And I know a father
Who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he’d done
He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again.
-Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away
After my father died when I was 12, I received a handful of his earthly possessions. There were some old photos, a puka bead necklace, and a guitar that he left in his best friend’s house one weekend when he was trying to get sober.
But other than a picture of him holding me when I was a baby, there’s really nothing to indicate that he loved me, or intended to reconnect with me in any way.
Except for this one thing. Mixed in my small box of Dad stuff is a “Music Writing Blank Book,” in which he hand-wrote the cords, clefs, and tempo of some of his favorite songs. They include “Sunshine of my Life,” Summer Breeze,” and, most relevant to me, “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
I don’t remember his voice, or a single interaction I had before he left. But that he learned the chords and lyrics to that Paul Simon masterpiece tells me everything.
It tells me he wanted time with me.
It tells me he knows he messed up.
It tells me he was hurting without me in his life.
It tells me he craved affection for and from me.
It tells me he couldn’t get past his pain.
It tells me he loved me.
He would have turned 66 today. So, I’m wearing his puka bead necklace, and I’ll play some Paul Simon on my own guitar. It’s my own personal celebration of Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead, where I remember his spirit. A spirit I never knew, but can feel through the things and people he left behind.
I love you, Dad. Happy birthday.
Photo: Courtesy of author. Used with permission.
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