Songs of My Father

Updated on November 20, 2017

The Last Song

The last song I remember hearing on 104.3 which was now called K Hits, the Oldies station in Chicagoland of one sort or another for as long as I could remember from my soon to be thirty-nine years on the planet was "Lucky Star", by Madonna before I rushed into work. I was disgusted that now the eighties and nineties music that I had known growing up now made rounds on the Oldies channel next to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

I hadn't known the station was about to change formats to be some sort of Hip Hop station the next time I turned the dial.

It's always the little things like music that are the only positive thing I associate with my father.

104.3 had been the preset he always had whatever ridiculous car he owned at the time tuned to. I hated going anywhere with him, except for the music. At least the lack in conversation could be temporarily ignored by turning up the radio and singing along.

He died some years ago and it was the strangest experience in my life. Distant family, his coworkers- all telling stories of this man I had never met that was so funny, so charming, everyone's favorite person to be around. I compare their memories to someone that never had time for his children and seldom ever saw us. How could someone that bragged to everyone at work about all these made up things he did on the weekends with his family be the same person that anytime I tried to interact with him push be back with foul language and say he hated us until we gave up trying to have a relationship with him?

Did he really want the life he was pretending to have?

Were the few token offerings I remember like concert tickets or the hand me down of his old cassette tapes or CD's this offering he was trying to make to be my friend? But I didn't need a friend.

My whole life I have struggled from the lack of having a parent.

When my brother and I cleaned out his death, everything that was important to him went into the garbage as a sign of our still open wounds struggling to heal. Although his vinyl collection was as massive as the CD's and the cassette tapes he had stacked in a basement cabinet, we cherry-picked only what we found personal connection to and threw the rest out.

I kept some Beatles eight tracks.

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My whole life I have struggled to know the man that was my father, counterbalanced with the person that everyone else had told me they have know.

Not Even The Pictures Prove It

My mother swears that I used to wait for my father at the window when I was a baby, nosed pressed to the glass when I heard his car pull in. She says that I was so excited for his return and that he would play with me for about an hour before dinner, reading me books and playing his record collection loudly.

I asked my grandmother about this once and she didn't have any sort of response.

I think now as an adult either my mother's memory of things was reconstructed after the peace that came when an end came to her volatile relationship with him. I think she wanted to give me some sort of fairy tale where he hadn't always been such a jerk and actually cared about his children at once point. Either that or maybe it had happened at once point and for some reason with the stress of work he had drastically changed later?

I do remember the music blaring all through my childhood. Maybe that was the reason I had my nose pressed to the window (if that is even fact), as a child since I could hear the radio from outside our apartment window.

Between the legendary songs, all I remember during those important years growing up was my parents constant fighting which would trickle down to yelling of how much my father hated all of us and wishes we were never born. I remember his cheating on her, I remember being instructed my whole life these were the things we never tell anyone. Then on the weekends, we were shipped over to my grandma's to be her problem for the entire weekend.

Grandma's was a haven compared to home and had its own soundtrack as well of mostly Tom Jones records.

I'm still waiting for any sort of photos from this time period my mother claims I was so close to my father, but mysteriously there are no photos from it. I still maintain its a convenient story.

I'm still waiting for the pictures of this time where my mother claims I was so close to my father but conveniently there are no photos of it.

Soundtrack Of Adolescence

The only positive thing I remember about being stuck going anywhere with my father growing up was the promise of a CD when we left the store.

My mother never had an interest in anything. She blamed this sometimes in growing up in poverty and never having the chance to actually own many possessions, but I think it was something in her programming where she was bland and lack any real interest in hobbies. She didn't have any favorite bands or artists an never understood why either my father or I had to own the music that you would already hear on the radio in a physical copy and would scoff and the CD books and towers that sprung up in every corner of my room.

If my father already had a copy of something rather than expect that I could just copy it on the cassette deck like a normal family member would do, I had to save my lunch money or wait for a day that he was feeling generous. Although his collection of music was all over the house, it could only be touched by us if he wasn't home or in a rare mood where we got more than "Hi" in a single day.

When school had vacations I would collect as many albums to copy as I know I could get away with and put them back perfectly in the spots where I found them but somehow he always knew they were touched. He didn't always say it, but he would angrily glare; saving that as a reason to go ballistic on us later about something else.

I actually wrote one time on an online blog about borrowing an AC/DC album and getting told I should "Go live in the street because I wasn't welcome at home anymore," and one of the women he flirted online with and lied to saying that he was a twenty-seven year old pilot instead of a balding, paunchy, fifty-something that spent his nights eating himself to death on the couch with two children in high school. He got his wish because when I responded to the harlot and threatened to call the cops after I was confronted with this with a punch under my left eye, I actually surfed the couches of friends for about two weeks until my parents summoned me back home.

I made sure to break all those CD's when I was taking them out of the cabinet after his death.

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It was my father's fault that I suffered so much during my life and I can't let myself have peace even after he continues to haunt me.

Silence Comes

It was strange some years ago that no one has wanted to include any form of music into the wake or funeral.

All these fake friends and coworkers that claimed to know him better than anyone didn't seem to know about his love for music.

As a child, he played guitar, later on in a band with some friends in the neighborhood around the time of college. From my grandma, I had also heard that my father knew how to play the accordion, and was decently skilled at the piano although he never learned to read music.

Perhaps as he aged the love of that music was stamped out as real life set in. I don't really know as my grandma died when I was back in junior high and I only met my grandfather about three times. From what I knew is that my grandparents had divorced when my dad and his sister were in college.

In the same way as my own upbringing, my grandfather's few visits including bringing a gift and then he was gone for months at a time before he popped up again. I think the last and final time I remember seeing him was the time grandpa and his new wife brought me a small screened TV and a Nintendo that had just hit the market. I never saw him again until his funeral some years later.

I wonder if my father's offering of CD's were the same thing.

I still haven't cried or given him much thought in the years he's been dead.

It was funny to see all these people mourning the man they thought they knew. Even at the services, my mother had a big smile on her face and spent the afternoon flirting with his old frat brothers.

I spent a good amount of time in my car during the services, not because I had any sort of remorse but to chain smoke and blast the newest copy of whatever was in my CD player.


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End of An Era

The end of that radio station meant something.

I reflected and made a Facebook post which a friend replied with a goofy GIF. I still don't know if the end of 104.3 meant that the nightmare that had been my life was finally over and I was moving on, or if I actually miss those few things I has shared with the man that gave us the last name.

It may not be fair, but I blame my father for my lot in life.

It was the tortured childhood that got me into depression at an early age. Weekly sessions with the school shrink never resolved anything. I would just go along with whatever they said so I didn't miss too much of recess.

I needed so badly to be accepted that I tried too hard. I put myself in dangerous situations growing up. I never got into drinking or drugs thankfully, only chain smoking which I was able to finally put behind me before my son was born. I spent my own time in a domestic violence situation similar to what I remember as a child and I'm still haunted by this man that pops up time to time with threats even though I was rescued into the best relationship I have ever had by my husband some years before.

It still bothers me when the occasional relative makes a comment of how sad it is that my father is missing another holiday and I respond I hope he's watching from his perch in Hell and conscious of how much he's missing out on.

There is nothing sad about my father being missing from my life. All the times that I needed him, he turned me away and told me he never wanted a relationship with me to begin with.

If all I got out of this experience was the names of some great bands I should look up, that was enough for me.

It was the music that got me on a ten year adventure into music journalism that I eventually turned my back on when the music that I remembered wasn't the same anymore. That oldies station was now playing Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots, the bands that I thought would be the music of my adulthood and follow me into the years where I would be handing down MP3's to my son.

When all that is on the radio when I flip stations is generic pop music, I would go back to the oldies and find comfort in the familiarity of how those songs kept me safe at a time when I had nothing else as a kid.

It's sad to see the station go. I think though, it is what I needed to break the association with the monster than I grew up with.

This might be my moment of catharsis where I realize I needed something associated with my father to die so I can never mention him again as long as I live and get the demons out.

Thank you, for giving me that moment.


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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 7 days ago from Houston, TX USA

      I have found that when you actually forgive someone you feel free and at peace.

    • JynBranton profile image
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      Jennifer B 7 days ago from Bolingbrook

      I’m sorry to hear of your experience Jay but you bring about a valid point. If you can find forgiveness for what has happened with your family, I might eventually find healing in my situation. I’ve been going to therapy now and working in ways to overcome my anxiety and depression. For the first time I actually feel free and that came from limited contact with family members that were still subjecting me in their own ways to live in that memory of growing up around abuse

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 8 days ago from Houston, TX USA

      My father was mentally ill with paranoid schizophrenia so my mother divorced him soon after I was born. My older brother also had paranoid schizophrenia and would hit me to see if it hurt. My mother explained that is all part of the disease and not to hold it against them, so I didn't. The condition was not their fault. Find ways to forgive people.

      My stepfather, Jim, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Korea. He would terrorized us until my mom divorced him. He beat her and shot at my mom with a fully automatic machine gun. For years I was angry with him until I realized that he suffered All The Time. What we got was only a little overflow of what he suffered. Learn to forgive, for we do not know what they go through.