(The song lyrics go to the respective artist, Dan Fogelberg. All rights belong to him and I claim none of them as my own.)
Growing up, my father always coddled me and held me in his arms, even when I started to get too big to be held. He and my mother were so close, I could always find them hugging or some how touching each other when they thought I wasn’t looking.
They met when my father was a lead singer in a far off rock band in the 80’s, he saw the Hellhound as a groupee, and she saw him as her next quickie. Both became inseparable afterwards. When they found out that I was on the way, my father was so ecstatic, he almost fell off stage while doing a rehearsal. That was his last concert; his reason was to go get a job and be more responsible for when I was born, to be a better husband and father.
He took a desk job at a music label business, making enough to support all of us after I was born. He would come home at nights and play the songs he sang to me and rock me to bed. Soon, as I grew older, he taught me how to play, how to get the feel of the music in your body as you played. It was hard at first, hellhound claws weren’t made for playing guitars, but over time, I learned.
By the time I was 14, a cafe down the street had heard me play and offered to let me play on Thursday nights for tips and exposure. I was so excited I almost jumped out of my skin. My dad was happy for me, and so was mom, but she still worried about me.
I heard my mother talking to dad and she confessed that she wouldn’t want me to live the life he did. Father agreed, but was adamant on letting me choose my path. And so I went there to play.
Soon, I was 17 years old and my fame at the cafe was outrageous. I would play fan favorites and new ones I made for the crowd, mom and dad coming to see every few nights too. I could see a spark of light in my dad’s eyes every time I would strum a string, and he told me that my songs would take him back to the days when he played. I was so happy.
But it didn’t last long.
One day, dad passed out and fell in the kitchen. After we had gotten him to the hospital and stabilized, the x-rays showed that he had advanced stage lung cancer. The doctors gave him three months left to live. We had explored any possible option, but sometimes, even magic can’t solve everything.
I stopped going to the cafe, every moment I could spare, I went and saw my dad. Bed bound was not something he could handle alone, much less enjoy. He just had to be moving around somewhere. We sat and he would retell those stories on the road and how he had met mom. So many times had we tried to sing together, but he would just end up coughing and sputtering, telling me to keep going.
One night, he held my hand and told me in a hushed breath how that he loved me and didn’t want me to live my life in music. As he said, Music is the rhythm of Life, but if you get lost in it, your Life will pass you by. He said that he was saved when he found my mom, and that even if he could, he would never change meeting her.
And before I left that night, he hugged me and told me to find my own way, and that he loved me so much.
That was the last words he ever spoke to me.
He passed away in his sleep that very night.
His funeral was as brief as he would have liked, his fellow friends and band members were there to pay their respects. Afterwards, my mother would cry and cry all night, and sometimes I would too.
So, I found myself back at the cafe, carrying his picture and my guitar. I asked the manager for one last song for me to play, and he was more than willing to let me sing. I took a barstool up on stage and sat down his picture, facing the crowd.
I stroked a few strings and found my song, and this is what I sang:
“An only child alone and wild,
A cabinet maker’s son,
His hands were meant for different work,
And his heart was known to none,
He left his home and went his lone,
And solitary way,
And he gave to me,
A gift I know I never can repay,”
I choked up for a second, the crowd of the cafe was now fully attentive to my song. I quenched my tears and continued.
“I thank you for the music and your stories of the road,
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go,
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough,
And papa, I don’t think I said I love you near enough,”
I saw mom step in and from the counter, watched me play. She watched me play for my father.
“The leader of the band is tired,
And his eyes are growing old,
But his blood runs through my instrument,
And his song is in my soul,
My life has been a poor attempt,
To imitate the man,
I’m just a living legacy,
To the leader of the band,”
The crowd erupted in a chorus of applause, clapping and taking their turns to hug and give me their condolences and their thanks. By the time I got to mom, I could see the tears welling in her eyes and we hugged.
I am my father’s daughter, but I will never be as good as he was. This, was my tribute to him, as best as I could. And although, I may not follow in his foot steps, he will always be proud of me.