Mr. Bojangles

We all have that ‘one’  – the one that got away.

My one was my dad.

Of course, I don’t mean that in the romantic sense or in any weird way. And maybe I need to qualify that statement and add that my ‘one’ is both my dad AND music. For a little girl who grew up bonding with her dad over song, who learned the organ alongside her dad who was playing the piano by ear, as well as the guitar, bass, drums, harmonica – really anything that played music – the man and the music were intertwined so tightly that you could never sever the one from the other.

While my dad passed from this earth young, my love for him and for the music he exposed me to live on forever. I am so passionate about music and the memories and emotion evoked by song that anytime I hear tunes like ‘Mr. Bojangles’ (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), or ‘Hotel California’ (the Eagles), I can almost hear him beside me singing still…almost 28 long years (and many lifetimes) later.

And, just like that great old 80’s song says, ‘There’s always something there to remind me’.

Yesterday, I was cursed with a stomach bug and was forced to stay home from work to let it run it’s course. Around lunchtime, when I would have otherwise been chowing down if it had been a normal day, I started watching a 4 hour documentary about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. It must be explained that my dad had a thicker version of Tom Petty hair, and his name of course, was Tom. While I don’t remember my dad being a huge fan, it is fascinating to me that Tom got his big break the very year that I was born – 1976.  I took little cat naps during the documentary, but at the end and by some kind of osmosis, I had quickly become a life-long fan.

Just a few weeks ago, I purchased my first Tom Petty CD – Full Moon Fever. I’m pretty sure that purchase is what finally sparked my interest enough to spend the whole half of a sick day delving into his life story. This man is a legend, and truly, haven’t we lost enough of those lately?

In a sense, I felt as if I were watching my dad’s story, had he not been so sick and had he not died so early. My initial reaction was to feel cheated. My dad could’ve been that very Tom we still listen to today. He was born to play, to perform, and maybe even to write. But that wasn’t God’s plan for him. God’s plan was that my dad grace his small town and his family with the gifts God gave him. I was just fortunate enough to have been his pride and joy.

While I will never give up on music or on the memory of my dad, I have learned to appreciate both by compartmentalizing. When life becomes too much, or I’m plagued with the blues of grief or depression, music reaches in and pulls me from the trenches.

I believe that music is God’s way of reaching us humans in the present like a small miracle that reaches far into our spirits and shines its light into the crevices in a way that the light itself takes over completely. Music is the language of the spirit, the voice of Heaven, and the hand of God all at once,  because it becomes the bridge between our free Will and that deeper more peaceful place found through meditation, prayer, and song.

That’s the place where we don’t have to question who we are, what we’re doing, or the paths we’ve chosen. That’s the place we can simply be who we were created to be. My one that got away has gotten me away from all that is toxic and destructive, and I think that’s what they mean by ‘not forgetting’  where we came from.

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