Thursday, September 10, 2009

Singing Farmers

Dad was a singer. His beautiful tenor voice was known far and wide. Well, at least in Darke County. As a young man, Dad traveled with a singing group that traveled the area and beyond, singing gospel songs. Later his brother, Keith, joined the quartet.

We grew up with Dad singing at weddings. We probably didn't realize what a gift Dad had at the time, but as years passed we came to understand this gift that was handed down through the family genes. My grandfather had the same beautiful tenor voice. For all the hardness I remember that was my granddad, when he sang in the church choir, he became warmer. Yes, it was a family of singing farmers.

Who would believe that these men who milked cows, plowed fields, castrated pigs could make such beautiful harmonies? Yet I remember that men sang more back then. I remember holidays when my mother's side of the family would gather around the piano singing old songs. Uncle Bob, my mom's brother, loved to sing "Won't You Come Home, Bill Baily". I can still hear him. Again, this was a man not made up of warm fuzzies. Yet, when he belted out a song, I felt a little closer to him.

Mom and Dad would sing duets. Mom was at one time choirister and led congregational singing. None of us ever had the heart to tell her that her voice was much like dragging your fingernails across a blackboard. And she was loud. Dad carried on the beautiful meloday, and Mom harmonized. Perhaps that's why their marriage worked so well. Never did they criticize one another. It was all striving for harmony. They worked hard to live and singing made the hard times better. Singing farmers.

My son, James, sings now. Of course, he isn't a farmer. He has been on stage since he was 5 and wanted nothing else in life but to continue his love of theatre and music. Last year he found his fiance', Lisa, on the national tour of "Evita". Now they both live their careers here in Portland. The music still rings on in another generation.

It was my high school graduation. Dad had just come home from the hospital. He had polyps removed from his vocal cords. I remember standing with my class singing to the audience of friends and family tears streaming down my face. I didn't know if a song would ever again leave the lips of my father. He never sang again. Dad lost his voice, and he lost his music.

When he was dying, I asked if he would like for me to play the piano. He shook his 'no'. I believe the pain of losing his voice never left him. How can you take the song from the bird? How can you silence a melody? I can still hear him in my son's voice. Perhaps he will hear it in the song of his own son.

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