Saturday, April 9, 2011

If I Were a Bluebird...

 Funny how music can evoke the essence of someone. Today, while doing some cleaning, I was going through a pile of CD's, and came across a CD compilation I put together for my father many years ago. It was the fall of 2003, in fact, and he was losing the battle against cirrhosis of the liver. His had given out and there wasn't a thing they could do.

He and I had been estranged for several years , and it was strange to think that this was really happening, and without time for us to truly reconcile. He lived 10 hours away, and the disease was progressing way too fast. My older sister, Cheryl, was staying with him at the time, so I put together a care package for them, and included the CD.

The one connection we always shared was music. Even at the worst of times between us, we might still be able to connect by sharing an album or a song. When I put this CD together I considered deeply what songs he would enjoy in one way or another. Some were nostalgic, and some just spoke to his likes and the situation at hand. An homage to memories of moments past, a tribute to the one major bridge between us.

So, when I found the CD today, I had to play it. It brought to mind the way I felt at the time I made it, the tears that were shed as I assembled the tracks, imagining my dad listening to it, and what he would think of each song. It was, in a way, a long distance I love you.

Many of the tunes conjure images of days at the cabin on White Ash Lake. We spent many weekends there growing up, and I can remember fishing from the rowboat with my dad. Or fishing off the dock, reeling in sunfish and perch. The sun on the water, the breeze through the trees, the laughter of children, the grown-ups playing horse shoes and telling stories. Sometimes there would even be music - my aunts playing ukelele and accordion, everyone singing along to songs like "You are my sunshine". Bright days...

I recall sleeping on the cabin porch, my parents in the bed across the way. The air so fresh. The night sky laden with stars. And, then, the sound of the birds early in the morning, the chill at the first light of day. I listened to the adults talk over coffee and eggs in the morning, my mom and my grandmother catching up on grown-up things.

A few of the selections on the disc stand out to me...
"Bluebird", by Emmylou Harris, brings to mind the many miles my father traveled for work. He drove a great deal of the time, listening to music on his radio, then 8-track, then cassette player, over miles and miles. He acquired a vast collection over the years, and I would often "borrow" an album or two. I would, in turn, make him a tape from time to time, something new for him to listen to.

One of those tapes was of Jennifer Warnes singing the songs of Leonard Cohen - "Famous Blue Raincoat". He loved it. To this day it's still one of my favorite albums, and every time I listen to it I am reminded of my father.

Tom Waits' "Picture in a frame" - Tom's gruff voice, beautiful words and melody, illustrates how I imagine my father's love for my mother to be. When it was young and innocent. Raw and new. Such a beautiful song. I hope he liked it. Saw himself in it the way I saw him.

"Song of Bernadette" by Jennifer Warnes - this one always brings me to the brink of tears. Such emotion, beautifully sung, the strings, Jennifer's golden voice. I know my father loved this song, and I always will. "Every now and then, we try/to mend the damage that we've done/Tonight/Tonight/I just can't rest/I've got this joy here inside my breast/to think that I did not forget/that child/that song of Bernadette".

Amazing bridge, music. Like magic. The sounds and flavors and interpretations infinite - unlike our time here on this planet. My father used to say that Hell was a place where there was no music. I'm inclined to agree.


Laura & Co. said...

I saw your post title and just had to stop by... love 'Bluebird' but I know it as a Butch Hancock/Jimmy Dale Gilmore song.
wonderful, great post

kmbrco said...

Thank you, Laura. I'll have to check out the Hancock/Dale version. I love Emmylou's version so much. There's a screenplay in my head that will use it someday...