Most people that I know don’t realize how deaf I am. You see, I grew up on Southern Rock. My dad was in a band. A good band. Good enough to where he was gone for 8 or 9 months out of the year for most of my childhood. Most of my memories from those years are of terrorizing the babysitters that had to stay with us for 3 or 4 days in a row each week while both of my parents were at work. The memories of those sweltering summers, though, are full of touring across the country in the band’s bus, playing NBA Jam in the back (and beating all the guys), eating massive quantities of Reese’s Cup and M&Ms, discovering that girls practically throw themselves at guys who are in a band, and sitting on his lap while singing in front of thousands of screaming fans in jam-packed stadiums and coliseums. It’s a miracle I didn’t grow up 100 pounds overweight, but like I said, all those nights sitting right next to the speakers backstage have taken a toll on this lad’s hearing.
Growing up, In the house we listened to The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Lynard Skynard, The Charlie Daniels Band…and Luther Vandrose. Don’t ask. My mom loved him. I never understood. And we listened to his band. A lot. Hell, I liked it. It was all knew. Nothing’s cooler then being able to tell your friends that “yeah, that’s my dad on the radio” when you’re just 8 years old.
But things changed, as they tend to do. My teenage years were full of rebellion, just like any pubescent child. I hated my dad. With a passion. When I was going into the 7th grade, he finally “retired” from touring. He was tired of having a relationship with his family over the phone and by this point, Clay was already born and frankly, he wanted to see his children grow up. Fair enough. The only problem was we had never spent 6 straight months together in quite some time, much less 6 straight years. We didn’t know how to act around each other. Whenever I was dragged in by the neighbors for setting their back yard on fire or filling the road with a giant snowball (which was the size of a full car. I’m still quite proud of that accomplishment), my dad just did what came naturally to him. He became a hard ass.
He became the man who would get angry with you over not making your bed properly. He became the man who would ground you for making a B+ when you could have made an A. He became the man who would shut off the electricity to your room when you talked back to him. He never beat me physically, aside from the few smacks upside my head that I received from running my mouth. But he just didn’t know what else to do. I can’t really say that I helped the situation. I thrived on pissing him off. Some of the acting I did in front of my mom should have garnered an Emmy. I made sure to never let up and never let him win.
Which explains why I absorbed every type of music except for his. Alex listened to Guns & Roses, Beastie Boys, Aerosmith, Smashing Pumpkins, MXPX, Blink 182, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, NIN, and other bands along those lines. It was like a whole new dimension to me. I wanted nothing more to do with Dad’s music. His music was stale, bland, and stood for everything I hated about him. I soon found the likes of Collective Soul, David Gray, Dave Mathews, and countless other bands who quickly filled the void in my musical life.
My final act of rebellion finally took place at the close of my freshman year of high school. Playing in the band wasn’t cool anymore. All of my friends had quit, I had no desire to go march around on the football field during half time, and even though I practically had the teacher begging me to go play for the Jazz Band, I shrugged it off like it was nothing more then a birthday invitation to some kid I didn’t even like. He just wanted a free present and the cake wasn’t even chocolate. So I quit playing the saxophone.
I tell you this not to brag or gloat. Far from it. I tell you this because I have finally begun to remember where I’ve come from. Over the years, my dad has matured into a parent as I have grown into an adult. The comparison between him now versus 9 years ago is astounding. He is mellow, calm, smooth. He’s learned how to deal with his children and in turn, I’ve begun to learn more about him. We’ve finally reached that point where we respect each other. We might have total opposite political views or differ on how we approach women, but we still get along like a father and son should. He always told me that if I ever needed anything or to talk to somebody, I could come to him. But it wasn’t until now that I finally felt comfortable enough with him to actually do so.
But after being out of music for 6 years, my dad had had enough. He couldn’t take it anymore. He needed an outlet to pour all of his talent into and so he started a band. Again, it was a good band. A band full of guys who had been around the block a few times and had no desire to start touring the country and letting the record labels dictate how they should make their CD. So they all used their connections, pooled their money together, and made their own CD. They started coming down here to Columbia a few months ago and so me and the guys would go out every time, grab some food and drinks, and sit back and relax. And each and every time I watch him play up there on stage, I think about how much in common me and my dad really are.
People should be warned before going to concerts. I’ve learned that the “itch” is apparently contagious. I went down to the local music store a few days ago. I hesitantly walked in, slowly browsed around, gazed at all the familiar equipment which brought back a flood of memories, and found what I was searching for. She was no virgin, but she was just begging me to pick her up. As I cradled her in my arms, my fingers went straight to the keys and she was a perfect fit. She was coming home with me and I had no intentions of making this a one-night stand. It took me a little while to re-learn all the keys but a few days later I was playing my favorite song – Louie Louie. Hey, it sure did pick up the chicks in middle school. I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but who knows. Maybe one day he’ll get sick and need somebody to fill in for him.
And with the completion of this circle, I can finally say that my dad and I are at peace with each other now. He’s not just my dad; he’s my friend. And god can he play the sax. I just wish I could figure out how in the world he plays the flute.