Bill Frykman

1926 — 2007

by Laura Frykman

I want to share just a few thoughts about Dad, who remained a beloved mystery to me all his life. The first time I knew I loved him was when I was very little, at bedtime. He would pick me up and set me on the edge of the bathroom sink, and tell me to hold on to him, while he gently washed and tickled my dirty toes. He was a tender and compassionate man. Even when he disagreed with my choices, he always respected my independence, and taught me to persist in all my efforts.

He also liked make believe. On Wednesdays when Mom was at Choir practice, we would sit in front of a fire and he’d tell stories of pioneers. I would hide behind the sofa pretending to be the Indians surrounding the fort and he’d pretend to be a scared settler inside. He had a very active imagination, and made stories come alive in the telling.

Once, when I was barely old enough to read it, he brought in a big book called Man the Inventor. Bedtime was delayed for a very long time, while he explained everything in the book to me—Morris code, how glass was made from sand, and how levers and steam engines work. He was very patient, and really enjoyed himself. He loved to teach, especially to an appreciative audience. He taught me to throw a strike, use my wrist to bow the violin, and to get the center of gravity right for optimum aerodynamics in any airfoil. He teased me about “painting” my face with makeup, and would show up at every new job I took in my twenties, as if to make sure it was a good situation and to be able to picture me at work.

It seems like Dad believed there is a God-shaped mystery inherent in all things, and he set about to discover its nature. He was a Renaissance Man, who would discuss history, linguistics, politics, and theology with me at the drop of a hat. His personal standards were high, but he also had the open mind of an explorer. So he taught me to reach deeper, to think sideways and intuitively.

Most of all, Dad was a problem solver. He seemed to see any tangible thing as malleable; just an interesting manifestation of someone’s idea. He was no respecter of convention, but pulled everything apart in his mind’s eye to see if it could be improved. And he had a conviction that whatever he made should last as long as possible. A good solution was efficient, conforming to the laws of physics, and therefore beautiful. If truth and beauty seemed at odds in a design, he picked truth every time. Form followed function.

I think that’s the reason for his lifelong love of music, invention, and violins. In music he could be free to pursue and enjoy a union of truth with beauty, for he had an artist’s eye and soul.

Finally, Dad taught me about everyday creative courage. He once said to me, “You can’t always find the answer with a technique.” In other words, sometimes you have to let go of all you know, and discover a new way through your dilemma, with faith in the ultimate Goodness of creation.

So when it came time to let go of life, he bravely showed us the way. And I believe he has found all his solutions at last. He is one with the music of the spheres.

Laura Frykman is a Minneapolis artist.

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