It’s Father’s Day. My Facebook friends have been posting Happy Father’s Day comments and photos for the past few days. Yep….lots of photos of dads with chubby little ones in their laps and other lovely…happy… childhood pics.
I cannot do the same, unfortunately. I don’t have any happy childhood photos to share of my father (and honestly, few with my mother). I also have to rack my brain to find happy childhood memories with my dad. Often through the years I’ve been very sad about this. Well…OK….downright depressed with a little bit of envy in the mix for those daughters that have terrific relationships with their dad. My father wasn’t the best father on the planet…in fact light years far from it. He had a great many demons to deal with and he wasn’t able to deal with them very well, if at all. Naturally this made him extremely difficult to live with (I’m being ever so diplomatic here folks). He took his dissatisfaction with himself and the world out on my twin brother and I…and sometimes on mom too. Certainly I won’t go into any great detail about what his behavior entailed; it’s extraordinarily painful and really, unnecessary in any case because it’s in the past. Suffice it to say that life with dad left scars on everyone.
So it comes as no surprise that I was estranged from my dad for the better part of my teens and all of my adulthood….until his passing some years ago. Perhaps its the heat of the Carefree desert that has affected my brain….or perhaps it is as simple as mellowing with age…like a fine wine….but here in this moment I’d like to share at least ONE good memory of my father. If there were more than one….well…I’d share those too, but lots of “stuff” is buried deep (no doubt the bad along with any good) and most likely all that stuff wouldn’t surface anyway unless hypnotism or years of psychoanalysis were involved. It’s probably better that way!
I grew up with classical music in the house. Mom played beautiful classical music on the piano almost daily (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin….etc., etc.). And on the radio? There may as well have been only ONE station; only classical music was allowed in the house. It was simply the law of the land and honestly, I didn’t know any different. Until, that is, the day that dad gave me a Bell and Howell cassette player and with it a cassette tape. I want to say the year was 1972.
What cassette tape did dad give me you ask?
Ah….wait for it…..
Here’s where you folks are gonna laugh….and I’m OK with that!
Dad gave me a cassette of the music of Englebert Humperdinck.
OK. You can stop laughing now.
I loved my little Bell and Howell cassette recorder. After listening for hours to Humperdinck’s 1968 hits “Spanish Eyes” and “Shadow of your Smile” I was hooked….on music other than Beethoven and Mozart. Truth be told, looking back, I think dad gave me the music to spite mom which is quite possibly why I felt disloyal to my mother for some years until I learned that she had a penchant for Johnny Cash, of all people! Then I felt betrayed; All those years feeling guilty for listening to something other than classical music (which often entailed the volume being turned down very low so as not to annoy mom) and she tells me she likes this somber country music guy perennially dressed in black? Geesh!
Dad also let me listen to his Glen Campbell and John Denver tapes. I must have played John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” a million times. I swooned whenever I heard his voice on the radio. After John there was Simon and Garfunkel, The Beetles, Joni Mitchell, Helen Reddy, The Bee Gees, and Steely Dan. And on, and on……
So on this Father’s Day, I’m remembering my dad. Yes….A dad with so many strikes against him in the parenting department that it’s a wonder I didn’t turn out to be a monster myself. But as it so often happens, there was a silver lining in the dysfunction that colored my childhood black….Dad gave me the gift of loving popular music. I wish I would have kept that old Bell and Howell player if nothing else as a tangible reminder of something special that my dad gave to me.