The album is my link to him, it came out the year he died. It’s just called April and it was released on April 1, 2008. I remember buying the CD, standing outside the record store waiting for the bus. I bought it on the iPod too so I could play it on my flight to Germany. Spring was here, but it would be his last.

I called John my dad even though he was my step father. In 2008 I’d known him for 15 years. He would turn 69 that September and die on Halloween with his friend Eberhard by his side.

I have a few photos from that visit of us sitting outside between the house and the neighbors, a kind of patio the Germans call the Hof. It was warm enough to bring out the outdoor table and chairs, the Moroccan candle lanterns and lawn ornaments. Mom had found some medieval-looking farming implements in the barn she’d converted to flower planters, rusted out but overflowing now with color.

We stayed up late drinking like old times. John needed supplemental oxygen and was taking medications that didn’t mix well with alcohol. And he wasn’t himself now that he couldn’t play the guitar. The neuropathy had made his fingertips numb and his feet sore. He spent most of his time in a wheelchair cordoned off in the upstairs TV room. I’d brought him a bottle of Beefeater from the duty free and his English meat pies but he’d hardly thanked me or looked away from the TV and that wasn’t like him. He just pointed to the mini fridge with his cane and said put them in there.

The light is funny in these photos because it’s sunny but we’re in the shade of a big table umbrella so it makes everyone’s faces look dark. John’s got the tubes from the oxygen tank attached to his nostrils but he’s smiling, holding a church key, drinking a beer. Mom is in another photo, her eyebrows scrunched, listening to John. Then their friend Benny and his girlfriend, everyone looks so young.

It’s 2008 and I’m hearing the album April for the first time. Spring is back and we’ve just had our second daughter Charlotte. Dawn’s dad died in February, the economy will collapse in six months. We’ll sell our house and I’ll see John a final time at the end of the summer. He died from many things but the primary thing was alcohol. I’m 38 and old enough to know better. I’ll kiss him on his forehead and say goodbye.

I think when parents divorce their children enter a different reality too. I became aware of how interconnected I was with their individual pain but how each of us had our own lives too. As a family of three, we all went our separate ways.

I called John my dad even though my biological father was still alive and lived just 15 minutes away. We weren’t that close, but my affinity for John didn’t improve things with my real dad, especially when I changed my surname to John’s.

When I got married my dad and John met for the first time. It was dad, John, and Dawn’s dad at our wedding drinking Bloody Marys. We got a picture of them smiling and posing with their drinks. Then after the ceremony John made a toast to my dad, saying he was the reason I’d grown into the great man I was. It was a classy thing to say, it made people cry. And it was true, my dad had done the hard work of parenting. I could change my name, but not who I was. My dad made me that.

My dad turns 75 this April and I’ll fly back for a quick visit. We’ve gotten closer and I’ve learned more about parenting: how much influence dads have on their children, I underestimated that. My dad and John were never close to their fathers, both of them felt sad about that. They tried hard to give me the love they never got from their dads. It’s not like you get to rehearse being a parent, you go on with what you know and what you learned as a child. That’s why dads are so important, it’s a template for how we treat and regard ourselves—and one day, our kids.

The album is my link to John, but April’s also the month of my dad’s birth, my wedding, my favorite memory growing up: that one Easter morning my mom, dad and I took a basket of painted eggs to the park across the street and ate our breakfast on a blanket on the grass. I’ve gone back to that spot with my kids when they were small, but no one else seems to get it, why that scene matters so much. Like the album, perhaps it’s just for me.

Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. Ah, the ebb and flow of family turmoil, connections and disconnections; crossed wires and cross-purposes, and most of us making it up as we go along. A fine evocation of April resonances, Bill. The poignancy of childhood memories, and that sorrow when others don’t see how special it was: that scene; that moment in time. The painted eggs in the park. And of course those of us who come here get it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Talk about a nesting story! A nest with two dads in it, and your emotions toward both are so poignant. Beautiful Easter Day tale, Bill.

    I think I know which album you mean, and I’m listening to it now to savor the mood.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So cool Kevin! Happy you’re checking out that album and thanks for poking around my nest too, buddy. I have your lovely booked lined up for tomorrow once I finish this one that’s splayed out on my chest now as I type! Enjoy April, the month and the album ha ha

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Our parents shape us, influence us, guide us sometimes, help determine how we regard ourselves, sure, all of the above. And then we go our own way, the “master of our fate” and all that. Your spouse and children then influence your path and reshape your perception of yourself, too? I read your writing here with attention it was certainly deserving of that, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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