Josh’s goldfish died a week ago. It wasn’t unexpected as “Goldie” had not been looking good lately. Josh was understandably upset and although he wanted to have a funeral for “Goldie,” he wasn’t ready to say goodbye because he was still processing his feelings. So we decided to have the talk about the good memories we have of “Goldie” and that seemed to help Josh and Chloe get through some of their grief.
This past Sunday afternoon, as I was sitting on the porch watching the kids play in the front yard, I thought about the conversation we had with the kids last summer after Grandma passed. We were sharing fond memories of the good times we had with Grandma when we started going around the room and asking, “What would you miss if I were gone?”
We talked about how we would miss Stephanie’s gardens as well as her arts and crafts projects. The world is Stephanie’s palette and her garden is an expression of her love and creativity. Her passion for art projects is an extension of that originality that allows her to share the world’s endless possibilities with the kids.
We laughed and joked as we talked about all of the wonderful traits that each of our kids possess. They bring levity, love, compassion, kindness and fun into the lives of everyone who comes in contact with them. They are thoughtful and caring but they can also be the life of the party as they are filled with an abundance of unbridled energy. But in the end, we told them the truth; they are good kids who brighten our lives each and every day.
So when it was my turn to ask the question, Stephanie looked me straight in the eye and said, “Your singing” without batting an eyelash.
“My singing?” I asked. “I don’t sing that often around the house.”
“You sing all the time, Dad,” Josh said.
“Like when you put me to sleep,” Chloe added.
“And when we are in the bath,” Josh joked.
“And when you’re doing the dishes, the laundry, in the shower, playing with kids,” Stephanie said. And after the three of them had rattled off a litany of places where I indulge in a song or two around the house, Stephanie looked at me and said, “The house would be too silent, I would miss your singing; it makes our house a home.”
I was awestruck and dumbfounded. I wasn’t aware that I was singing all over the house or that my crooning meant as much as it did to my wife and kids. It is no secret that I sing; I have always sung to the kids when they go to bed at night, I sing to the birds, I have been a lead singer in a bar band, I do sing karaoke from time to time and this year I had the pleasure of competing in the American Idol Experience in Disney World, but the fact that I was constantly bursting into song around the house was news to me.
So I started paying attention to my actions over the past year and I have to admit that my wife and kids are right, I sing all the time. What I also noticed is that it has become a large part of our family identity; my children are constantly singing as well. And there are times when I catch Stephanie singing to herself or to the kids for no reason whatsoever; she just sings because she feels like it.
Chloe is the most demonstrative performer in the family and is willing to sing with me at the drop of a hat but I have also noticed that when she is playing with her toys all by herself, she will sing or make up a number of songs. Joshua is shy when it comes to singing but he is infatuated with musical instruments. I have noticed that he is drawn to the musical instruments people have given him over the years and that he will hum to himself as he methodically tries to get the sound he hears inside his head to come out on the instrument as he experiments with different notes. It brightens my day whenever I hear them engage in their musical moments because I feel like I have given them the gift of music and hopefully that gift will stay with them forever.
The real lesson for me, though, is the final statement that Stephanie made, “I would miss your singing; it makes our house a home.” I was shy about singing when I was growing up. My mom didn’t encourage my interest in music. She wanted my brothers and me to keep our nose to the grindstone and focus on getting good grades. She felt like acting, music and writing were frivolous dreams that I shouldn’t put too much time or effort into. They were hobbies for my free time not a focus for a future vocation. My job was to get good grades, go to a good college and get a good job.
And one of the first things I did when I graduated from college was to form a rock band. I have been involved in Community Theater from time to time and as you all know by now, I write. Dreams are what make my life worthwhile. Aspirations are what fill my heart with joy and make me happy. Sharing my love of music with my family is a large part of what makes my house a home.
I have caught Stephanie watching me sing to our kids and at other random moments when I am singing around the house and the admiration I see in her eyes warms my heart. I am thankful that she told me how my singing makes her feel and I am happy that my children were a part of the conversation because it was important for me to hear them express how my musical indulgences have had a profound impact on their lives. It made me proud.
Life is short; sometimes too short. And when the people you love the most in the world pass on, what will you miss most about them? Have you told them? I am glad my family told me because as we explore the world through our love of music, we grow closer together as a family.