Tuesday, April 01, 2008

happy birthday, DAD!

Seventy years ago a very wise man was born on April Fool's Day. I'm proud to call him Dad. His six children were anxious to make this birthday very special, and fortunately my brilliant sisters Jane and Katy got the idea to put together a photo-memory book. Each of us wrote about our favorite memories of our father, and Jane collected photos of us and our families. Thanks to technology, Jane was able to email an image of the book to all of us, and Katy ordered a copy to be sent to her so she could present it to Dad tonight. Here you can see that it went over pretty big with the birthday boy. (If you click on the second pic above you'll get a good look at the cover photo, taken by my uncle Richard Lemmon, and catch a glimpse of a certain skinny college sophomore.) Below is my contribution to the collection:
Dad: It’s a Musical Life

What I remember most about Dad is his love of music. He loves to sing, and has even been known to play piano on occasion, but most of all he loves to listen to recordings—classical, jazz, pop, even classic rock. When I was a little kid and we lived on Woodside Avenue, he had a collection of records, some of which were from his college days, and would play his favorites over and over on the black record player with the automatic changer. The album covers would be arranged on the floor near the stereo, and their images remain with me—the abstract painting on Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, which looked like eyes or the design on peacock feathers (I remember trying, and failing, to make sense of it); Scheherezade, with a suggestive female figure behind a gauzy scrim; The 1812 Overture with a maroon-tinged photograph of a cannon.

Dad played music at night while reading on the couch, and the strains reached me in my bed, upstairs on Woodside, or in the northeast corner of 1800 Fairfield Pike. I don’t think Dad turned down the music when we went to bed, so it swelled and faded as the dynamics of the piece required. One time when Mother was out for the evening with girlfriends and Dad was watching my little brother Davy and me, I woke up shortly after being put to bed and wandered downstairs, disoriented and crying. I must have been four or five. Dad comforted me by putting on my new Cinderella record, and looking with me at the storybook attached to the album cover.

Like his father before him, Dad always kept up with the latest audiophile technology. In the Seventies, he tried eight-track tapes and his favorites, as I recall, were the Carpenters, The Best of Bread, and several volumes by Percy Faith and Sergio Mendes. When compact discs became available, he switched to the new format as soon as possible. Now that technology enables music lovers to find and acquire a staggering range of recordings from mainstream to obscure, Dad has been able to create his own “best of” collections from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and beyond. Music is something Dad loves to share with us, as he always has, and I believe that his love of it has been passed down to each of us children in our own way. It is indeed a great and powerful gift that will last our lifetimes.

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