My father would’ve turned 66 years old last Sunday.
In June of 1998, he got a check-up after changing insurance companies and was given a clean bill of health.
On the 4th of July, he and my mom came to my gig and he was limping.
On August 7th, after a few weeks of increasing pain, consultations with the doc and thinking it was sciatica (he was a machinist on his feet all day on concrete floors), he got an MRI.
It was cancer.
In his sacrum, his liver, along his spine. “Metastatic cancer with an unknown primary” was the official diagnosis.
On November 20th, he was gone, just a few weeks after his 51st birthday.
Healthy to dead in less than six months.
Nearly fifteen years later and I still miss him terribly.
He was the one who got me started reading music, digging out all his old John Thompson books with the names “Butch” and “Roger” and “Chuck” pencilled all through them; the one who used to sit down at night sometimes with a glass of scotch or a bottle of Piels, his Camels and his old Selmer and blow along with Pete Fountain (yeah, he was that good); the one who loved my mother so completely, who had more patience for her than I ever did.
I released my new CD this week, my seventh. It’s called The Hard Work of Living. It is dedicated to the memory of both of my parents, and also to the memory of my friend Leonora Southwick, who died very suddenly earlier this year.
It really sucks to lose people you love.
My dad died before I released my first CD. I did make a cassette once, though, called “Wrestling Angels”, that he sold to just about anyone who would listen to him brag about his daughter.
He was funny as hell. Just about everyone loved Butch’s jokes. I can’t repeat a lot of his jokes and one-liners here for fear of losing most of my readership, heh. Irreverent, raunchy, biting, dry. But there are a few safe-for-all gems.
I know, it’s cliche to say, “You know what my dad used to say?” but I do quote him quite often. A couple of my favorites:
“That guy has a lot of class, but unfortunately it’s all low.”
“Come back when you can’t stay as long.”
“That guy couldn’t pour p*ss out of a boot with instructions on the heel.”
(I have a whole notebook full of his zingers.)
I could write so much more about him, and I’m sure I will again at some point. Honestly, though, what I remember most vividly about him were the times when he said nothing, or very little, those times when a glance – either accompanied by a smirk, a scowl, a stitched brow, a chuckle or a clenched jaw – would speak volumes. Sure, he could never get a word in edge-wise with my mom doing all the talking all the time… but I really think that even outside of the sphere of my mom’s craziness, he really was a man of very few words. But those words were usually quite powerful and unforgettable.
My favorites? “I’m proud of you, kid.”
What I wouldn’t give to hear him say those words just one more time.