One of my most treasured inheritances is my Dad’s songbook. A zippered binder, full of typewritten pages of lyrics to the songs my dad learned to play on his guitar by ear, by pickin’ and grinning when sitting in with other musicians or simply learned to whistle or sing while he went about his work.
This binder was lovingly compiled by my mother in the early years of their marriage and just as lovingly gifted to me after my Dad passed away.
I’m reminded today of how many times during my youth he would arrive at home, after a long day of work, only to sit in his pick-up, with the door open to allow our family dog the pleasure of a scratch about the ears while he listened to a particular song on the radio…
Of him getting out his guitar to play while we cleaned the kitchen after supper.
Of soft and warm summer nights, when the sun had set and still he played and sang, while we toasted marshmallows over the dying embers of our campfire.
There was no cold too bad, no fever to high, no heartache so painful that his music could not reach through and soothe.
He taught me to love the stories told by the lyrics. He tried mightily to teach me how to harmonize, though we both knew, at some point, that was not my talent.
He gave me the gift of a hundred different songs to sing while I drove endless miles or consoled babies in the middle of the night.
He introduced me to a world where you need not be gifted or special to perform music nor did you require a few belts to brave the karaoke stage.
You needed only a willing heart and the moxie to grin and carry on when a note struck sour.
He delighted in learning how to twang a string, do a run of notes, and sometimes, he would make the most funny face, with tongue out, as he attempted to whip out a series of notes on the run or fast changing chords.
He sang of heroes and outlaws. Women who grieved in silence and tales not fit for any audience other than those in a bawdy house, which were delivered with a boyish grin and impish glint of the eye, waiting for my mother to chastise him as soon as she quit laughing.
He would tell you why each song was special to him, why it was important to remember or his memories of the day he first heard it.
My oldest son inherited his talent which was missing in me. Morgan failed to do any basic exercises designed to teach him to play the guitar, but played, magnificently, were those songs he loved and those tunes written by his own creative heart.
They are both lost to me – they and their beautiful music.
But if I close my eyes and still my soul – their craft reaches out from the edges of time and once more, I hear the notes that bind me to them.