for service in World War II. Uncle Sam pulled rank. My dad’s contract with the Lions arrived in the mail three days after his induction into the Army.
He was assigned to the Army’s medical corps, where I can only imagine that his steady artist’s hands would have been as much of an asset to his surgical unit as the medical knowledge from his biology major.
When the war was over, my dad returned to college to graduate and then began a career in education as a teacher, football coach, and high school administrator. He continued his drawing and painting, leaving bits of his artwork, in the form of school mascots painted in various high school gymnasiums across the state of Kansas. Likewise, his cartoons were published in various hometown newspapers. He had a regular cartoon feature that he called “Musing with Musick, “ although I always thought “Messing with Musick” would have worked, as well.
His drawing continued into old age, his hands always steady and sure, in spite of an old war injury; or maybe because of it. When he was drawing, it seemed to take his mind off the problems of his body.
Most peoples’ hands age as they themselves do, being a great indicator of their accumulated number of years. As I recall, my father’s did not. At least, it seemed that way to me. I still remember them as he drew, holding the pen or pencil in his hand, as if it were merely lying there gently in his fingers— the drawing being formed effortlessly, flowing onto the paper, as if it had always been there, just waiting to appear.
My father’s hands were strong, yet gentle and deft. Hands strong enough to hike a football or tackle a fullback— back in the days when players played on both offense and defense. Hands gentle enough to tend to a soldier’s wounds and give comfort and care through his medic’s touch. Hands deft enough to create cartoons with comedy and clarity on a whim or by will, that could make you laugh or touch your life; or even on occasion, and maybe more often than not, quite possibly do both.