Elli ja Charles Kipper
Reede, 23 Veebruar 2018 19:00
Elli Kipper - Eesti Elu Nr. 8 2018
Minu isa alati ütles, et Eesti keel on maailma kõige ilusam keel. Aga samuti, ta oli tegev nii mittu sweerides, et ma nüüd jätkan inglis keeles, kuigi ma tean, et mõni eesti keelset sõna ikka “sneakib” sisse.
Although my father’s life was cut short, his life was very full and vibrant. I am not able to speak to all the aspects of it but I certainly can share his most significant role to me, my Issi. I’m biased, but I really do think that I was the luckiest daughter in the world. Growing up having Charles Kipper as my dad got me very far. In the Eesti kogukond, I would just have to say my last name and people would know who I was (or who I belonged to). For awhile, that’s how I would introduce myself, “Mina olen Elli, Charles Kipperi tütar”. But what made my dad so special is how multifaceted he was. I would go into work with him, and the exact same reaction I got from Eestlased, I would get from staff and students. I would be told countless times “you are so lucky to have Mr. Kipper as your dad”, my joking response to them would be “yeah, but you don’t live with him”. But they were all right, I was so lucky. When I was little, I always wanted brothers and sisters. But now, I will selfishly admit that I am so thankful that I had my Issi all to myself, no sharing involved.
It is extremely difficult to sum up my Issi in a single word. When you think of a word, what ends up happening is you find out that word doesn’t cover certain aspects of his life. So I have thought of a few words that can be used to describe my Issi.
Patient. Let me point out the obvious first. He lived in a house, where he was the only man. Even our dog is a girl. While it was only my mom and I, sometimes that would be enough. That alone could give him the patience award. But of course it is not the only reason. My dad was a high school music teacher. Another job which requires patience by the barrel. But he loved working with his students. He wanted to see that light bulb go off or see them accomplish something they hadn’t before. He was always patient with the people around him.
My Issi was probably the most patient with me. If you have ever heard me speak at an Estonian event, my Issi spent his time helping me collect my thoughts, and wording things just right. And then to top it all off, I would force him to sit in our kitchen and listen to me present my project/speech. I can have perfectionist tendencies too, so it wasn’t just one time through, no, this was a good few hours. And there he was, listening to me repeat the same speech 3, 4, 5, times. Patience.
Kind. My dad had this way about him that made everyone feel special. He was really good at listening to people’s ideas and absorbing what he heard. Then he would think about his responses. He could usually find ways to put a positive spin on a negative situation. I loved watching him run his choir practices, because he never put any one down, he was aware of everyone’s abilities and tried his best to make them better.
Accomplished, but humble. My Issi’s musical ability was mind boggling, especially when it came to the piano. I would sit in the pew at the Toronto Estonian Baptist church (TEBK) and watch him accompany many soloists. Every time, I would love what he was doing, it sounded beautiful. One day I noticed that what his fingers were doing was not what was written in the music, he took the accompaniment as a guideline and in his head figured out what would add to the piece. I don’t know how many times I asked him, “how did you know to do that?”, his answer would be “I don’t know I’m just adding some pizzazz”.
I have been so blessed to also sing with my dad on several occasions here at TEBK. He even had a file of music labelled, “Elli ja Issi laulud”. Most of the time we were singing songs from our hymnals, or some of my favourite worship songs. I would play an MP3 of the song I wanted us to do. He would sit at the piano, headphones in, eyes closed and start figuring out what the accompaniment would be. Every time, it sounded better than the original piece. If I wanted to do that, it would take me a month, for him it took 30 minutes max.
Another thing he would do is transpose music in his head. Again, we would be looking at songs, but went too high for my alto voice. No problem! There he went, without rewriting any music, he played that song however many tones down (key signatures didn’t matter to him). To top it all off, we were singing a duet, so in addition to remembering the recording accompaniment, how many tones the song was transposed, he sang his part too. Multitasker extraordinaire.
I could go on this point forever, I didn’t even get to his compositions, choir conducting, instrumental skills, singing abilities, organ playing, ballet class playing, etc. But what made him so special is with all his talent and musical intelligence, he remained humble. He never flaunted his ability or made himself more important. No one was ever too unimportant for him to accompany. He always told me that, his ema would say “Sa tegid hästi, ära sa nüüd uhkeks mine”. Or in english “good job, but don’t let it go to your head”. And he didn’t, he had his priorities straight. He knew God gave him a ridiculous talent that had to be shared, not flaunted.
Good sport. My dad made the best of all situations, even if that meant being a silly, he went along with it anyway. During Music Nights at Rosedale Heights School for the Arts, there he would be wearing an afro wig, top hat and tails, or even Santa and loving every minute of it. He always went the extra mile. At Christmas time, he would dress up as Santa for the kids and visit different classes at the National Ballet School, bringing joy and excitement to all the students.
One very vivid memory I have is one of our many trips to Eesti. I was going through a swimming phase. I loved swimming, anywhere, whatever temperature of the air or water, just loved it. On this trip, every lake we went to, I wanted to go swimming. My mom’s swimming season is very short because it needs to be a hot day with warm water. Unfortunately in Eesti that is not the case, there is cold water (or colder water), maybe warm air. But at every lake we stopped at, my dad got out his swim trunks, got changed and went swimming with me. He was a good sport.
Another part of being a good sport is appreciating what you have, and not worrying about what you don’t. You never heard my dad get jealous of other people’s talents, possessions or adventures. If anything, if someone was talking about an amazing trip they were on, his reaction would be to turn to my mom and say “we need to go”. He knew that some people will get to do certain things, have certain things, that he didn’t. But he knew that didn’t make his life any less valuable. What a freeing way to live, knowing what you are as a person is enough, everything works out the way it needs to.
Endurance/work ethic. For those of you who don’t know. My dad loved to drive. Since I was a kid (and even before I was born, he would do several road trips a year and he drove all of it (he didn’t like taking turns). When my parents dated, that involved a road trip, Toronto to Baltimore and back. Imagine, that in modern day dating, you want to go on a date, “sure let me drive for 10 hours, see you soon”. He always told me that it was so worth it. When he met my mom, he would do anything to be with her. So when I was born, the road trip tradition continued. As a family, we have spent 100s of hours in the car. Endurance.
My Issi had amazing work ethic. He would be tired at the end of the day, but after I explain why, I’m sure you will be tired of just reading it. While he was a teacher, he would work during the day then after that his evening activities started. Monday – Oobik, Tuesday – Meeskoor, Wednesday – TEBK koor, Thursday – “night off”, Friday, he would take me to my piano lessons and sit in the room and listen (talk about pressure) Saturday – “errands”, Sunday – TEBK. My parents also made sure that I was just as busy after school, maybe to feel their pain, but really to teach me the same work ethic. We barely ever had time to eat dinner, but let me assure you, we did, every day. The week I described was a “typical week”, this does not include the weeks where he had extra rehearsals whether it was for school productions or concerts.
Then all of a sudden, he thought it was a perfect time to retire from teaching. Great, life is going to become more relaxing, he could spend more time at the cottage. Think again! He found a new passion, playing piano for ballet classes. He went to a training workshop at the National Ballet School, and he never looked back. But he still continued to supply teach, now his weeks looked like this: Monday – Ballet school, Tuesday – Meeskoor, Wednesday – ballet school, Thursday – Dance studio, practicing with Peter and Stephen then Metro Movement dance studio, Friday – Ballet School, Saturday – Ballet school, Sunday – TEBK. What retired life? He enjoyed everything he did, he was happy to do it.
I am proud to say, that my Issi passed his work ethic to me. He said that the things you do, need to be done in joy and that you need to give it all you got. Whatever you do, do it with all your might, a job half done is never done right.
Cool/Enthusiastic/Excited. My Issi would sometimes tell me “you know Elli, you have a cool Issi!”, it was usually in relation to a slang word that he (finally) used correctly. But really I did have a cool Issi. He always wanted to keep his choir music modern and hip. Most Fridays, after my piano lessons, we would go to Dave Snider’s music store and he would look through all the sheet music, finding new arrangements of modern songs that either his students or choirs wanted to sing. I know at school, his students would request songs that they wanted to learn. If he didn’t have it in his file cabinet, he would go back to the store and get it.
One time, my Issi’s students wanted to learn how to play steel drums. He got given the opportunity to go to Trinidad, learn about steel drums, and work in the schools (all while my mom was pregnant). After his trip, he started to write music for his steel band at Bathurst Heights (classical all the way to modern songs… from the 80/90s). His steel drum band also visited elementary schools, showcasing their talents. The year he came to my school, I gained mega cool points among my grade 2 classmates!
My Issi got very excited with all sorts of ideas. You knew that you had a good idea when he would say “YESSSSS!”. That got the wheels in motion in his head, and he was going to try and figure out a way to do it. He would also get excited for my endeavors. He encouraged me to be me, whatever that was. He never pressured me into anything, which I really appreciate. When I was going to university, the plan was always to stay home. But that didn’t happen and I accepted a spot at the University of Guelph. My move in day, he told me so many times “I am so excited for you!”, he knew that moving out wasn’t my original plan but that something good would come from it and it did.
Calm. He was our family’s rock. Nothing phased him. There would be literal schedule chaos going around all our lives and there he was there, knowing that everything would be alright. He had this thing about time, he never worried about it, which would drive my mom and I crazy. I, like my mom, enjoy the feeling of being early and not being late. My dad on the other hand, he was the one who would squeeze in a 10 minute nap before having to leave in 15 minutes. I mean with his schedule, you take advantage of any free moment to rest.
He had a saying which he would repeat to my mom and I, when we were going through hectic times, “this too shall pass”. A season in your life is just that, a season. It’s not your whole life, things will change eventually. I know that’s what he would say to us, and to himself. Chaos and troubles could be surrounding you, but the blessings and personal growth that you experience on the other side of it are much more worth it.
I originally thought one word couldn’t describe my Issi, turns out I was wrong. There is one word that explains him perfectly. The answer came to me from 1 Cor. 13:4-8, 13. Love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. […] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”Elli Kipper