As a teenager, I joining the Columbia Record Club – unbeknownst to my parents. I slipped a ragged
$1 bill into an envelope, agonized over my selections and used my signature to make my first financial commitment.
All day, every day, I waited anxiously for those 13 records to show up, all the while trying to figure out how to explain it to my folks. As I recall, this is where I first learned to “act first; apologize later”.
That, and the Dillard’s credit card I signed up for at 18.
(I didn’t really understand that I’d have to actually pay for those clothes.)
(Common sense – not my forte.)
Anyway, I sent off my little envelope. It seemed like a lifetime, but finally the box arrived.
Honky Tonk Chateau
The Eagles Greatest Hits
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
And two John Denver records; Greatest Hits, Volume 1 and Back Home Again.
I had the sheet music to Sunshine On My Shoulders and Annie. I loved Poems, Prayers and Promises.
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And this memory just came back like a sucker punch, as I researched the track list for John Denver’s Greatest Hits on Wikipedia.
I sang ‘For Baby (For Bobbie)’ as a duet with my dad.
I had completely forgotten that until this moment, as I write.
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Just a few days ago, my uncle (Dad’s brother) gave me a few old photos. I saw my dad, in a way that my husband never knew – before the stroke. I was reminded of that big personality, the sense of humor, the flashing, charismatic smile. The big hugs and the gentle teasing.
I visited my mom and dad tonight and recognized, again, that time is moving rapidly. The hemorrhagic stroke changed my dad; tears come more quickly. Words are slower.
The impact of the brain bleed is still obvious. My dad is a different man now, in some ways. Different.
But still my dad.
And I have this memory, sparked tonight by a list of song titles; clear, classic harmony – the centered place where I learned to sing harmony. With my dad, it was simply there. You sought out the harmony because the melody was too safe, too simple. In church, standing side by side, we sang the first verse by the book. Verses 2, 3 and 4 were for experimenting. We alternated – alto, tenor and bass; we sang strong and loud and, too often, irreverently.
My dad sang in the church choir most weeks. Looking out at the congregation in his robe and stole, he would stick out his tongue and make faces at me when the choir director wasn’t looking.
My mom would sigh and roll her eyes.
These days, at 74, dad sits back in his recliner and explores the past. Just tonight, he showed me photographs and genealogies of his maternal ancestors. Sometimes he looks at a photograph and chokes up.
He doesn’t sing much anymore.
But there is harmony in the way he points to the photo of his mom – my grandmother. There is resonance when he laughs, that particular sound that is as much a sob as a chuckle, when I say, “Dad, your brother spoke highly of you…“
There is everything in me that was grounded in the deepest, heart-and-soul connection with music. It lived in my dad, too; and it bloomed in my brother and in me because of my mom’s determination to water it.
My dad loved John Denver. I know that I chose two Denver records from Columbia Record House because it would appeal to (and maybe appease) him.
We sang all these songs. In harmony.
I started this post thinking of Back Home Again, but it has obviously spiraled into something different. But I am glad that these lyrics are true:
…hey, it’s good to be back home again…
I felt it tonight, in my parents’ home. I felt it in my own home, with my little family. And I feel it settled in my soul, in the dwelling place of my spirit. So it’s an appropriate title.
But the song singing in my memory tonight is the one that I hear with the strong, clear tenor voice of my father beside me.
I’ll walk in the rain by your side
I’ll cling to the warmth of your hand
I’ll do anything to help you understand
And I’ll love you more than anybody can
And the wind will whisper your name to me
Little birds will sing along in time
Leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime