Memories are funny things.
You can be driving home, mindlessly listening to the radio, when … BAM! something out of the blue hits you and reality takes a back seat to whatever time and place you are recalling.
Sights, sounds, smells and even tastes can bring these recollections out when you least expect it.
It was sound, specifically music, that recently brought memories of my dad racing throughout my mind. I usually have him somewhere dancing around in the back of my mind, but occasionally those background thoughts become the focus of the moment.
The littlest munchkin, Owen, and I were driving back from a weekend spent sewing at my mom’s house. Talk about memories — the hum of that sewing machine instantly put me back to a Sunday afternoon in my elementary school days as my mom sat in the dining room sewing while my dad watched football. The melodic hum of the machine would often be interrupted by dad’s cheers or colorful language, depending on how the Bears were doing. But that’s another story altogether.
Music was huge in our house. We made a lot of road trips to see out-of-state family, and those trips always included music — mix tapes and CDs, usually. We’d loudly sing along with John Prine, the Beatles or the Indigo Girls. Many of the songs would end up getting slightly modified to suit whatever trip we were taking or whatever else might be happening in our lives at the moment.
The Temptations’ “My Girl” was a favorite of both my dad and his girls — my twin sister and me. He’d sing the chorus, “… Talking ‘bout my girls …” and Sarah and I over him would sing, “… Talking ‘bout my dad, my dad, my dad.”
So back to this recent drive back to Evansville — of course “My Girl” comes over the radio; I sing my version of it through tears. Happy ones, but tears nonetheless. As soon as I get myself mostly put back together, here comes Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ukulele cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the waterworks start back up again. This was the song that played as my dad walked me down the aisle for my wedding.
That’s a good memory. My dad being classically my dad: After the bridesmaids had gone and it was time for us to make our way, he goes down the aisle without me, starting toward his seat to the laughter of the audience — our closest family and friends who had made the trek to Louisiana from Illinois and Indiana. They amusedly directed him back up the aisle to retrieve me.
Good thing that was a long song.
I treasure those silly memories. Those times in the car when dad would say, “Where’s your microphone?,” and we’d all grab the nearest thing that we could sing into. Or that intimate moment when we finally got ready to go down the aisle and he squeezed me close to him and said, “I’m so proud of you. I love you so much!”
The anniversary of his death, although that phrase is really a cruel one, is Wednesday. It doesn’t take that day for me to think about him because he is really all around me. I hear him in a song. I see him in the eyes of my two boys. I know that without his guiding influence I wouldn’t have the fulfilling professional or personal life I do today because he taught me how to dream big and how to live bigger.
Ultimately, I am my father’s legacy. In some small way, I know that part of him will continue to live on in his grandsons and their grandchildren. I can’t think of any better way to remember him than to keep singing through those happy tears and know that he is proud of me.