Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pop!

Today (December 6th) was my father's birthday. He left this world a little over a year ago and I still miss him greatly...especially on days like today.
In honor of my dad, and because I happen to have had a few unused iTunes gift cards, I decided to download some of his favorite music.
When I was much younger, he and I never saw eye to eye on music...what was good; what was bad; what was cool, etc.  Today, I downloaded some Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and a couple of records done by Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed...some of his most favorite recordings.
I'm not sure if it is that I'm older, or if I'm feeling particularly nostalgic, or if I just miss him so immensely, but now that I've downloaded some of his favorite music to listen to...what I thought was awful to listen to as a child now seems really hip in so many ways. I guess I was unable to appreciate it all when I was a child. However, in spite of whether I still hate it or not (I don't by the way), as I'm writing this blog and listening to the songs that he insisted on playing over the 8-track in the car during any and every family outing, I'm taken back to a different time in my life when my old man wasn't old, possessed super-human powers, was the last great American cowboy, the Marlboro Man (though he smoked Kool Filter Kings), and was my hero...not that there was ever a time when he wasn't my hero. Funny how the sounds of an old recording can bring so many of my childhood memories back to life instantly. I had never realized until now that the music we listen to as children can make an indelible mark in our hearts and minds. The music of our parents somehow gets woven into the fabric of our memories and becomes part of the soundtrack of our lives.

As these songs are playing through the small speakers in my headphones, the sounds of my childhood are somehow revived and I can remember almost each every family vacation we went on. Countless trips to South Carolina to visit my grandparents. A few trips to the beach. A long trip to Texas and back. A trip to Silver Dollar City. I can remember how he used to light cigarettes with the car lighter. I can remember how he never wore sneakers, and always wore cowboy boots and a Stetson hat. He always carried his guitar with us on those trips...and his pistol. I can remember his favorite beer, his favorite hot sauce, and I can remember my dad's love for McDonald's egg McMuffins, which we would always stop for as the sun came up during those long drives, and how he was always so particular about how he sprinkled black pepper from paper packets onto them. I can also remember how he always washed down those McMuffins with orange juice in the plastic containers covered in foil.
He was a funny, peculiar man. Part James Dean, part Johnny Cash, part cowboy, part chess nerd. Bright, witty, and wise beyond his years...even when he was being an unbelievable dumb-ass. He was almost always personable and lovable. However, he was not without faults. He was far from perfect...especially when he was in a bad mood, really drunk, or both. However, he was as good of an example of being a man, a father, and a husband as he knew how to be. I am blessed to have had him as my father, and blessed to be able to have the memories of him that I keep so closely held in my heart. my dad would be proud of me. If for nothing else, at least for the fact that I finally developed a love and appreciation for those tunes that as a child I thought were "yucky" and "not fun". my dad became my hero all over again for having unbelievably hip taste in music. The kind of music people just don't make any more. The kind of music that only my dad would love so intensely.

Happy Birthday, Pop. I miss you. I love you.

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