“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”
- J.M. Barrie
My Decembers don’t have roses. They have pink carnations.
My father had odd taste in music. Of course he loved church music — especially old hymns. He’d belt out the lyrics as loud as he could, desperate to be a bass but not really equipped vocally to get there. When he heard marching band music, it became immediately obvious that his blood was really pumping. When he heard Paraguayan harp, he’d long for his home as the tears silently rolled down his cheeks.
Sometimes, when I miss him, I look at my hands. I remember being a little boy and marveling at how big and strong his hands were. Now, I look at my own hands and see that mine are the same. In a way, they’re not my hands but his. When I close my fingers, it’s like he’s holding my little hands in his. Maybe it’s weird, but I cherish these moments.
Of course I do “normal” things too, like look at pictures, reminisce, or bask in the feeling that I’ve inherited so many of his personality traits. He’s gone, but he’s not gone, you know?
When the deep aching grief hits me, it’s Dad’s music that I look for. I listen to How Great Though Art or The Old Rugged Cross. I skip the marching music because I just can’t bring myself to miss the old man that much! Then I listen to Pajaro Campana played on the Paraguayan harp. At this point I stop to catch my breath because the finale is almost too much to take.
Dad loved all the music I’ve already mentioned. When he heard Marty Robbins, though, well that was another thing altogether.
He loved everything Marty Robbins ever recorded, from El Paso to Unchained Melody to My Woman, My Wife. His favourite, though, was A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation). He never told me why. All I knew is that it was his favourite song, and that he always wore a pink carnation on the lapel of his suit.
When I play that song, he is there with me. Of course, I cry — sometimes uncontrollably but I can’t bear to stop that music. It would be like cutting our time short. I need to feel the grief because, in those moments, it’s the strongest connection I have to him.
He passed almost 19 years ago. In that time, I’ve thought many times to ask my mom why that song was so special to him but I’ve stopped myself every time. It’s not that I’m worried that the backstory might be disappointing, or involve a little too much information. I think it has more to do with the fact that I need the pink carnations more than I need the answer
To hear the podcast version of this (or any other) story, visit www.acfischerpod.com