Friday, June 18, 2004
Bonding with Dad: A look at several Carlisle fathers . . .
. . . and the interesting activities they share with their children
"Anyone can be a father. It takes a special man to be a Dad," the saying (or is it a Hallmark card?) goes. And based on some of the information we've been receiving about the fathers in Carlisle, we have more than the usual supplies of Dads in our town. Certainly one way to tell a true Dad is by the timeand the quality of that timehe spends with his kids. In honor of Father's Day, we talked to five Dads in Carlisle about some of the interesting activities they share and enjoy with their offspring.
It's not every father who can say he spent quality time with his daughter climbing up to the base camp of Mount Everest in Nepal. Mahesh Ganmukhi of Kimball Road is one of the few who can make this claim, after he and daughter, Swati, 19, spent eight days this past May climbing 18,500 feet above sea level to experience the wonder and magnificence of one of the highest points in the world.
"I've always wanted to do it and I decided, this is the year," says Ganmukhi, who took the trip in part to celebrate his 50th birthday. Swati, a freshman at the University of Vermont, arranged to take exams three weeks early in order to join her father on the trek. (Ganmukhi's wife Mehda remained at home with son Rushi, 15, as he completed his freshman year at Concord-Carlisle High School.)
Together, the father-daughter team struggled through restless, oxygen-deprived sleep in rustic lodgings they refer to as "plywood shoeboxes," the effects of mild altitude sickness as they climbed 2,000 feet higher each day, and Swati's severe allergic reaction to huge rhododendrons along the trail. It was all deemed worthwhile however, when the Ganmukhis reached the goal of their trip: the peak of Kala Patthar, offering one of the most breathtaking views of Mount Everest and the surrounding mountain ranges that one can experience.
"It was magnificent. There are no words to describe it," said Ganmukhi. "It was so majestic and mesmerizing, like nothing I had ever seen."
Although they met many people planning to climb to the top of Everest, the Ganmukhis' journey ended with a stop at the bustling base camp — where hard-core climbers prepare for the final, treacherous push to the summit.
Has this unique experience changed their father-daughter relationship? Not really, says Swati. "We have always had a mutual respect. We went in as friends, and we went out as friends. If anything, it has strengthened our friendship." And it is certainly not an experience she will forget. "You never really get another chance to do something like this with your Dad," she says.
When Ken Mostello started scuba diving back in 1976, he never suspected that his new-found hobby would offer opportunities to bond one day with his future offspring. At the time, Mostello was a teenager living in Vero Beach, Florida, just looking for something to occupy his free time. Today, Mostello and his two children, Andrew, 19, and Elise, 17, look forward to quality time on scuba-diving trips as close as the North Shore in Massachusetts and as far away as Cozumel, Mexico.
"Actually, I'd gone through a time of not doing much [scuba diving], until the kids were old enough to learn and were interested in it," says Mostello. But once the children were certified — each at age 13 — the diving trips with dad began.
"Here, we often dive in Gloucester or Rockport — that's a regular thing. But we have gone to more exotic places as well." These include Bonaire, an island in the south Caribbean known for diving, Key West, Florida, and trips off the coast of Mexico. Several years ago, Mostello and Andrew spent a week aboard a boat on Mexico's Sea of Cortez (in the Gulf of California). "For one week, we did nothing but eat, sleep and dive," he recalls.
Scuba diving has provided many unique opportunities for his family, he adds. "There's the travel, the sense of adventure. The kids are interested and excited about these trips, and there's also the cultural aspect. They learn a lot."
It's not always easy to find activities parents can share and enjoy with their children, but it's worth a try, Mostello says. "It's wonderful if parents can find interests to share with their children; a hobby like sailing, skiing, photography or art," he says. "It takes you out of the traditional parent-child relationships that revolve around school, meals, and family responsibilities."
Tedford Armistead makes his living in computers, but he will be the first to tell you that his true love and avocation is musical theater. Armistead has spent many pleasurable evenings playing lead roles in local community theater (most recently, Captain E.J. Smith in Titanic in Arlington, and John Adams in 1776 in Acton), but he says some of his favorite acting experiences are those he has been able to share with his daughters, Nikki 18, Cori, 15, and his wife, Cal.
The entire family has performed in Annie Get Your Gun and Oklahoma!, with daughter Nikki also joining him onstage in performances of The Secret Garden and The Crucible. "One of the things I enjoy most about community theater is the closeness you feel with the cast," says Armistead. "It's especially wonderful to be able to share that with the entire family. It has allowed us to have a different kind of bonding family experience."
Both daughters have sung in the Concord-Carlisle High School chorus, with Nikki making a point of appearing in every musical the high school presented during her four years there. She plans to pursue music, communications and theater at college this fall, which Armistead says pleases him.
"You always hope your children will find an interest; something to feel passionate about in their lives, and when that happens to be the same thing you love, it's especially fulfilling," Armistead says. "There are times Nikki and I will be moved by the same music, because we come from the same place. That creates a closeness which, especially with a teenaged daughter, feels special and unique."
Quality time for Steve Tobin and his son David, 15, is often spent hiking up the sides of mountains or maneuvering down churning rivers while white-water rafting. Father and son have shared many such adventures over the past four years, during which Tobin has served as a Boy Scout leader for his son's troop.
"There are a lot of camping trips," says Tobin. "We go out once a month, all year long. We went to the White Mountains over Memorial Day weekend, taking a three-day backpacking trip on Franconia Ridge. We climbed Mount Lafayette in 70 mile-per-hour winds."
When the Tobin boys aren't roughing it with the Boy Scout troop, they enjoy frequent camping trips as a family, joined by mom Nancy and Carolyn, age 12. They have pitched tents often in New Hampshire's White Mountains as members of the Appalachian Mountain Club, and enjoyed a memorable trip to Yosemite during a recent school vacation.
"It's very important to get involved," says Tobin. "You miss out on time with your kids if you're not a part of their activities."
Although he savors dozens of memories of rugged outdoor adventures, Tobin says some of his favorite fatherhood memories feature quiet, more sedate moments, like strolls to Kimball's for ice cream, or family outings to hear Carolyn play first oboe in the Carlisle band.
"One of my fondest memories of the kids when they were little is reading to them, when they're snuggled up next to you," says Tobin. "That's something you never forget."
Jonathan Stevens is another Carlisle father who would assert that music creates unique opportunities for parents and children to connect. One evening every week for the past three years, he has spent an hour taking music lessons from a very special piano teacher: his daughter Kate, 25.
"I was at a business meeting talking about life planning and what we'd like to do before we die. I said, 'I'd like to learn piano,'" says Stevens. "I made it my goal to learn to play sufficiently to get beyond the awkward stage." He didn't have to look far to find the perfect teacher. Kate, who lives in Somerville, teaches music at a middle school in Merrimack New Hampshire, and also has 21 piano students. All of them — except her dad — are age 12 or younger.
"I can do some things better than the eight-to-twelve year-olds, and they can do some things better than me," he says with a chuckle. "I think it's a nice change for her to teach an adult, although she does yell at me if I don't practice enough."
When Kate and her brother Cliff, now 22, were growing up, Stevens often played coach for their sports teams — but never piano. Despite a short stint playing clarinet when he was a youngster, Stevens says that musically, this experience has been "starting over."
"Music is about communication. It takes communication to a higher level, and now [Kate and I] have a deeper understanding of each other, which is good for any relationship. It has opened up more facets to our relationship. I'm not the parent talking down to the child. We have the pleasure of adult-to-adult interaction," he says.
Kate would agree. "It is so much fun working with him and seeing another side of his personality," she says. "I'm so passionate about music and always have been. Now this is something we can share. I love our hour together."
Happy Father's Day, Carlisle Dads!
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito