A fugue for my father

onipeid

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January 9, 2019.

Piecing together a tribute to my father, who died six years ago today, isn’t a process that comes naturally to me; it’s difficult to think much less speak of him without invoking the amorphous, persistent strain in our just shy of three-decade-long relationship. He was 55 and recently unemployed and already ailing in more ways than one when I came into the world, and he shared with me early and often throughout my young life his belief that the genetic mutation responsible for my disability stemmed directly from “all [his] medical shit.” Tact, I quickly learned, was not a muscle he exercised properly.

I grew up watching a man old enough to be my grandfather cast aside anything resembling an aspiration toward personal progress in favor of losing himself in repeated rounds of solitaire on our family computer – he much preferred the MS-DOS version to its Windows counterpart – while listening to Frank Sinatra retrospectives hosted by Jonathan Schwartz on WNYC. He frequented the diner stationed at the end of our street, sometimes patronizing more than once a day as though he were auditioning for a role as a jobless denizen of Seinfeldian New York – a show whose premise he hated, as it were. But he loved a good yard sale and habitually came home with copies of Robert Heinlein or George R R Martin paperbacks he’d already read and pieces of furniture that would end up situated at either first-floor entryway to our living room, forbidding equitable access for any resident who might be in a wheelchair. It’s cool, I never wanted to get in there anyway.

That, for better or worse, was the Larry Klein I knew. And loved. And miss so terribly.

It’s a textbook case of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s no more. As someone pointed out to me the day after my dad’s passing, he was the only father I’d ever have; it took a few years, but I eventually grasped the comment as a provable, comforting sentiment rather than the “duh”-inspiring uselessness I inferred at first consumption. I think I got it, finally.

My dad’s spirit was unique, his essence not at all replaceable. And under the circumstances, I believe he did the best he could. I wish I could tell him as much, and more.

My father’s distinguished audiophilia, for which he was for a time world-renowned, was a rightful point of personal and professional pride. Throughout a career marked by editorships with one high-fidelity hobbyist publication or another and numerous press junkets to the Far East, friends and colleagues would invite him over to troubleshoot their systems’ piercing treble output and get his insider recommendations on amplifier units and turntables. I took advantage of his technical intuition as well during my adolescence, insisting that we rally some old speakers and wire them to create a five-channel setup in my room so the house would vibrate while I played my video games. He happily obliged, much to my mother’s chagrin.

It’s hardly a secret that my dad was keenly fond of classical music; it was almost as difficult for my mother to find a willing beneficiary onto whom she could unload all his Bach and Vivaldi vinyls as it was to cleanse his office of the forty years-worth of Audio Engineering Society publications and broken-down hi-fi equipment he’d amassed. He was known to enjoy a folk ballad or two as well, as any archetypal hippie would, and he, my mother and I were once presented with an opportunity to meet and take a picture with Pete Seeger – a moment I ruined immediately afterward by fiddling with the camera and marring the film.

But music in many ways was our thing; the ground on which we found commonality. The memory of being struck by awe as I was upon coming home from summer camp one day and hearing Sgt. Pepper for the first time as it blasted from the speakers embedded in our dining room wall is not one I’ll easily abandon, and the earliest recorded instance of cooperative gaming in our household occurred between my dad and I and LOOM, a 1990 music-driven fantasy adventure game by Lucasfilm. He introduced me to “Peter and the Wolf” and Pink Floyd and stoked my musical curiosity by supplying me with a Yamaha synthesizer whose pre-programmed rendition of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” fascinated me for hours on end. I wasn’t ever going to be as good as the little automaton in the keyboard whose sole function was to emulate our local Long Islander, the resident royalty; that level of musicianship simply wasn’t in my genetics. That’s what I believed, anyway, and Dad never proffered otherwise.

I wish I could tell him about our discovery to the contrary; about his great-niece who personifies greatness – the brilliant musician and founder of coalescent chamberfolk; the tenacious activist and wonderful human with whom we know he had so many interests in common. I wish he could hear me recount the night we met her, surrounded by music literal and other-worldly, and all the happy ways in which she’s changed my life in the short period since.

There are many wishes, to be sure; the path of longing is, well, long and bears uniquely heavy traffic. It’s an inevitable thing as one immortalizes his late father to reflect on all that could have been done differently if not better and all the examples of how he was taken for granted.

I don’t have much of a flourish with which to end this essay; no convenient coda to mark its close. My hope, however, is to convey to those whose dads are still of this earth: Listen and love.

You never know what music they’ll bestow.
 
January 9, 2019.

Piecing together a tribute to my father, who died six years ago today, isn’t a process that comes naturally to me; it’s difficult to think much less speak of him without invoking the amorphous, persistent strain in our just shy of three-decade-long relationship. He was 55 and recently unemployed and already ailing in more ways than one when I came into the world, and he shared with me early and often throughout my young life his belief that the genetic mutation responsible for my disability stemmed directly from “all [his] medical shit.” Tact, I quickly learned, was not a muscle he exercised properly.

I grew up watching a man old enough to be my grandfather cast aside anything resembling an aspiration toward personal progress in favor of losing himself in repeated rounds of solitaire on our family computer – he much preferred the MS-DOS version to its Windows counterpart – while listening to Frank Sinatra retrospectives hosted by Jonathan Schwartz on WNYC. He frequented the diner stationed at the end of our street, sometimes patronizing more than once a day as though he were auditioning for a role as a jobless denizen of Seinfeldian New York – a show whose premise he hated, as it were. But he loved a good yard sale and habitually came home with copies of Robert Heinlein or George R R Martin paperbacks he’d already read and pieces of furniture that would end up situated at either first-floor entryway to our living room, forbidding equitable access for any resident who might be in a wheelchair. It’s cool, I never wanted to get in there anyway.

That, for better or worse, was the Larry Klein I knew. And loved. And miss so terribly.

It’s a textbook case of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s no more. As someone pointed out to me the day after my dad’s passing, he was the only father I’d ever have; it took a few years, but I eventually grasped the comment as a provable, comforting sentiment rather than the “duh”-inspiring uselessness I inferred at first consumption. I think I got it, finally.

My dad’s spirit was unique, his essence not at all replaceable. And under the circumstances, I believe he did the best he could. I wish I could tell him as much, and more.

My father’s distinguished audiophilia, for which he was for a time world-renowned, was a rightful point of personal and professional pride. Throughout a career marked by editorships with one high-fidelity hobbyist publication or another and numerous press junkets to the Far East, friends and colleagues would invite him over to troubleshoot their systems’ piercing treble output and get his insider recommendations on amplifier units and turntables. I took advantage of his technical intuition as well during my adolescence, insisting that we rally some old speakers and wire them to create a five-channel setup in my room so the house would vibrate while I played my video games. He happily obliged, much to my mother’s chagrin.

It’s hardly a secret that my dad was keenly fond of classical music; it was almost as difficult for my mother to find a willing beneficiary onto whom she could unload all his Bach and Vivaldi vinyls as it was to cleanse his office of the forty years-worth of Audio Engineering Society publications and broken-down hi-fi equipment he’d amassed. He was known to enjoy a folk ballad or two as well, as any archetypal hippie would, and he, my mother and I were once presented with an opportunity to meet and take a picture with Pete Seeger – a moment I ruined immediately afterward by fiddling with the camera and marring the film.

But music in many ways was our thing; the ground on which we found commonality. The memory of being struck by awe as I was upon coming home from summer camp one day and hearing Sgt. Pepper for the first time as it blasted from the speakers embedded in our dining room wall is not one I’ll easily abandon, and the earliest recorded instance of cooperative gaming in our household occurred between my dad and I and LOOM, a 1990 music-driven fantasy adventure game by Lucasfilm. He introduced me to “Peter and the Wolf” and Pink Floyd and stoked my musical curiosity by supplying me with a Yamaha synthesizer whose pre-programmed rendition of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” fascinated me for hours on end. I wasn’t ever going to be as good as the little automaton in the keyboard whose sole function was to emulate our local Long Islander, the resident royalty; that level of musicianship simply wasn’t in my genetics. That’s what I believed, anyway, and Dad never proffered otherwise.

I wish I could tell him about our discovery to the contrary; about his great-niece who personifies greatness – the brilliant musician and founder of coalescent chamberfolk; the tenacious activist and wonderful human with whom we know he had so many interests in common. I wish he could hear me recount the night we met her, surrounded by music literal and other-worldly, and all the happy ways in which she’s changed my life in the short period since.

There are many wishes, to be sure; the path of longing is, well, long and bears uniquely heavy traffic. It’s an inevitable thing as one immortalizes his late father to reflect on all that could have been done differently if not better and all the examples of how he was taken for granted.

I don’t have much of a flourish with which to end this essay; no convenient coda to mark its close. My hope, however, is to convey to those whose dads are still of this earth: Listen and love.

You never know what music they’ll bestow.
Your dad is cool I can feel that. Reading your thread about what your dad does back then, makes me wanna recall the fond memories I have gained about my dad while growing up. My dad loves playing solitaire in his PC as well while listening to some old but gold kind of music. i can even always remember him singing to those. And he was the one who introduced that game to us. Your thread is making me wanna love, appreciate and treasure my Papa even more.
 
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