How Terribly Strange to be Seventy
The Christmas of 1977, I was three years old. We were driving home from my brother’s Advent program when Slip Slidin’ Away came on the car radio. Without thought, the words, “Daddy! Daddy! We bought you that song!” escaped my mouth, and though I didn’t tell him we bought a “record” (I thought I wasn’t supposed to say record) I was forevermore to be known as a blabber-mouth and not as a keeper of secrets.
Simon and Garfunkel, as well as Solo Simon were always part of my childhood soundtrack. When we cleaned the house on Saturdays, Dad played Judy Collins and Simon and Garfunkel. Mom played Beach Boys and Neil Diamond. Sometimes Willy Nelson or Kenny Rogers would be featured, but there was something about Paul Simon that always tangles up in my memories of my father. My dad’s name was Al, so there’s that too.
I borrowed Dad’s Simon and Garfunkel tapes when I went through my hippie chick phase in the earliest of the early 90s. The first Christmas I lived away from home I bought my dad the Simon and Garfunkel collected works DVD set. I was eighteen, an adult. I didn’t know, couldn’t fathom, that I would have exactly four more Christmases with my dad, the last one when my mom did a jailbreak from the ICU. He died the following month. A huge part of my grief process was listening to the music that brought me closer to my dad and kept his memory alive.
Now I’m forty-four, and my dad’s been gone half my life. You forget so much after so many years, but mostly you realize how much you never had and will never have. Losing someone too soon is like gripping a shattered hour glass, your hands full of glass shards and the grit of sand, and no more time. The losses never end until the time you expected to have runs out completely. I suppose that time is nearing, because this post is not so much about how I miss my dad as it is about how strange it is to inch ever closer to outliving a parent as the unsettling shadow of my own mortality begins to rise. This is less a post about loss and more a post about seasons and the gift of letting go of the pain but still cherishing the love while living in the now.
This Thursday, my dad would have been seventy years old. Seventy seems so impossible because it is. If he was still alive, I would take him to Fiddler’s Green on May 30th for Paul Simon’s farewell concert for his birthday. Instead I’m taking my daughter to Mile High (is that what it’s called now? I’m getting so old) stadium to see Taylor Swift for an early fourteenth birthday gift. Can you believe Taylor Swift is more expensive than Paul Simon? That doesn’t seem right to me, but again, I am aging.
Someday, maybe, my daughter will play Taylor Swift when she cleans her house with her kids, if she has kids. Maybe she’ll play Simon and Garfunkel and think of her mom whose music was her grandfather’s music, or she’ll play Pink Floyd and think of her dad. Maybe there won’t be Saturday chores in the future, but that’s unlikely. Chores are like music, a big part of being a living person in this world. Music makes chores less dreary, and it also makes fragile memories indelible.
So, thank you Mr. Simon, for the indelible gift of your music and how it tethers my heart to what I now know I can never lose. And thanks to you Mr. Garfunkel for the harmonies, because we could all use a lot more harmony in this world.