Five months of blog material seems to have passed me by as I push through the final stretch of school. What better time than the present than to write about the musician who inspired it all: my dad.
Mom always loves to say she eloped with the drummer from a rock & roll band. From probably about kindergarten age, I was going to Dad’s Saturday night band rehearsals and would often end up falling asleep next to his drum set. (I can sleep through anything). I wanted to tag along with him everywhere and do everything he did. When you grow up with your dad behind a drum set, and a microphone next to that drum set, your perception of reality is forever altered. Must be why I love drummers so much (HAH!!!!!!!!). But really. As a wee babe, I thought musicians were the coolest ever.
In first grade, I decided on my own that I wanted to be a musician and approached the elementary music teacher about private piano lessons. I studied classically with her for about 15 years but also took up playing keys for Dad’s band. You have no idea how awesome it was to be the chick (even as a 12 or 13 year old) in a band of old men, and to this day, I would prefer sitting around in a room full of old men with guitars and corny jokes than just about anyone else. Dad took me to almost every concert I ever attended, which was a LOT more than any of my friends ever went to (cause, let’s be honest, their parents were lame), and he was always ordering CDs for us off the Internet. I got to see Dream Theater, people. DREAM THEATER. My dad rules. So, to give you the baby without the whole nine months, Dad instilled the appreciation and passion for music of all mediums and varieties early on.
In 2010, I was encouraged by my private jazz piano teacher to transfer to UTA for music. While it was, at some point, my intention to be a music major, I was terrified. Aside from getting horrible performance anxiety, I had multiple teachers from my high school tell me I was foolish to choose music as a career. They encouraged me to pursue English or literature (cause where would that have gotten me?), while half of my graduating class went on to pursue business and politics and marriage at 20. I’m over here like, MUSIC MAKES THE WORLD GO ‘ROUND, Y’ALL!
So anyway, as I sat at the kitchen table sobbing the night before my audition, Dad told me he had always wished he went to music school. He had grown up playing drums and was in the Castleberry HS jazz band. He visited UNT, interested in pursuing music, but was horribly intimidated and chose a different major. (I have full faith that my dad would have kicked serious butt if he had gone through with it). He said to me, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Otherwise, you’ll end up sitting behind a desk doing something you don’t love for the rest of your life.
So, I did it. I auditioned, was accepted, bawled my eyes out on a weekly basis, threw up a few times before performances, and somehow made it through the music program three years later.
Now, take a moment to grab some tissues.
Let me restate how influential my dad has been in my life. Without him, I would probably be studying microbiology or something super nerdy that would make me a ton of money in the future. I wouldn’t see the world in color, I wouldn’t end up connected with hundreds of fellow musicians whom I love and adore. Music is my life because of my dad.
Time hop to June of 2012.
Truly, I don’t remember what we did for Father’s Day. If I had to guess, based on normal routine, we probably sat around the kitchen table smoking cigars and drinking wine. I had just lost my job at Bailey’s Prime Plus due to its closing, which made me crazy, and decided to take some time off to relax. Dad hadn’t been feeling well, and I remember just feeling so bad for him because he was hardly ever sick. He missed going out for Mom’s birthday, which is a big deal because he adores my mom. Doctors said it was just a sinus infection.
Wednesday after Father’s Day, I had been out doing a photo shoot. I sat down on the couch in the front room to edit. Mom and Dad were posted at their usual spots at the kitchen table. Dad got up to feed the dogs, and I heard the sound of the metal bowl drop. And drop again. I didn’t pay much attention until I heard Mom say, “Alan, are you okay??”
The sight I saw when I ran into the kitchen isn’t one I would ever wish on anyone- ever.
Dad couldn’t stand. Mom was holding him up, and he struggled to get to the counter. He knocked over a glass of tea, and it shattered all over the floor. I had no clue what was happening and just burst into tears. Mom managed to lay Dad down on the sofa, and in an almost eerily calm tone of voice told me, “Call 9-1-1. I think Daddy’s had a stroke.”
I was on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator trying to get Dad to repeat tongue twisters. He couldn’t say anything. He didn’t know what was happening. He kept mouthing he was fine. When the paramedics showed up, they told me to stand around the corner outside the house so I didn’t scare him. I was in absolute hysterics.
Insert long, horrible night in the E.R. with our Sweet Valley High doctor-know-it-all. But, he was looking better. He was sitting up, managed to flip me off with his bad arm, which was awesome. I had never been happier to get the bird before.
The next morning was a complete shock. He was in ICU, couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Was in a horrible amount of pain. He cried a lot, which was almost worse than seeing the actual stroke itself. We all thought he was going to die, and even the doctors seemed a bit hopeless. And in the moment that I held my dad’s head to me, both of us crying, my mom and my brother outside crying, I screamed at God inside my head. I think I can speak for the whole family when I say this was the worst time of our lives. I wanted NOTHING to do with anyone. I wanted my dad back. Nothing anyone could say or do would fix this.
Several days after Dad had been in the hospital, a nurse said to me, “Don’t worry. He’ll be driving again in three weeks.” Well, it’s two years later and Dad has just started driving by himself to work again, thanks to equipment that allows him to operate his truck one-handed. We had a recumbent bicycle built for him, also with the ability to shift gears one-handed, and we’re signed up to do 25 miles at the Hotter Than Hell in August. Words can’t describe how proud I am for the progress he has made since that awful day. You think your dad is a hard worker? No. You do not understand hard work until you see what my dad has done just to be able to even lift his arm to flip the light off in the bathroom.
But, I don’t know if Dad will ever play drums again.
When I look back at old pictures of my dad in his rock & roll days, I think about my life now- how it is to be young and in love with music. It’s not about the money you make but the quality of life you give yourself by pursuing your passions. Driving with the windows down listening to Yes. Sitting in coffee shops talking about music for hours. Watching a dad watch his son perform on stage, full attention, pride in his eyes. Stepping out from backstage after your last recital and seeing your dad, who you thought several months before was going to die, sitting in the audience. Those are things I would never trade to sit behind a desk at $15/hr. And you shouldn’t either. I’m not scared to say “I don’t know” when people ask me what I plan on doing with my life after music school because Dad is the truest testament to rolling with the punches. The best thing I can do is just… do it. Whatever it is.
Happy Father’s Day, most sincerely. It will forever be an emotional time of year for me, for us, but also a reminder as to why I am pursuing music. I truly believe my dad is the best dad. The most hardworking dad. The most awesome dad. Because he is.