When Dead Dads Drop By
Today is an especially sentimental day. I’m a super sensitive softie, just like my Dad, so tender moments proliferate all my days but today, LET ME TELL YOU.
A week ago I was missing my deceased father. I’ve had a truly wonderful existence in the two years since his passing and my grief has flowered into an appreciation for life and other people I didn’t even know I needed so desperately. Last Friday I wanted to really think about him, to loiter in the heartache even (a luxury I now treasure), so I dove into the tangles of the world wide web to see if I could find him somewhere.
Long before my brother and I were born, my dad was touring the UK with musicians like Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink. I decided to search for old concert footage so I could get a glimpse of my sweet father at a time when he was youthful, vivacious and healthy, the way most of us hope to be remembered, I assume. I eventually landed on a photo of a rare stereo LP cover of “It’s Not Unusual”, one I had never seen before. Most copies of this record are covered with a photo of Tom Jones alone, leaning against a tree. Not this one. This one had a photo of Tom with his guitarist and saxophonist in musical action. My beloved Snuggy Dougie was right there playing the sax and I squealed with excitement. I found one copy of the record for sale on a rare records site and I couldn’t enter my credit card number fast enough. That record arrived today, in beautiful condition, and is playing (for the fifth time) as I type this.
The moment the familiar first chords of “It’s Not Unusual” escaped my speakers I burst into tears unexpectedly. It was like being in the same room with him again. My father was in a recording studio in London in 1965 playing the notes I was now hearing in my apartment in Manhattan in 2016. I still can’t grasp the space-time continuum but I’m going to suggest that music alters it, transcends it. It was here in my tears that I noticed that profound sadness has a journey and it’s a general emotion I’m not afraid of anymore.
When grief morphs into the discovery that you no longer fear certain emotions you realize you’re free to do a lot more exploring and risk-taking. If I do not dread sadness how can I worry about potential embarrassment from trying to do the creative work I want to put out into the world? If I’m no longer running away from gloominess then loneliness here and there won’t be a problem. I won’t be there forever. Why not just be confident in my actions and take the steps forward I’ve wanted all along? Hey, thanks Dad!
I realize I am ascribing a tremendous amount of meaning onto this album but I’m a human and I make meaning just like the rest and best of you. This album, the music, the photo on the cover, is a gift that I receive with a titanic amount of love in my heart. I will play it frequently as another means of connecting with this cherished paternal soul who has graduated from the complicated realms of this planet. I will also use it to remind myself that I was half created by a man who let his passion and discipline guide his voyage through several countries and time zones to end up in his daughter’s apartment two years after his death.
God I hope my neighbors like Tom Jones.