Saturday in the park,
I think it was the Fourth of July.
People dancing, people laughing,
A man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs.
Every time I hear Chicago or Steely Dan, I think of my dad. Some of my fondest memories from when I was a little girl were when I’d walk into the living room, wearing one of my favorite dresses, and there would be music bouncing off the record player. I always knew that when the turntable was spinning, we were going to have a good time. I’d start twirling around while my mom and dad would dance along with me. We’d laugh and whirl for what seemed like hours.
I used to have a pediatrician named Dr. Montalvo. But I would call him Dr. MonTACO instead. We saw Dr. Montaco regularly since I was a sickly child. And it seemed like every time I’d catch a cold, Dr. Montaco would recommend that I eat lemon and honey. The cure to all things, right? I remember sitting in the backseat of the car after one of these visits, feeling miserable. My dad started to sing the Coconut song. My mom joined along. I had no idea what they were singing but something about that song made me feel better…and smile. The only problem was the song never ended despite my cries for them to stop singing. I still hum this aloud every time I put lemon and honey in my tea. Doing it now, actually.
No we can’t dance together.
No we can’t talk at all.
When you slide on down.
While I was growing up, my dad’s love for music became more and more clear. He’d go to “jam sessions” with his friends who were also musicians and come back acting so giddy. They seemed to have a blast together. He even set up a studio in our home so he could record the songs he wrote. I later learned that he taught himself how to play the guitar, the piano, the drums and probably every other instrument. I also discovered that he and his band had made a record once upon a time; I told everyone about it. I’d listen to his songs and feel so proud of him. That’s my dad.
Too legit… Too legit to quit…
My dad would pick up songs pretty quickly. So every now and then I’d hear him whistling songs by Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, Debbie Gibson. One afternoon, he picked me up from school and I switched the radio station so I didn’t have to listen to the snoozy oldies (even though I secretly enjoyed them). Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” started to play and I wanted to run and hide. It didn’t phase him. He sang along to it and continued to sing it after the song ended. I was mortified. Ew, ew, ew. DAD!
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be.
Just a dream and the wind to carry me,
And soon I will be free.
One of my most cherished memories was when my dad and I saw Christopher Cross in what seemed like a high school auditorium in small town Brownsville, Texas. In fact, I had performed the Nutcracker on that very stage. I was a candy cane. Anyway, there were folding chairs all set up and and maybe about 100 people. I grew up to the sweet sounds of Christopher Cross. When times were tough, CC always made me feel like everything was going to be okay. And sitting in that front row, right next to my father the hero, listening to all those songs I knew so well, was such a magical moment for me. Cue my love for live music.
Well then what’s to be the reason for becoming man and wife?
Is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life?
And if loving is the answer, then who’s the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?
Oh there’s love, there is love.
Our family and friends adored hearing my dad sing and play the guitar. More times than not, he would get asked to perform at weddings, birthdays, graduations, BBQs. Nothing like having the voice of an angel serenade you on your special day. I loved seeing him up there, singing from his heart. Even though he’d sometimes grumble at yet another request to croon “There is Love” by Peter, Paul and Mary, I knew he enjoyed it, too. No hiding that big grin.
Hey Jude, don’t make it bad,
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart.
Then you can start to make it better.
My dad held a job in real estate, which meant we needed to be where the market was hot. That also meant we moved…a lot. Brownsville to Austin to Brownsville to Bedford all in what seems like a matter of 5 years. The transitions were tough on us. My brother and I had to change schools at pivotal times in our life, my mother had to switch jobs. We were far away from our family and adjusting to these new cities in the best way we could (i.e., we rebelled). Despite all that, I remember always feeling worried about my dad’s music career. Where will he practice? Will he have a room to record? Will he have time to keep playing? Whatever the case, music was always flowing through our house and bringing us comfort. Always. Well, until I broke the needle on the record player. What??? I was curious.
Well, my hands are shaky and my knees are weak,
I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet,
Who do you think of when you have such luck?
I’m in love,
I’m all shook up.
I don’t even want to tell you this story but it seems like the appropriate time. One morning, my dad and I were in the car and he told me he had a confession. He told me Elvis was not dead and that he, in fact, was Elvis. Ummm…huh? A little plastic surgery and the ultimate scheme brought him to Brownsville, Texas. So this meant that I was Elvis’ daughter and that my dad wasn’t my dad or was but…I’m not sure I’ve been angrier, more confused, sadder in my life. So then who was my mom? Does that mean my dad is wicked old? Have I been living a lie? Worst joke ever. I ignored him for a while after that. Anyway, I’m starting to get upset so I’m going to leave this story here and never speak of it again.
So this is Xmas,
And what have you done?
Another year over.
And a new one just begun.
While my dad was visiting for the holidays last year, I showed him a song I was writing. He asked me to play it and sing it for him. I was so nervous. I’m not sure I’ve ever played the guitar or sang in front of him until then. Last weekend he told me that he’s been working on the song for me and that he wants to have his band learn it. He’s just been waiting for me to finish the lyrics. After hearing how much work he’s put into this song, the one I started and never finished, I felt a genuine sense of warmth come over me. He really does believe in me. I’m going to finish the song.
I said I love you and that’s forever.
And this I promise from the heart.
I could not love you any better,
I love you just the way you are.
My dad and I have been through quite a bit. Heartbreak, failure, transition after transition, uncertainty. Life has brought some unexpected, crazy hard challenges to both of us; and whether we could physically help each other or not, he was still my dad and I was still his daughter and there was always so much love.
The music thing is just a small drop in the bucket of how much he’s given me. My love for music–however I take it in or express it–is because of him. And it’s that part of me that makes me the absolute happiest.
So dad, I may not laugh at your cheesy jokes. And you may take pictures of every single thing you see. And I may not text back immediately. But dad, I’m grateful for you. I’m proud of you. I’m amazed by you. Thank you for always being there for me when times get tough. Thank you for guiding me to the music. Thank you for showing me that taking risks, forgiving others and yourself, being kind and laughing the whole time is the only way to live. To this day you have given me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. And that’s believing in me.
Happy Father’s Day, Papa. Sending love and light and musical wishes to you on this day and every day. I can’t wait to jam with you again. And…I love you.
I’m going to leave you with this video he sent me and my brother over Christmas and the note he attached to it. This is my special dad.
To Isaac and Fiana,
The best things that I can ever be proud of in this life, is my two kids, whom are no longer those youngsters whom I went through a big part of my life with. All the good times, bad times, and confused times, I want you both to know that I love you and I can’t ever imagine what life would have been like….without you both. You are the future of this family and whatever memories you may have, may they always be like this song. John Lennon was one of my greatest inspirations and allowed me to open my mind to sing out what was in my heart! Thank you for being in my life. The two gentleman here are my dear friends. The first is Robert Garces, whom has a boy and a girl. The second you might remember is Tom Cuellar, whom played in our band and was a friend of mine for many years. We had fun doing this and did it for over 10 times until we even got to the point of accepting what we had re-arranged. Its for you all and all our friends. But first…..for my kids. Merry Christmas to both of you.
Very proud of you both.