My father once remarked that he had an uncanny, yet completely unmarketable talent for being able to hear a song and correctly identify the singer.
Yes, he could do that, and he was good at it. From him I learned all the great crooners: Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Frank, Dean and Sammy.
While some kids sat by their fathers in basements surrounded by magnifying glasses and scrapbooks, identifying coins or stamps, my siblings and I rode in the back of Dad’s Ford as he fiddled with the radio dial, and we identified vocalists. As a bonus, I learned nicknames: Mel Torme was the Velvet Fog, and Charlie Rich was the Silver Fox. Frank, of course, was the Chairman of the Board.
There were always records playing in our home, and from the turntable tunes of my father, I developed a love for music. I grew up on the kicky strains of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass and the mellow tunes of Simon and Garfunkel, the bold harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas, and the ballads of Bobbie Gentry.
Now, that discerning ear and love for music is being passed along to my kids as well, because I continue the game of Name that Singer as a sort of homage to my dad. My father’s legacy knows the difference between Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, and they have returned the favor by schooling me on the distinction between Ingrid Michaelson and Maggie Rogers.
And sometimes, when I happen to hear Bobby Darin, perhaps, crooning (from somewhere, beyond the sea) and identify him correctly, I think my dad might be smiling in approval, that in some small way I am connecting with him via that completely unmarketable skill he taught me. I like to imagine that Dad might be able to reach through time and space from the dimension of the departed and touch me, reconnecting us by means of our little guessing game.
Truly, whenever I name that singer I think of my dad, and I am grateful.
Fathers, thank you for all the ways you connect with your children, the little ways and the large. Thank you for the stamp collections and the coin collections, and the backyard games of catch.
Thank you for coaching the soccer team, year after year…after year.
Thank you for going camping in the sweltering August heat and in the freezing January rain.
Thank you for the walks on the beach, the hikes in the mud, the marathons through it all. Thank you for pointing the way.
Thank you for the wrestling matches and the tickle fights and the seed-spitting contests and the head stand competitions.
Thank you for teaching your kids how to balance a spoon on their noses and how to balance a load of activities.
Thank you for hoisting them onto your shoulders so that they can get a better look at the world. Thank you for carrying them when they’ve tuckered out, even when you’re worn out, too.
Thank you for being in the stands. Thank you for being on the field.
Thank you for the Friday night lights and the Sunday morning doughnuts and the weeknight bedtime stories.
Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for your silliness.
Thank you even for the dad jokes.
Thank you for helping your children to walk and talk and drive a car and solve an algebraic equation.
Thank you for teaching them integrity.
Thank you for teaching them to pray.
Thank you for being a fine example to your kids.
And thank you for being proud of them.
Happy Father’s Day.