Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jerry Hughes, R.I.P.

My Dad passed away today. It wasn't totally unexpected -- he's been having severe breathing problems for the past few years, and lately, except for doctor's appointments, he's been pretty much housebound.

He's been living these few years in Florida, so I haven't actually seen him in 2 years, although we spoke on the phone almost every week. In some ways it's for the best, because he's been really sad and frustrated with the limitations this condition imposed on him. But our family will all miss him, and I feel particularly bad for my stepmom -- the two of them have been inseparable for the last 40 years or more.

I'm posting this on my music blog because I need to vent somewhere, but also because I was thinking earlier tonight how much my Dad contributed to my love of music. I always knew I came from a line of police officers -- my grandfather was a cop, my father was a cop, and eventually my sister became one too. (And my teenage son says he'd like to become one, although I'm kind of hoping he settles into a safer, and more appreciated, career). But it was only a few years ago when I was working on my lineage on ancestry.com that my Dad mentioned to me that his Dad had also been a piano player, and before he joined the police force, he supported my grandmother and himself by playing at resorts, etc. (My grandfather died before I was born, so I never knew this about him).

I did know about my Dad's love of music. Growing up, he always had record albums (ask your parents, kids) of various saloon singers, including a bunch by his favorite, Jimmy Roselli. He liked to sing along with them sometimes, and he actually had quite a good voice. And one of his claims to fame, if you can believe it, is that my Dad once came in second in a talent concert to a then-unknown novelty singer who later became known as Tiny Tim.

After he retired from the force, my Dad made his living as a bartender, and for several years, he lived one of his dreams by working as a singing bartender -- he'd tend bar during the day, but on weekend nights, he and a guitarist friend entertained the regulars with hours worth of saloon songs.

Unfortunately, because my father grew up in the '40s and '50s while I grew up in the '60s and '70s, there was always a huge schism in our musical taste. I think there was a more abrupt change between these two eras regarding what music was popular than there has been between any two generations since. Rock changed everything, and a lot of people from my father's generation could never hear it as anything but noise. (Mind you, my children both profess to hate the music I like, but I think if they did like it, they'd never admit it -- I think they'd lose their union membership or something).

I did used to enjoy watching my Dad sing, though. One of the things I always regretted is I didn't feel able to have him sing at our wedding. My mother's and his relationship was always bitter after the break-up, and Denise's Mom and Dad had a similar situation. So we had a wedding where each of the four in-laws had their own corner of the room. Denise's stepmother wasn't invited to the wedding, although we'd have liked to have had her there, because the split between her Dad and Mom was too recent, and the feelings were still too raw. But her father, who sang regularly with his church and had a beautiful operatic voice, got to sing a few songs at the reception. Although my Mom wasn't thrilled about the idea, my stepmom was invited, as my parents' divorce had been 20 years earlier, but it felt like it would have been rubbing it in on her if we asked my Dad to sing. So sadly, we didn't. I really wish we could have, but all things considered, I guess the compromises we had to make mostly worked for everyone.

Anyway, I'm thinking I've inherited my love of music largely from my Dad (although my Mom had her own record collection, so she certainly didn't discourage it any). So Dad, thank you for that -- it's been one of the greatest blessings in my life. And although our taste in music is totally different, I've always tried to encourage that love in my own kids.

Rest in peace, Dad. I love you, and I'll always treasure that you were my Dad, and remember how your love of music made my life better.