Great music is timeless. Yes, the song came out in 1969 (7 years before I was born) but I still love it. The Beatles, The Mamas & The Papas, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby Stills & Nash, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter, Paul & Mary and Don McLean all provided a soundtrack for my early childhood years. I’ll credit the man who curated the soundtrack, introduced me to the music and who I have only mentioned a few, short times during the course of this memoir/blog/blovel, for my love of the songs…my dad.
Just reading those four words, “Here Comes The Sun” slows my racing mind and allows me to settle into an ideal mood for what I know will be a busy summer. I have a summer romance on my hands and he’s going to take a lot of my time and energy. I couldn’t be happier. It’s more than “alright”. It’s exactly what I’ve been hoping for. Yes, the next few months will come with challenge and frustration, but I’ll circle back to the Beatles’ reassuring tune. I’m in step with the Fab Four and our long strides are walking confidently across Abbey Road. We’re holding our heads high, smiling, laughing, loving every minute of life. Well…I guess you could say it’s more like I’m walking confidently down Spur Circle (street of the latest renovation) toward Mr. 1960. I may not be dressed in a stylin’ suit, but I’ve got my tool belt on and hammer in hand. Not really. That’s not me. I’m carrying my note pad, sample box and iPhone with photos and endless notes. I’ll leave the toolbelt and hammers to the crew…not that I would mind picking up one if they asked me.
I’m certain there was not a single moment from the time I came into this world that my dad wasn’t singing. Young children don’t seem to mind whether you have a great voice or not; I know this because mine beg me to sing them songs each night, and I promise, my voice is hardly skilled. For me, my ears were lucky. My dad had (and still has) a legitimately, beautiful voice. Like…stop what you’re doing when you hear him beautiful. His voice is masterfully skilled, practiced and God given. He has musical genes and sadly they skipped me. He’s written an opera. Yes. An opera. My dad is a true creative. He’s a chef on paper but he’s a singer, guitar player, he writes, draws, could pass as a professional photographer and yes…he’s a talent in the kitchen. After all, cooking is an art form. As a little girl, it didn’t get much better than watching his handsome face while meaningful songs filled the air.
Sometimes it was a car concert, other times it was an out of the blue a cappella. There was kitchen singing and crowd pleasing moments came with the guitar. He even had some originals. I was mesmerized. How did he do it? No sheet music…every bit by memory. Each song took me away and I became a part of a musical story. It was an adventure in notes and words. My favorite request was “American Pie”. Again and again, I could not and still can not, get enough of that song. On the rare occasion when I catch it on the radio, I’ll silently hope it’s just started so I can spend the next 8-9 minutes back in time.
The scattered story fascinated me. The analogies were fuzzy at best but dad would explain each verse as well as he could. Clearer each time I listened, the meaning started to sink in. It was a pencil sketch that slowly filled with color. Dad would speak to certain points and I was able to sharpen my vision and add pigment to another scene. I saw the young boy, dressed for a chilly day, tossing newspapers to each door. Sad, crying faces became clear when I understood the details of the great musician’s untimely death. I saw the levee after Dad explained what that was, and being from Texas, I obviously already knew about Chevys, (see “Nice to Meet You” and “Texas Forever”). Whiskey and rye sounded like things I would never enjoy and while I pretended to understand the whole jester/cut to courtroom/football game/back to jester in a cast analogy…I didn’t get it. To this day it still confuses me. But I did understand that the quartet in the park were The Beatles…Candlestick Park to be exact. And I saw a sad world on pause after those three, hope filled, influential men were suddenly gone. Dad’s explanation of who they were made me wish that they were still around.
I see him like it was yesterday. Strumming strings with a happy sway, moving his head from side to side causing his hair to fly. With his eyes closed, every word hit my ears loud and clear. Music erased any thought of worry, confusion or sadness. Joy, excitement and happiness was all I felt. Our situation was not perfect…the “every other” is never ideal for anyone who loves their kids and the kids that love them, but it was what it was. It was our normal. In all honesty, I barely remember life before. It’s all relative.
I looked forward to weekends with my dad, knowing that bedtime would always include a song and a prayer. Kneeling beside me each night, he’d look me straight in the eyes and most often, sing “Edelweiss”. He was patient. Never rushed and listened carefully to my every question and thought. I think about this from time to time when I’m putting my children to sleep. I’m often tempted to speed it up. I’m exhausted from the day, week and thoughts of tomorrow. The sweet memories stop me. Most often, I’m able to sing to each of them, say prayers and leave feeling good when I pull the door behind me. Bedside moments with dad gave me the chance to know that I was a child loved and adored. He told me so and showed me so. What more can we ask for?
We’re cruising at summertime altitude now and I’m literally cruising at 30,000 feet on my way to the farm, (see “The Simple Life”). It’s already July and this memory lane, dedicated to my father, is perfectly timed. Summer was our season. We’d see each other for the longest stretches. Texas summers meant camp followed by time at my Dad’s house. We’d have endless catch ups, lots of cooking, songs on repeat and I loved my cold pillow each night. His signature move…popping the pillow in the freezer right before bedtime. To this day, nothing feels quite as nice to rest your sleepy head on.
Texas summers have been replaced with raising a family, work, a get away here and there and a stretch of time at the farm. I miss my dad always and while we might not have the wild adventures I took (and still take) with my mom, he gives me roots to my childhood. Dad still lives in the same house he’s lived in for 36 years back in Texas. He still sings, although now I’m only entertained during an occasional Arizona visit. His serenades are not just for me but for my three children as well. They love them as much as I did. While long distance is never ideal, it’s the hand life dealt us.
Distance has meant 15 minutes across town, a plane ride and short drive when mom and I moved to New Mexico and just a bit longer flight now that Arizona is home. I can do distance because it includes phone calls, emails, text messages and a little FaceTime mixed in. Thank goodness we’re beyond written letters…although I still love those.
Mr. 1960 and I will be doing the long distance dance for the next three weeks. I’ll be at the farm with notes, photos, my laptop and of course my phone in hand. While he’s in demo mode during the last week of my treasured “simple life”, I’ll be loving him from afar. Daily calls, videos and photos will have to suffice for the week. The crew knows the plan. When I return to him, while he might be a little bruised up, broken and empty, I’ll be there each day to build him back up and tell him…”it’s alright”.