I started this on Facebook, but decided I'd just put it up here because it's more permanent. Today is the eighth anniversary of my dad's death. Some years it affects me consciously, others it takes me a while to figure out why I'm feeling crazy. That happens more around his birthday in August, which also happens to be the month I got sober. It's like a perfect storm of maniacal and depressive. I remember one year it was a couple days before his birthday and I was late for a 12-step meeting and as I'm coming off the subway I start pushing and elbowing my way through a crowd that was moving way too slow for my liking. As I'm charging up the steps to make sure I don't miss my transfer, I realize that I've just almost knocked over an old woman climbing up the stairs with her walker. Fortunately, I did not actually knock her down the steps. And also fortunately, I was able to see the craziness of charging over and through people while screaming (in my head), “Outta my way bitches. I gotta go get spiritual!”
I have no idea what that has to do with what this blog post is really about, but it's been pointed out to me repeatedly lately that I don't stay on topic very well. Squirrel!
Oh, right. My dad. I wrote something this morning in a sober FB group I'm in about how I'm glad that my father never had to see me at my worst – the real drug using and descent into hell started when he was sick and kicked into high gear right after he died – but I'm a little bummed that he never got to see me this happy and grateful for everything I have in my life. A friend suggested I do something today that he loved to do. It was an awesome suggestion and in recovery they strongly suggest that we take suggestions.
My brother bought my dad a CD burner for Christmas one year. I don't know when it was exactly, but it was a few years before he died. I expected, maybe we all did, that he would transfer his albums onto CDs so he could listen to them more easily and that would be that. But that wasn't that at all. What happened was he started to make CDs for other people. At first, it was for my nephews and cousins that he played music for in our basement. One of our cousins (who has passed away) had Down's Syndrome. Whenever he would come to our house, my dad would sit with him listening to music for almost the entire time.
So one of the first CDs I remember him making was for Anthony. And you never saw a look of purer joy on anyone's face than when those songs were playing. I'm not sure how happy his family was with having to listen to the same dozen or so songs for hours on end, but Anthony loved it.
After that, our family room became a recording studio. It didn't matter who came over – whether it was someone he'd known for 50 years or someone he'd never met before – if they expressed any interest at all in the song that was playing, my father took note and created a special CD for that person and either gave it to them the next time they were there or made sure it got delivered to them if he thought he might not see them for a long time.
As my sister reminded me today, the titles were one of the best things about the CDs. They varied depending on who it was for and how they knew him. For his grandchildren, it might be called PopPop's Favorite Music for (name of whichever grandkid it was for). I think Anthony's may have been called Big Paul's Music for Anthony. They were banal and awesome all at the same time.
Anyway, all those words just to say my dad loved sharing the music he loved with his family, his friends, his family's friends, just about anyone who would have it. I have to confess that he asked me about 20 times if I wanted him to make me one and I declined every time. I'm such a jackass sometimes. I wasn't being mean. I just didn't think he needed to bother. It never occurred to me until I started typing this paragraph that maybe he wanted me to want him to make one. Sigh. Sorry dad. If it's any consolation I think they are spectacular and I wish I had said yes.
Seven-hundred-and-eighty-six words later, the point. What follows are some of my favorite songs that my dad included on so many of the CDs he burned. I have different reasons for including each of them and the list is far from exhaustive. I'm sure my siblings will read this and be unable to comprehend how I didn't include one song or another. But at least you'll get an idea of what growing up in my house was like – because this music was ALWAYS playing. As I was listening today, I realized that I know all the words to songs many people have never even heard of. And that's just one of a bazillion reasons I love my dad.
It's All in the Game – This was on a CD called 50's Jukebox Favorites. I have no idea how he determined this was a jukebox favorite, but there you have it. I'm including this one simply because I love it. And I remember loving it my entire life, from the very first time I heard it.
So Nice to Be with You – I posted this one on FB today. It was on a CD called Music for My Marie. My mother. And I love that. (As an aside, one of the youtube entries was this song with a montage of Clay Aiken pictures as the video – random.)
Help Me Rhonda – Most of the really good CD titles were for CDs that ended up with someone else. I only have the CDs that he made for himself, which have less thrilling titles. This one is from My Kind of Music for Myself, so we can assume that this was one of his favorites. I'm including it simply so I can tell you that when I was in grade school I came downstairs for breakfast one morning to my mother belting out, “Help me Wanda, help help me Wanda.” My father always used to say my brother and I laughed like a couple of idiots, but really, shit like this happened every day in my house. We'd have had to have been idiots not to laugh.
Walking After Midnight – From Dad's Country Music. He had no idea he was prepping me for life as a gay man, but Patsy Cline was a staple throughout my childhood. I have always been more comfortable when the music or discussion turns to Patsy than when it is about Judy Garland.
King of the Road – For some reason that I can't explain, I don't have this song in my iTunes so I don't know if he ever burned it to CD. There are two other Roger Miller songs there, but I love this song. I used to play that Roger Miller album over and over and over.
Love Grows (Where my Rosemary Goes) – This is also from the CD he made for my mother, but I remember this song because we have a cousin named Mary Rose and he would sing this to her all the time. I would always get messed up when I was singing along because I heard it as “where my Mary Rose goes” so often.
Rhumba Boogie – I posted The Gal Who Invented Kissin' on FB today, so I'm going with a different Hank Snow song here. I never really got it (other than The Gal Who Invented Kissin', which I loved) but Hank Snow was one of his absolute favorites. I think his favorite present I ever got him was when I gave him the Hank Snow boxed set for Christmas one year. His voice mostly just makes me twitch.
The Battle of New Orleans – If my dad had a theme song, it was probably either this or the next song I'm posting. He would break into this song out of nowhere. I'd venture to say that all my siblings can sing all the words to this song.
Puff the Magic Dragon – I probably heard this song – sung either by Peter, Paul and Mary or by my dad – more times than any other song I've heard in my entire life. He sang it to me just about every day when I was little and then did the same for my sister and every one of my nephews that knew him. And the look on the face of the little girl at the beginning of this video is the same one we all had every single time.
Kiss an Angel Good Morning – From Dad's Country Music. I just love this song and I'm sure I would never ever have heard it if not for my dad.
Bimbo – This is from Puff, which is the CD that he would play for all the kids. I'm ending with this one just because if I have to have this song stuck in my head, I'm taking you all down with me.