I’m not sure if it’s because I have yet another birthday coming up soon, or because it’s spring, or because of my life changing journey last fall, but lately I’ve been doing a great deal of self analysis. I’ve learned a lot about myself–my real self, what drives me, and why I do the things I do. Sometimes it sneaks up on me when I least expect it. I’ll just be talking to someone about life or history and I’ll have a sudden realization about my life and be totally caught by surprise. That’s what happened yesterday. I was at my desk in my office, chatting with a friend online over lunch, and somehow the conversation turned to death, and dealing with the loss loved ones. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about music, because I’m so excited about going back to being a musician and that was in the back of my mind as we chatted . I was telling my friend about my experience losing my father 15 years ago. It’s still a fresh pain after all these years, because he was such an important figure in my life. He was always very supportive of my music, and I still smile when I remember walking through Berklee with him at the beginning of my freshman year. He was in awe of the recording studios and loved watching the wide variety of musicians as they came and went through the lobby of the school. I could see that he was just itching to try out the lifestyle of a musician. He always half jokingly said “Someday I’ll be your agent, or your manager”. He was into it, I think, because it was so far removed from anything he had ever done in his life. It was so foreign to him and he was fascinated by it.
My father died unexpectedly in 1995, two days before Christmas. I had a four-month old son and was already feeling overwhelmed. I was suffering from post partum depression and the holidays were approaching. The sudden loss of my father was more than I could deal with at the time, but I wanted to be strong for my mother, and my newborn son. I did my best to keep everything inside, and ended up shutting down emotionally. Then my emotions swung wildly in every different direction from shock, to panic, to sadness, and eventually to anger. I had always relied on my father for guidance and strength, for approval and in his later years, friendship. How could he suddenly be gone? It was a harsh blow and it knocked me off my feet.
While thinking about this yesterday, it occurred to me that it was then, when I lost my father, that I abandoned my music. When people asked me why I no longer sang or played, I would shrug it off and say I was too busy with the kids. I had two more sons after my father passed, and the three boys kept me very busy. Who had time for music? As the boys grew, there were a few opportunities for me to pick up my guitar and I did so. I played at my oldest son’s Kindergarten graduation. I played for the kids at the preschool where I taught for a few years. But I never played for myself, or for other adults. My heart just wasn’t in it. I didn’t know it then, but when my father died, it broke my heart and I lost my desire to sing or play. I couldn’t play without thinking of him and it was just too much to bear at the time. I was also angry, so maybe I thought that by not playing anymore I was punishing someone (the universe? my father?) for the pain I was feeling. I may have been punishing myself. I was wrestling with an incredible sense of guilt. I had been at the hospital during the 48 hours the doctors kept my father alive, and as soon as I left to go shower and change at my brother’s apartment, we got a phone call saying my Dad had passed. I wasn’t there. It’s always bothered me that I wasn’t there when he died. The one time I left, for just an hour, and he died. So maybe giving up music was my way of punishing myself for not being there. For fifteen years I denied my real passion in life. By the time I finished telling my story to my friend, I was in tears at my desk.
Fast forward to last October and my trip to Newfoundland. That trip was life changing for me in that it reawakened my passion for music. It showed me who I really am and where my musical talent came from. I could no longer deny my true love of playing and singing because it’s who I am deep down. It’s my passion and my purpose. It’s been fifteen years since my father died, and I’m just getting around to forgiving myself for being absent when he passed. I’m just getting around to being able to laugh about things he said and did, to remember fondly the good times, and remember the not so good times with understanding. I know Dad would want me to go back to my music, to pick my guitar up again and start writing and singing. He would want me to be who I am, with passion and joy. That is what I’m going to try to do, in my father’s memory.