You know, boys, there is a lot I am sorry for. I guess that is sort of a sweeping statement, isn't it? I don't mean for anything I've done to you or that sort of thing. No, it's just that, well, I wish things were different.
For instance, I am sorry that you get music in such an generic and soulless format. You hear it on the internet and through the airwaves on radio stations at the pool and in the car, distant, tinny, filtered, compressed. But, you don't hold it in your hands, see it, own it.
When I was a boy everyone, I mean everyone, had records. Pop music was on affordable 45s and long-playing albums, often in stereo, were what our parents and siblings all played. The music came in paper sleeves and you had to carefully pull out the disc of vinyl and put it on something called a "turntable" and drop a needle on to it and give it a listen on speakers that knew how to make some noise, most bigger than breadboxes. You had to actively do all this... and, that made all the difference in the world.
I remember getting the new Bob Dylan album - Blood on The Tracks - like it was yesterday. I remember eagerly tearing off the cellophane around it, throwing that aside and pulling the inner sleeve out, hoping for "liner notes" so I could learn as much about the music as I could. I bought the songbook to the album along with it and sat on my bed and listened to it on a portable turntable that sounded better than the speakers on a laptop or tablet today. I searched the words for meaning, looked up references to Romantic French Poets in the World Book Encyclopedia just down the hall, in the den. I met Hurricane Carter and fell in love with Lily and Rosemary and probably the Jack of Hearts as well. I sat and learned, with a shiny new guitar in my lap, the truth about love songs, their structure and the sheer weight of their necessity.
As I reflect on it, I was probably a couple of years older than you, maybe three - and that's a lot in boy years - but that's not my point. I was gifted to grow up in an era where music was so prevalent and good. No, I am not making a judgment on the music of the era, that is not for me to do, and, well, I have eclectic (read questionable) taste in these things. It's just that it was such a common experience for us. Everyone sat and listened to 45s and the newest John Denver or Jim Croce album. We played, and got to know, even chose, the soundtrack of our lives. We weren't forced to look for it underneath a new car commercial or search for good music on the internet or radio through a barrage of commercials and crap. The music was right there, always.
We tripped over stacks of music, we packed album after album into apple crates, or, even better, peach crates - I don't know why. Our tables and desks and beds were strewn with liner notes, the faces of the artists we loved peered up at us and psychedelic covers of rock band albums, the twisting words of the lyrics and notes, made us wonder and hope for a day when we understood them.
I remember playing the song American Pie over and over on my little portable player. My friend JB and I had it in our head to figure out the words. The song is so damn long it took both sides of the 45 just to get through it. We'd stop and start the needle over and over again, finally getting all the words down. I cannot begin to impress upon you how very wrong we got those words. We didn't know who Jumping Jack Flash was let alone James Dean; we knew nothing of plane crashes or Buddy Holly or Jagger or Woodstock. I played that song wrong for a dozen years I'd say, until people grew tired of hearing it.
Maybe ten years ago I found the real lyrics online and decided I'd try to play it again. Once again I struggled with the words, understanding them for the first time took me back to when I sat, spiral-bound notebook in hand, writing down the wrong words as JB stopped and started the turntable. We were happy and young and naive and singing about Chevys and whiskey and rye and a generation lost in space, oblivious to the context, happy in the moment. That was in late in 1971 and I was ten.
The world back then was so sensual - I mean involving the senses. I fear we aren't giving our sons that so much anymore. I was never so happy, for years and years, as I was when I opened that new album, the smell and look and feel of it was everything right then and there. It had a wholeness to it, a wholeness that I think is fragmented these days. The boys listen to a song here, watch a video there, but - and this is why I am sorry for it is my fault - but they never experience that music through time and space, through taste and feel, that was so common when I was younger.
I should work to change that.
It's funny, this all started out as a list of things I wanted to apologize for to the boys. Mostly technologies, sensibilities. Simple things like, I'm sorry the bats aren't wood anymore, or, sorry there is so very little KoolAid. Stuff both silly and profound, funny and deep, sad and, well, sadder.
You see, when I started thinking about this all, outlined it, made notes, thought of how I might structure and format it I looked at all those "sorrys" and saw them all as one thing, they distilled down to one thought.
I'm gonna pause briefly here before I tell you what was revealed. I believe that life must be examined. We are obligated as humans to think deeply, profoundly. The very basics of our lives exist because someone thought about language and justice and wheels and fire and love and suffering and war and peace and literally everything else. We owe it to our heritage as people to consider our lives.
We think, therefore we
I truly believe this. The thing is... sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it takes us places we would rather not go - sadness, inadequacy, loneliness, pointlessness. That's alright. Joy and faith and tenderness and purpose all balance it out.
I'm sorry I am your father.
It's alright... really. I understand why I thought this. I'm old and grumpy and borderline misanthropic and afraid and, well, a little weird. But, do I believe it. I'll let you be the judge of that. But, I wasn't afraid of the thought. That's what's important.
Fatherhood is big - thematically. I am willing to think about it.
Listen, I know saying I'm sorry that I am Nick and Zack's dad is stupid. Words don't exist to explain the joy a father feels in having children. Long paragraph short: I'm not sorry.
But, I thought about it. I thought about regrets and opportunities lost. I thought about providing and being available and paternity leave and money and heart and hearth and the future and the past. I flipped through memories and afterthoughts and moments lost and time and now.
I'm glad I did. That one moment of doubt, that one thought of hopelessness, well, has, is, making me a better father.
Anyway, I did this so...
...how sorry can I be.
Remember, we get to think about stuff. Zack's bear also made this helpful graphic:
"think mOAr thotS" Nick must've helped him with the spelling.
Think more thoughts.
Zack went down to feed the cats the other morning. He had his bear, Bear-Bear, under his arm and set him down to get the food and then left him there. Face down on the cement. It looked like a crime scene and, sadly, my first thought was to orange chalk a circle around the poor guy and tell Z there's been an incident. I picked the old fellow up and was trying to console him as best one can an inanimate object. I looked at his face.
I little piece of foil, a wrapper or tinsel or something, stuck to his face like a tear. And I wondered if I'd feel as sad when someday I realized that the boys might forget me for a moment. It was an overwhelming notion and I let my thoughts go with it. Fathers and sons, sons and fathers.
Thanks for coming 'round again. I suppose you'll flit off to some other cyberstop. Cool. Hey, don't forget to think. Look deep into yourself. You're allowed.
You're supposed to.