Today is your birthday. Can I still say that? Gone seven years, you would have been 96. I suppose one doesn’t count years in the other world. But for those of us still here, the day is a chance to remember and honor and celebrate the you that was— and still is, forever engraved in my heart.
Would you like to hear some news? I was in Newark last weekend. The ugly Budweiser plant is still by the airport, but downtown Newark is quite different, revived by the power of art and money (in the form of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center). And things are quite different in other ways. No more the Amos and Andy show of my childhood or Rochester serving Jack Benny, but the staff of this remarkable arts center almost all black, many of them women. I’m so tired of going to all-white Conferences with black folks as security guards, janitors, hotel maids— here it was almost reversed! And perhaps some day this nonsense about race will have passed like a bad dream and we can drop the baggage of all the horror of what has happened. In the Christian heaven, I wonder if there are black and white angels.
Anyway. There’s something interesting going on here. These folks at NJPAC are more interested in what I have to offer with Jazz and Orff than any institution I’ve encountered, despite my many years of efforts to get folks with status and money and power on my team to spread the good news further. Perhaps there will be some poetic justice in the first Jazz/Orff program at this level happening some 25 minutes from where you raised me. It felt fun to introduce myself to the folks there and tell them I grew up in Roselle and have them all nod their heads because they actually know where it is!
Of course, I thought about renting a car and driving down Sheridan Avenue yet again. But after hearing last year about Hurricane Sandy destroying our house and seeing a photo of some strange building in its place, I don’t think I could face it. It hurts my heart to think of it, the childhood place where my dreams were hatched gone. But this indeed is the work of the years to come, to detach from concrete manifestations of spirit and energy and make acquaintance with the invisible forms. Like the way I miss your voice and feeling the vibration on your back as you talk.
Seven years, Dad. A long time and as you know, been more focused on Mom for most of that time and her now seven months gone, still fresher in my memory. Have you gotten together? How does that work?
As for news, your great granddaughter Zadie just turned three yesterday. We saw her on Skype yesterday and I played happy birthday on bagpipe while she covered her ears. Then she unwrapped her birthday present from me, a big drum, which she played with great rhythm, care and nuance. I can’t wait to see her in a week or so. And Ian, who’s still driving your car. Sadly, Ginny and I won’t spend Thanksgiving together, one of the first times, because I’ll be up there in Portland and she's staying down in Sebastopol. And your granddaughter Talia will turn 30 on Wednesday! Imagine that!
Well, lots more news, but this is a public forum and no one else is interested. Just thought I’d share this little birthday card to remind others to think and write to their departed one on their birthdays— or whenever the spirit moves them.
I love you forever.
Still your son,
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