Today would have been my dad's 85th birthday. That seems like a lot to me. In June, he'll have been gone ten years. That seems like a lot too. Life is passing by too damn fast, you know.
I don't write a lot about him, because we really weren't as close as my mom and I were. He was stationed overseas a lot while I was growing up, so we saw him just a few times a year. Then when he retired from the Army, my parents divorced soon after. There are a lot of memories associated with that time that I don't like to dwell on, and most of them relate to him. It took me years to work past all that.
I'm glad I was able to do that. I know too many people who are still screwed up from their relationships with dead parents that now can't be fixed. What I have discovered over the years is some really nice memories buried under all the rotten ones. Those are the ones I want to remember.
I think of my mom whenever I hear certain Johnny Cash songs, because she liked them and sang them a lot. I think of my dad whenever I hear any Johnny Cash song, because he was the one that made me a Johnny Cash fan. (He's also the one the really jump-started my comic book collection. An awful lot of those things that make me me are due to him. I've only recently started to realize this.)
When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I spent a lot of time trying to have surgery. I know that sounds kind of weird, but I was scheduled for a procedure that I needed several times, but it kept getting postponed. The first time it got postponed because I was sick. We did go to the hospital, but they wouldn't admit me for the procedure. I can't remember why it didn't happen the second time. I think it might have been due to my bloodwork, because I do remember getting that far. I also remember feeling kind of bad that time, because Dad was in Germany by then, and he came all the way back home for the surgery. I was also very embarrassed at school, because for the second time, I had told everyone I was going to be out for about three weeks and collected homework and everything.
When the surgery finally happened, he came back again from Germany. If I'm remembering right, he got there after the procedure had been one, but was there to take me home. He had brought me some comics (of course), but also something else: an 8-track tape player! And a box of tapes! (I think I just dated myself there...)
It was a mixed bag of tapes. I really didn't have much of a developed taste in music at that point. I think the story goes that someone owed my dad money and gave him the player and tapes to pay off the debt. The ones that I remember the best (and that I probably played the most) were several by Johnny Cash, two from the Beach Boys, and a home recording of Linda Ronstadt's greatest hits. (I'm going to be doing a long post on her soon.)
I had that tape player for a long while. My first copy of the much beloved Grease soundtrack was on 8-track. I don't know whatever happened to it or the tapes, but I remember laying in bed during my three week recovery period and listening to them over and over.
The other day, I was messing around on YouTube (like always) and found this Roseanne Cash song. She recorded it with her father right before he died. That got me to thinking about Johnny Cash, then about my dad. Then I remembered that his birthday was coming up and knew that I wanted to use it in a post about him.
Another song with a Cash connection that makes me think of Dad is this one. It's one Cash recorded as part of The Highwaymen.
The song was written by Guy Clark and makes me think about my dad whenever I hear it. When he was in the hospital before he died, Keith and I had tickets to see Guy Clark in Nashville. My brother agreed to stay with Dad so we could go. He always plays this song as it is one of his better known. When they got to the part about "the son of a bitch is coming" (that's the original line) I burst into tears. I've had a hard time listening to it ever since. My dad died six weeks later.
Happy Birthday, Dad. We miss you a lot.