Goodbye, Dad


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 🙂

10 comments on “Goodbye, Dad

  1. Beautiful story thank you for sharing it with us. ❤️

  2. Oh my. Your lovely tribute made me cry. What an honor to have been present.
    He will be missed forever.

  3. This always helped me:

    In one of the stars
    I shall be living
    In one of them
    I shall be laughing
    And so it will be
    as if all the stars
    were laughing
    when you look
    at the sky at night
    ~The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  4. I have known, admired and loved your dad my entire life. may he rest in peace.

  5. Gunnar, so sorry for the loss of your Dad. He was a very special person who always seemed to be smiling and in a happy mood. Condolences to you and your family.

  6. Beautiful tribute. Sending warm thoughts to your family. Alzheimer is a difficult journey. Glad that he is home now.

  7. “I’m Home” is the first song of yours that I adored. I completely understand why it came to you in that moment. I can imagine you singing it with your guitar in the new silence. A beautiful gift to give him. Thanks for sharing your moving tribute. I’m thinking of you and your family.

  8. Music is where all ends meet
    xo Julia

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