Sunday, November 13, 2016

He's come to take his children home.

I spent my childhood quietly (or not so quietly) singing along with my dad from a chair or blanket or stool in a restaurant or cafe or park while we sang for the people assembled there. I used to think he wrote every Grateful Dead song into existence--with a few Beatles songs peppered in for good measure and popular appeal.

Despite years of practice, I have struggled to find ease and confidence in playing my own music and performing live. It felt like this private, essential part of who I was, strung together at birth and so important that I couldn't possibly risk sharing it. I wrote music and played primarily for the look of awe in my dad's eyes. He--with the constant writer's block and knack to make popular songs his own--he made me feel like a combination of Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith when clumsily clanging chords and words together.

Up until the last day I saw him, I was convinced my dad would get better. Even as frail as he was and as bleak as the circumstances were, I thought things would improve. He made me believe in magic so many other times throughout my life, I thought this must be just another magic trick to add to his repertoire. Dad's popular magical acts included making bottomless pancakes from a cup of batter, singing songs that made your heart beat like you were sprinting long-distance, and an innate knowledge of when the most beautiful things would fall from the sky in an exquisite extraterrestrial light show.
I am just now beginning to recognize that my father is gone for good, in the physical sense. That this is not some prolonged silence caused by a meaningless fight manifested in physical distance, one day to be resolved with a phone call and a long chat over Magic Hat #9 and some hummus. This is it. This is life now.

Dad was not a man to sow lofty expectations for his kids, and I mean that in a good way. If I spent the rest of my life drinking merlot on my couch, watching JOY and crying ( like I have today), he would not fault me for it. But I lived for his giddy smiles, and I lived for his music and I can't help but think--I can still find a path through this world with that motivation and love riding shotgun. I can still make music that would make him smile, and feel in awe of life enough that I feel compelled to write a song about it.

But not just now. Today, I am crying with my eyes open.

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