Hank was a turbulent man both boisterous and quick-tempered. He was brought up in a family with an often absent father who, when present - was demanding and often critical of his children; a trait Hank learned and adopted. Hank and his wife Helen had four children. Hank worked various jobs and was often out-of-touch with the family for days on end; it was Helen who raised their children. Years passed within this family, years of struggle to include many moves and bumpy roads. It’s been forty-five years since Hank’s first child was born; Helen is five-years gone and Hank lays on his “death bed”.
Hank whispered to his oldest son Kevin, “make sure one of you take the gift I’ve made, one can take it but it’s there for all of you.” Kevin replied, “I will Dad – I will”. Hank passed during the night – Kevin had arranged his memorial service for the following day. At his service there was a large hand-made table, a special gift made just for his children but only Kevin was there. Kevin had forgiven his father for his absence, anger, and hurt – the other three simply didn’t care.
I love music. Seems like words, life’s embrace and music tied together touch the heart, the soul and the single spirit that binds us all. The death of Hank and the sadness of his life are played out in many songs – perhaps none as potent as Neil Diamond’s “Morningside” which starts with these cutting and heartbreaking words – “Morningside – the old man died and no one cried - they simply turned away.”
Hank returned home after laying his father in that empty hole many call a grave. Sitting in his living room with drink in hand, he stared at the table sitting against his wall – the table his father carved by hand. If he had listened to Neil Diamond’s lyrics his life would have been shadowed by these words, “and when he died - he left a table made of nails and pride, and with his hands, he carved these words inside ‘for my children’”. Hank spent that night wrapped in dreams of things past – the saddest chapter was missed opportunity. Hank had wanted to be loved by his dad, he wanted to have his dream of being “treasured by dad” a reality, sadly, that never came to pass.
The table was indeed special, not the wood, not the father’s construction – rather it was the laughter these four children shared as they sat together – although Hank was seldom present. These days of celebration were echoed in the lyrics of “Morningside” – “and the legs were shaped with his hands, and the top made of oaken wood - and the children that sat around this great table touched it with their laughter - Ah, and that was good.” Absence – there is no absence in death unless the one who is dead is not remembered. How sad it would be to die and not be remembered.
Many years ago my dearest dad died just outside my arms. I wasn’t physically there but he knew that he was always in my embrace. I loved my dad beyond words, and I fully know to the depths of my heart and soul how he treasured and loved “his son”. When I turned 65 my son Tommy sent me a card with this short note, “just wanted you to know that you’ve never been my buddy, never been my friend – but you were and always will be, my Dad.” I live for my children.