Okay, I wrote the below tripe on July 6 – Dad’s anniversary. I was watching “Across The Universe” and blabbering and bawling like a fucking baby. So – it’s a bit incoherent. And I’m tempted to edit it, but I’m not going to. I’m linking the songs that struck me, that tipped my brain into the weird space that I was in. Maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t.
Also, today my dear, dear friend’s mother died. She was also my friend, not just her mother. I will miss her sharp wit and humor.
Growing up, I never “got” The Beatles. Dad, his friends, his contemporaries, even MY contemporaries, loved them. I just didn’t understand, didn’t get it. I mean, c’mon … “Hey Jude … ?” It never had any relevance for me. Not then.
The last decade or so, I’ve started to understand it more.
I think I was about 9, maybe 10, and Dad was blasting “Strawberry Fields Forever”. It’s minor and dissonant, and that struck a chord in me that just didn’t harmonize. Not yet, anyway. For some reason, probably due to the internal jangling I just didn’t know how to parse, the song made me feel at odds with myself. It made my brain react on some visceral level in a way that I just could not … GET. I remember looking up at him from my homework and saying, “Really? This is what you like?” Dad just kind of chuckled and said, “Yep. It’s the Bee’ouls.” (When you read this, mentally read “Bee’ouls with a glottal stop, a bad American accent trying its damndest to try a Cockney accent on for size.) Then he went back to making dinner, not quite silently humming to himself a medley of Beatles tunes.
Click this, but don’t watch. Just listen. Listen with your pre-teen mind. The one that is still innocent, and can’t quite get the underlying meaning. Just open yourself up to the music and tonality. Take yourself back to the black and white of childhood. Take yourself back to the time when there were no shades of grey …
There’s something universal about The Beatles. About love. About loss. About pain. About joy. About frustration. About anger towards the “other”. And, because it DOES need to be said twice … about love.
None of us are one thing or another. We’re a weird mix of disparate ideologies. Now … now, we understand the difference between supporting our troops and taking a stance against war. We can love our friends and families because of, or in spite of, their stances. No longer do we spit on the troops. Now … now we welcome them with open arms, even if at the same time we (internally) rail against a war we do not agree with.
I never got how Dad could have such a deep love for “hippy” music, for “Hair”. Especially since it was so anti-war, anti-Vietnam. But now? I get it.
It was the late 1990’s. Swing was in full revival. Life was good. I was happily typing away at my computer at work, and Tanya calls. “Hey Tanj” I say. Her first words, “The US is sending troops over to Iraq, again.” I never really understood what people meant when they said, “I was hit in the solar plexus”, but now? Now I got it. You see, I was dating someone who was active in the Navy. And Tanya, bless her heart, knew that. She also knew my past, and knew that I would automatically think of Dad. (Forewarned is forearmed, and all of that.) I really don’t think I can describe the feeling of my heart leaping into my throat at that moment. That moment where I thought, “Holy shit! This man that I adore COULD be sent to a foreign country and die .,.” There really is nothing more awakening than realizing this: we are all infallible, and mortal, and that some man in a suit and tie holds our own life, our own breath, in their hands.
He signed up. He wasn’t drafted. He did what he felt was right, what was his patriotic duty. The generation before him, and before that, fought in WWI and WWII. Some even Korea. That’s the mentality that held many men of my (and your) father’s generation – the mentality of “duty” … just something that had to be done. Many then, and now, may ask, “Why? Why sign yourself up for death and emotional destruction?” Well … it just what you had to do. He could have dodged, but he didn’t. And by NOT going against his own grain, it changed him. For better or worse.
(Dad and Malcolm are at 0:32, Dad at 0:34) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Idr8Z_VTSA
This … this is the song that allowed me to love The Beatles. Unabashedly.
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps
From the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdaa6M8DN7g
From The Bee-ouls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHChc2I7FKk
With Abel, I KNOW there are were many, many things wrong with “us” … but, I do know … I KNOW … that I can totally and completely break down in front of him. And know that he won’t judge me for it. I guess … hmm, I guess that is what I’m looking for, what I am striving for. I DO want to lay my soul bare, and know that I won’t scare someone away. Yet … yet …. when I do open myself like that, I want to know that that they will still be there, fully and completely, when I butterfly myself open. When I lay myself raw. (I don’t want them to shy away from salmonella now do I? Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck.)
Three years ago today is the day I found my bulwark, my FATHER, bloated. And … stinky. Smelling of death. And endings. And that? That is something I NEVER wanted. I always had these … “hopes” … that one of his friends would “find” him. And that they would call me. That they would call me with the news. I never, NEVER, wanted to be the one to find him. Find him so laid bare. Even though, deep down, I knew. I KNEW … I would be the one to find him. I never wanted to. Ever. Even though I knew that was the way it HAD to be played out. Finding him … gone … that killed a part of me I’ll never get back. It killed some of my innocence. Even though I knew my innocence was long gone before this that day.
I’ve been going through some major transitions, life transitions. And even though it’s a transition I NEVER thought I’d go through … it is what it is. And I always thought that Dad would be here through all of my changes. I feel like a failure – I wasn’t able to make my marriage work, I wasn’t able to bring into this world a child, a grandchild. I feel like a failure, of epic proportions. (I know I’m not.)
My friends, my true friends, who know me, know how hard it is for me to lay myself so bare. So … “butterflied” … it’s a painful experience for me. Yet … yet … I know this is something I need to do, something that has to happen. It has to happen for me. It has to happen so that I can move forward. And even though it makes me seem weak (at least, in my own mind) it’s something that I have to do.
Mom was an unabashed hippy. She wanted to hitchhike to Woodstock. How she wound up with a dyed-in-the-wool Republican is beyond me. However … they made it work. And it gives me hope.
A quote from “Across The Universe”: Music is the only thing that makes sense anymore. And now? NOW … I get it.
(EDIT - A month later, I finally realize something. I really wish he was around, now, even if just to see this movie. Some of the views he would not agree with, but overall, he too, would "get" it. So, thanks Dad. Thank you for not just teaching me, but showing me how to see both sides of the coin. In your depression, you really, truly, and honestly, taught me how to keep hold of my sanity. I love you.)