A Memory I Cherish

As you know, I’m a guitarist. Well, I’m also a singer, and a pretty good one too. My voice is a bit like this guy’s voice, but lower:

Occasionally, very occasionally, I’ll play out. I don’t do it often, because I’m famous locally, and kind of famous nationally. If I play out near home, then it can be disruptive for the establishment. My favorite thing, really, is to show up by surprise at the occasional open mic, generally far from home.

The song in the video above — “The Old Man” — is sung by a son about his recently departed father. The funeral’s over, the burial’s done, and the son is missing Dad.

It’s a song that tells of lots of things that my dad and I did together, and of which I didn’t appreciate the deep, very deep meaning until after he was gone.

One time I did an open mic, and my son and daughter, both of whom are wonderful singers too, were with me. They however, don’t like to perform, and almost never do. They were sitting at a table right next to the stage.

The place is not far from home, but not all that close either. It’s one of the two or three places near home where I can just show up at an open mic without my presence being disruptive.

I went up on the stage, just my guitar and me, and began the very same song as the one linked above. I’ve become quite good with this song, except for one thing: I’m frequently overcome with emotion right in the middle.

The tears have all been shed now
We’ve said our last goodbye
His soul’s been blest
And he’s laid to rest
And it’s now I feel alone

He was more than just a father
A teacher my best friend
He can still be heard
In the tunes we shared
When we played them on our own.

I never will forget him
For he made me what I am
Though he may be gone
Memory lingers on
And I miss him, the old man

I made it through that part okay. I generally do. But when I sing “And I miss him…” I start to feel the tightening in my throat.

As a boy he’d take me walkin’
By mountain, field and stream
And he’d show me things
Not known to kings
And secrets between him and me

Like the colors of the pheasant
As he rises in the dawn
And how to fish,
And make a wish
Beside the holly tree

I never will forget him
For he made me what I am

Here’s where I lost it in this particular open mic, in this particular song. Maybe it was my kids’ being there.

As I improvised a bridge while trying desperately to compose myself, they joined me on stage.

My beautiful daughter stood on one side of me, while my very tall, handsome son stood on the other. They both leaned toward the mic, and continued the song that I was no longer able to sing.

She’s 24 and a beautiful, intelligent, mature, funny, sweet, most-wonderful-daughter-in-the-world, young woman, and he’s all the very same things in a 17-year old son, and they knew I was singing to my dad.

Were they thinking of the same song coming one day from their own lips? I don’t know, probably.

Though he may be gone
Memory lingers on
And I miss him, the old man

(Both together, as I played)
I thought he’d live forever
‘Cause he seemed so big and strong
(now, just my son singing… a deep, rich bass — at 17!)
But the minutes fly
And the years roll by
For a father and his son

At this point, I was just playing. I couldn’t have sung if my life depended on it! Tears were flowing down my face as my children sang the rest of “The Old Man” to me, and to the crowd of about a hundred.

(both together again)
And suddenly when it happened

There was so much left unsaid

The lyrics here are ironic: my daughter, son and I talk. And talk. We always have. A lot! Yet, we all understand that those two lines above will always, always, always ever be true. So much to say! So many lessons to be imparted, so many opportunities to tell them how important they are to you, and how so much in your life is made magnificent by their presence in it, and more.

No second chance
To tell him thanks
For everything he’d done

I was still just playing. No possibility of singing. It wouldn’t have been right anyway. My kids were singing to their old man.

I never will forget him
For he made me what I am
Though he may be gone
Memory lingers on
And I miss him, my old man

At the end of the lovely song, my children both hugged me as tears streamed down my face.

The crowd sat for a second or three in a kind of stunned silence. They’d all seen me do that song other times.

Then they burst into loud applause, and several others of my friends and acquaintances ran to the stage and there was a kind of spontaneous group hug. The women were all crying, and there were men, big men, with glistening eyes too.

Later some of my friends told me it was one of the most moving moments of their lives.

The only reason I know so many of the details of this fun memory is that the tavern management films every open mic. In order to perform there, you have to sign something that allows them to do it. I think they want to be able to say that you performed there before you made it big. It’s kind of funny, I performed there only after I’d made it big.  Or biggish anyway. 🙂

A few weeks after all this fun, the tavern owner sent me an e-mail with a link. The link was to a private web site with the video of “The Old Man.”  In his e-mail the man asked me for permission to use the video in his online promotional materials. Of course I said yes.

— xPraetorius

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