My dad would have turned 67 this past Wednesday, June 13th. He died six years ago after having a life long love affair with Vodka.
Shortly after his death, I was visiting his grave at least once a week. But those visits have become more infrequent as I have devoted my time to being a dad.
This time of year is really hard for me. My dad’s birthday and Father’s day were always close. It used to be I was more worried about getting enough cash together for gifts. Now I long for such a dilemma.
I do make a point to visit on his birthday. Last year I went with my then 7 year old, and we sang Happy Birthday. I am not sure why. I am an atheist. My dad is dead. We sang to a stone block and earth.
This year I did something REALLY out of character for me. But first, some background.
My dad LOVED The Beach Boys. The Beach Boys to my dad were like Van Halen to me. I grew up on a steady diet of Beach Boys music. It was and still is a foreign sound to a person growing up in the Midwest. The closet thing I have to a beach are the banks of the Ohio River. But the sound was always in my house and in the car. My dad had books, magazines, and all the albums. He absorbed The Beach Boys. And when he would listen to them, something would happen. I didn’t realize it when I was young, but I do now. My dad would listen to The Beach Boys and become a PERSON…not my dad. He would sing along, dance a little, even do “air keyboard” when we were in the car. I get it now. The same thing happens to me when I hear Van Halen. I forget about the mortgage, my job, my kids, and I go back to when life was simple.
The history of The Beach Boys is, like many bands, a sordid tale of death and drugs. About three brothers, cousins and a demanding perfectionist father. The band has broke up, hired new members and for a long time, have been a shadow of what they once were. Brian Wilson, the genius behind the band ( and the only surviving brother) quit the band in the 70s, destroyed his mind with drugs, and lived a Howard Hughes like life for many years. He is still damaged after all these years.
My dad had always hoped that Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys would get back together. That never happened in his life time. But now, it has. Brian Wilson is back and has written new songs. They just released a new album last week, “That’s Why God Made The Radio”. It is a good album and worthy of the band. And I hate that my dad will never get to hear it.
But this is what I did. Yesterday, on his birthday, I went to his grave. I cued up the album’s title track on my iPhone, set it on his gravestone, and let it play. I am not sure why, really. Maybe there is a part of me that thinks he heard it. Maybe I felt like he deserved it. All I know is, while that song played, the cemetery was quiet, I cried, and I shared a new Beach Boys song with my dad.
And that was enough.