by Chris Cluff about his dad, Pete Cluff
When I was in university, I liked to take the train home to Oshawa. When I could, I would meet my dad at Union Station, at his office, and we would ride home together.
Sometimes we would read. Sometimes we would talk. Sometimes just sitting in our own solitude, staring out the window at Lake Ontario frothing in the distance, passed the time.
On one occasion I asked him why he worked for the bank. My question was soaked with antagonism. I thought back to all of the times while walking through his office, I felt that his work was life-sucking. I would be looking at his workplace measuring happiness from a distance and thinking that I would never want work like this for me.
He had talents that I understood, he could write and draw, and he seemed to get a lot of joy from being creative, so why bother with the banking? I probably should have led with a compliment about his writing or drawing, it definitely would have been kinder, but I had no clear words to compliment, so I poked.
For me, being authentic meant doing exactly what you wanted, when you wanted- reality be damned. Being authentic also meant being singular in belief and confident despite counterpoint. I was bold. He was calm. When he answered it was measured and clear. As he continued to stare out the window he said. ‘Even though I don’t love banking, I have found the art in it.’
Stunned and now silent I wanted to challenge him again. Instead, I stared out at the water and mumbled something mumbly.
He explained that ‘Work is necessary. But it does not have to be everything.’ And ‘…committing to work is one type fuel for family well-being.’ I asked about his writing and his art in a backhanded way, he responded with the sage coolness of someone who has a handle on the big picture. He assured me that he has never stopped asking himself ‘am I on the right track?’ Or, ‘Is my work challenging enough to keep me at it one more year?’ And, ‘Who else depends on the work that I do?’
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t.
But now, I get it. Some of it.