Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thank You For the Opportunity

Thank you Dad and Lynne,

This was a special weekend for me. Lynne was scheduled to attend a college reunion out of town and Dad, feeling the normal diminished capabilities of aging, does better when he has a trusted companion in the house. So, this weekend I was offered the opportunity to be Dad’s companion.

I have written before about the amazing gift Dad bestowed on his children – the gift of music. I have shared memories of how six children, ages 5-12 engaged fellow tourists on a cruise down the Firth of Clyde, en route to the Isle of Arran, with their impromptu joining with the string quartet to sing all of the songs from The Sound of Music. I have shared before, my earliest memories of singing in my four brothers’ room, my sister and I perched on one of their beds, all lights extinguished, learning and learning to love making harmony with Dad and each other.

This weekend I learned again that connecting with Dad, when he is bewildered, or anxious or just plain tired but cannot seem to sleep, is possible through the gift he gave us so long ago. Yesterday, I pulled out my guitar, and started singing the tunes I remember from those early days. I did not ask Dad to join in. In all honesty, I did it as sort of a distraction, as he had become somewhat focused on the clock and the time, and wondering when Lynne would return. As I have for years, when I play and sing those songs, I do so with my eyes closed….like in the dark room of my childhood, using my ears to provide all of the sensory input.

Within the first couple of bars of the song, I heard Dad’s voice….softly singing with me. I dared to embark on harmony, and he held fast the melody. And we sang. Red River Valley, Don’t Fence Me In, Edelweiss, Danny Boy, Over in Killarney, Down in the Valley, and so on. Songs my children know because I raised them on those songs, and songs for which I was once certain I would never forget the lyrics. And yet, at almost 59 years old, I did forget some of the words…. And Dad filled them in. At almost 83, he still has those songs solidly in his memory.

Even more interesting and rewarding to me was that after singing a song, Dad and I engaged in some discussion of where we were when we sang that particular song, and the memories of the importance of the song. One such song was “Two Little Boys,” which Rolf Harris made into a top of the charts hit in 1969 when we were living in England. One was “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” and the discussion of John Denver, one of my favorites from my 15 year old self, and one that my Dad accepted as a good one, despite the generational difference.

For two hours on Saturday, and then for another hour today, we sang and talked and sang some more. Ever the researcher, Dad offered, on numerous occasions, to go down to the basement and look through the LP’s to find the name of a song or an artist that was escaping both of our memories. I laughed and suggested we could just sing something else, and the answer would, ”come to us.” Dad suggested that we could also just look it up on the phone. Usually, while trying to look it up, it just came to us, but it was such a fun mix of the old and the new, the memories and the current.

In truth, most of us would prefer to not have to see our parents aging and losing some of the vigor they enjoyed all of their lives, but I can honestly say that this gift of music is a gift that continues to give, and allows me to continue to connect to the man who gave us that gift.

Thank you Dad and Lynne for the opportunity.

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