Just thought I'd post this letter that I found last night. I cried as I read the last couple paragraphs. Hope it is helpful.
My Dear Benjamin Zander,
You have just completed a presentation to the leadership of the North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System. I “should” be immediately returning to my job as one of the System’s Vice Presidents (such a fancy title, no?), but not without first sitting down and briefly telling you of how your words, energy, and humour affected me this day.
I am the man who approached you and told you of my emotional “reunion” with my father through your presentation. He was Swiss-German, and throughout my adult life I have struggled to explain to myself why, in the 25 years that he was with me, he could never, even once, say to me “I love you.” Oh, we did many things as a family, and I suppose his “teachings” in the form of admonishments have always remained with me, though softened, as I had the joy of becoming a father myself to 5 beautiful children.
You told us, as you were about to play Chopin, to use the time to reflect on someone no longer in our lives. I thought about my father and again about that nagging question which I could never answer—why couldn’t he say “I love you”?
And then, as if delivered by a bolt of lightning, I recalled an incident that occurred between us at least 45 years ago. I was an asthmatic child, and on so many evenings could not run to the door (as instructed to do by our mother) to say hello to my father and give him a hug and a kiss when he came home late each evening from the hotel kitchens. I would instead remain upstairs, bedridden, gasping for every breath, waiting expectantly for Father to come upstairs and just say hello to me and maybe, just maybe, for the first time, say “Hello, Jeanot, I love you.” But those words never came.
And then, as I listened to your music, the memory came back of an evening, more than 45 years ago, when I was again sick, and Father came upstairs. But this evening was different. He sat next to me on my bed and, as I was sitting upright and struggling for the next breath, he began gently stroking my hair for a period of time that I wished would have lasted an eternity.
Today, as you played us the Chopin, tears came to my eyes. It struck me that while Father could not say these words, “I love you,” they were expressed even more poignantly in the gentle stroking of a little boy’s hair by his father’s powerful hands. I recall that as he sat with me my asthma attack subsided.
I had completely forgotten that incident. I must have buried it in my own desire to perhaps keep my father at a distance, to continuously prove either that I was unlovable, or that he was just a cold son-of-a-bitch who only knew work, work, and more work. But not so. My father showed me love in so many ways.
We keep looking so hard in life for the “specific message,” and yet we are blinded to the fact that the message is all around us, and within us all the time. We just have to stop demanding that it be on OUR terms or conditions, and instead open ourselves to the possibility that what we seek may be in front of us all the time.