Songs of Fatherhood

As you might have noticed, gentle reader, if you’ve been around a while, I don’t often speak of my father on this blog other than to mention that I remember the exact television movie in 1981 that I was watching (Twirl) when he told me my parents were separating. My parents did indeed divorce, and my custodial parent and we boys moved shortly thereafter to Missouri from Wisconsin. So my contact with my father during my teen years was intermittent phone calls and a couple weeks in the summer. I did get to live with him while I was going to college, but I disappointed him in many of his measures, including moving back to Missouri after college. He didn’t come to my college graduation which was in Milwaukee, which hurt. Later that summer, they discovered he had lung cancer, and he passed away in 1995 when he was 47, and I was 23. To make a short story long.

I associate two songs from the period with my father although they weren’t necessarily among our shared musical interests (we both liked Billy Joel and the Eagles).

The first is Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young”. Back in those days, children, MTV and VH1 played music videos, and young people watched them.

When this one came on, my father said something to the effect of that’s how he felt about us. I couldn’t understand it then, but now I’ve got children entering the end of their childhoods, and they’ll suddenly be out on their own, and I have to wonder how I’ll have served them as a father. A mixed bag, I suppose. I mean, I’m here, I pay attention, and I go to their ball games and whatnot, but sometimes I get wrapped up in my own pursuits and don’t play with them like I used to. Well, I shoot hoops with them from time to time, and I’ve been known to teach them to split wood. But I cannot know now how successful my parenting will have been. And I probably never will, with certainty, know.

But to me, the boys and then men will always be continuous with the toddlers whose faces brightened palpably when they saw their daddy.

I expect my father had similar feelings with some additional complexity in his absence from my younger years. Or maybe not.

The second song is Mike + The Mechanics “In The Living Years” which came out a year after the Rod Stewart song, and it is from the perspective of the son.

Even at that young age, I knew that some day I would not have my father, so every time I heard the song, I made a point of telling my father that he was a good guy. Actually, I did this to the point that it bothered him, as though I was being arch, although I was sincere. And a couple years later, he was actually gone.

You know, I told him what I needed to tell him from my perspective then. However, it was the perspective of a late adolescent, a college student. I wish I’d been able to share things from an adult, a man’s perspective, with him. But, you know, the date of departure is out of our hands.

Now, of course, as a father, I wonder whether my children will have a better impression of me when they’re adults and perhaps fathers of their own. I only hope I’m here to see it. Unlike my own father.