Today is my dad’s 92nd birthday. He has been gone from this world for twenty years, but as one might suspect, his influence continues. I’ve posted about him here (2010) and here (2014).
To the best of my knowledge, the picture at left was snapped while he was stationed in France with the Army during World War II. It’s an unusual picture to me, because I don’t remember having seen my dad play a guitar, ever. I do recall he once owned a mandolin (and memory suggests it may have been his mother’s) but I think if I witnessed him playing that instrument, it may have been a single occasion.
Dad loved music, but he mostly used his voice as his instrument. Later in life, he purchased an organ (mentioned in the second post linked above).
After coming home from work in the evenings and eating dinner with the family, my dad would retire to a comfortable chair in the living room where he’d read the evening newspaper for a bit, and eventually sit down at the organ to play … sometimes for an hour or more. He was a man who worked hard everyday (whether at his job or around the house) and he treasured this contemplative opportunity.
Oftentimes as a youngster, I’d fall asleep to the sounds of his organ music. (He learned to play well, though not fancifully.) In my experience, his nightly practice became a rhythm of life (a concept I referred to yesterday) that helped to sweep away (in a sense) the day’s chaos and to usher me into a peaceful night’s sleep.
This ongoing inculcation of music appreciation wasn’t the single influence that encouraged my love of music, but it was a powerful one. When I was in my teens, I recall following my dad’s example: as the evening progressed into night, I’d retreat to the organ and enjoy my own contemplative recess.
Growing up in the transitional 50s and free-wheeling 60s, I think I probably gave my dad his share of gray hairs because he was a perpetual worrier. Today, I realize it wasn’t so much that he thought I’d crash and burn, but it was because in his teen years, he’d come close to doing so himself. (He and his brothers were something of a wild bunch apparently.) Three of the four brothers went to war … and came back men. The eldest stayed home, caring for their mom, and that responsibility matured him as well.
Dr. Howard G. Hendricks (one of my Beloved’s long-ago professors) frequently told his students: One of the best things you can do for your children is to love their mother.
My daddy modeled that guideline throughout his life. I know he and my mother must have had numerous disagreements, but I only remember one instance where their conflict was so severe my dad walked out the door and took a drive. When he returned an hour or two later, they spoke privately and the quarrel was over. This was a terrific example for me to see how much my daddy loved and honored my mother.
My dad wrote the poem below in 1983. As a love poem to his bride of 37 years, he was striving for a simple poem to express his strong love; in other words, his ambition was focused on love, not timeless original literature. If the poem seems trite, that’s irrelevant because the poem was meaningful to the one person who mattered … my mother.