“Need not apply for the job that doesn’t exist.”
I was told this by my father once.
(–Or dad as I called him
Oz as his immediate family called him.
Joe as his employers called him.
Smokey by his coworkers when burning,
And Sparky when welding.)
I had started to volunteer and part time for work
He meant that I wasn’t getting paid enough
To work my ass off
Pessimist or realist?
I argued it looked good on a resume.
He countered, Ok but it doesn’t look good in your pocket.
My dad was a down to earth guy with a penchant for the ladies
Older and younger.
This got him into a lot of trouble where my family was concerned
I just shook my head and saw him as my dad.
Did I mention that one of his arms was smaller than the other?
Some may look at this as a deformity… well I guess it was.
Many people told him as he was growing up
That he wouldn’t be able to do just about everything.
But to me he was my dad.
Did I mention he played professional trumpet?
He thought it would be an easy instrument to play.
After all it only had three buttons.
He always hid his hand and arm from view
Except when playing.
Toward the end I picked up my trumpet again.
You read that correctly.
And he picked up his from his younger years.
We played in concert with each other
Tunes of old—or as many people call them
My favorites to play with him accompanying me?
“Over the Rainbow”—Judy Garland style
“This Love of Mine”
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”
I could go on and on.
We always warmed up with “Malaguena”
Once, when he came to visit me,
We went to a music store on Broadway.
We got a trumpet out of the case
Pretending we were going to buy it.
Very timidly he took the instrument from my hands
And looked it over.
We played, warmed up on it,
Everyone got quiet in the store.
I whispered to him,
“There you just played on Broadway.”
He looked down as a huge smile came across his face.
Maybe he was embarrassed.
But I can tell you this much,
He played the hell out of that instrument.
Sometimes he would stop playing and just watch me
This made me nervous
But I think he was sad
Not proud… or maybe a little of that too
But he would get a faraway look in his eyes
Like he was either seeing himself the way he was
Or seeing me for the first time
I’ll never know.
Distance meant nothing.
Sometimes, we would practice together via speakerphone.
I would play lead and he would play harmony.
The last song we were going to play together?
“Dream a little Dream of Me”.
I had the sheet music to it.
Had started studying it.
And then something happened.
We stopped playing trumpet
We never talked about it.
But I could sense things were changing.
And when he passed away?
My mom told me,
“He was excellent, but life could have been better.”
Did I mention he used to drive bus?
As a child the night would always calm me down.
My parents would put me in their car
And go for a drive.
I had every kind of illness allergy wise that you could think of.
My dad would get angry and frustrated with me sometimes.
I’d get an asthma attack if I laughed too hard.
I’d scratch at all of the rashes and hives I had.
Constantly itching and wheezing
Always calming down when he was behind the wheel.
My dad and my mom could never understand that.
And looking back on it I can’t either.
Welder, burner, and teacher of both,
He even cut some of the rails for the NYC subway.
The A line.
Because of this,
Riding the subway made me smile.
Yeah, riding the subway made me smile.
After all, nobody cares what you do on the subway.
We would drive down the highways on our many trips.
My dad pointing to the light poles—
“I made that. I cut the base.”
And he actually had.
Coast to coast.
Now I look on those highways and rails alone.
But when I drive at night?
The light always reminds me he’s actually there
And will be.
–At least until they construct new lighting along the length of route 80.
If and when that happens, I promise to pick up my trumpet again.