The other day I got excited to call and talk to my Dad about the Red Sox. I then realized he wouldn’t be able to talk, even if I called--because he’s gone. He’s been gone for four years now. Every now and then I forget.
My Dad was a police officer for 32 years. His bulging forearms were the size of my thighs. His biceps were not very defined--they were just blocks of muscle. My sister and I would often try to pull him down as he would kneel on the floor but all our efforts were useless. He couldn’t be moved. He would just laugh until his face turned red. He had short, strong hands that could crack walnuts on Thanksgiving while watching football like no one else. Like most men, he didn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. I only recall seeing him cry a few times—at his mother’s funeral, at his son’s funeral, and in church on occasion when we would sing “I Need Thee Every Hour”.
I paint this picture of my dad, with only a few strokes, because I want you to understand one characteristic of my dad. He was tough--his whole life. But the last time I saw him he looked weak. Leukemia had taken over. Hands once strong were now thin and fragile. Arms once powerful now consisted of sagging skin. This once intimidating officer of the law now could barely get out of his chair.
The last image I have of my father will forever be etched in the archives of my mind. He was sitting in his nice comfortable chair—eyes closed, arms resting on the arms of the chair, head back—and he was singing as his head rocked slowly from side to side. Not only did he sing, he felt something-- understood what the music meant--perhaps for the first time. He was humming along with Erroll Gardner, his favorite Jazz pianist. As I watched my father in confused awe, I saw tears stroll down his face. I think I realized then he was coming to terms with his imminent death. He looked pathetically scared.
I had never seen my Dad listen to music. I didn’t know he had interest in music. His life didn’t allow him the luxury of listening to music. He worked so hard, he never had the chance to sing along.
When life was fading away, he wanted to experience it. When his body was succumbing to illness, he wanted to feel. When his voice was about to become silent, he wanted to sing. There was something about that moment that was so innocent, so heartfelt. Seeing your hero become weak is a very humbling thing.
While the day is here and you have your voice—listen to your song and sing along.