After a long decline into Alzheimer’s, my dad passed away on Wednesday. Peacefully. As a young man he was incredibly dynamic. In middle to older age he was wound up pretty tight. The first years of memory and control loss were fierce and difficult, but a few years ago he sloughed off all bitterness and became a remarkable warm and happy person, a pleasure to be around. As sentences and then words abandoned him, I would run out of things to say to him after a while. But I would sit at the piano and play through a fake book, or just improvise, and he would dance, howl, and smile. He liked it when I went wild – clusters and forearm bashes and wrong notes tickled him.
This past week he was confined to the bed in his room, with no piano around. So I brought a guitar, and sang some songs, sometimes made things up. There was a lot of waiting, too much time to fill with talking, so the music helped me and my mom (and, we’re hoping, my dad). The wheezing and clunking of the oxygen machine was constant. When he passed, the machine was turned off, the room quiet. I kissed his head, one kiss for each of his 4 children (I was the only offspring present then), and reminded him how he lived on through us and his grandchildren. Then I was moved to play a last song for him. The music is from a production of Truman Capote’s “Holiday Memories” at the Aurora Theater. My dad came to all my local productions – he sat through all the radical left-wing Brechtian stuff I cut my teeth on in the 70’s, came to quite a few Bobs concerts in the 80’s, and attended the variety of stuff I got up to in the 90’s, including “Holiday Memories”. Can’t say why this is the song, why I needed to sing it… It just happened that way. As my nephew said: Love in all directions 🙂