Sunday, March 26, 2017

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today's Dad's birthday. It's a hard day for a lot of us but one we also cherish because of the memories it brings, the happiness associated with those memories and the encouragement to make some of our own. That pic was taken as he and I were sampling a few local brews in Layton Utah. Dad did enjoy a good beer!

My own son, Sean sent me the following short remembrance a few weeks ago. We thought we'd save it for today. More remembrances will be posted later on, but this was the one that kick started us into writing them. Only three words were touched from the original sent from Sean. Here it is:

­­Norman Ellis Pennington was a normal man. He had two wives, three sons and many grandchildren. In the grand scheme of things, he was typical. It’s funny how one person can seem so grand, so large, when compared to your own life. I’m only twenty years old, and nearly every thing he said to me resonates in my mind when I consider my life.

My grandfather continues to be one of the most consistent and persistent influences in my own life. Throughout my life I’ve always heard that I resemble him. We looked nothing alike: he was a skinny, blonde white man and I’m a thick, brown haired, brown man. Yet, we are very much alike. The same aloof, yet kind spirit runs through my veins as it did through his. Our shameless sentimentality, shown through old American standards, still carries on through this day. Although we had reservations about expressing emotions, it only took him, and now me, a few shots of whiskey to open up. One of my most poignant memories is of him crying when “In My Life” came on and he opened up about his own life with his ex-wife. I had never seen such honesty and vulnerability. I think about it every day.

He introduced me to the blues. I learned the blues via a friend’s brother (learning the 12-bar blues from that guy), yet he taught me what the blues actually meant. Every time I play a blues song, even if the lyrics are comical, every lick, every note, reminds me of him. He encouraged me in person when my own father was too far away to do it. He played me every blues album he owned to show me how the greats did it. When it came to the blues, he was the first person that came to mind when I listen to it. Most of the artists I admire in the blues genre came from evenings where he told me about his favorite artists and he played them. I miss the times when he’d tell me about his favorite artists keeping the blues alive. I’d give anything for him to tell me about one of his new favorite artists. There have been a few he might’ve liked, including Leon Bridges (even if he is more of a soul singer.)

I love music. I’m an English major (former Music Education major), and yet I listen to certain songs and think of the memories when my grandfather played those songs from his stereo, singing every lyric out of key. My own musical philosophy comes from those experiences: if a non-musician can’t sing along to it, then it isn’t worth much. My grandpa could sing along to the best of them: Sonny Terry, B.B. King, Albert King, and, of course, The Rolling Stones. Whenever I play those artists, I can’t help but think of him.

And then I think of artists he may have liked. Lately, I’ve been listening to Julie London’s Julie Is Her Name. He didn’t own it in his own personal CD collection (which I now own), but what if he had loved it as well? Questions like that torment me. When it comes to grief, questions like that hurt the most. No matter how much I loved him, and how much I picked his brain, there’ll never be another chance when I can ask him questions like that. There are questions I want to ask him that will never be answered.

Overall, grief seems to be the feeling of knowing that you’ll never be able to learn about a person ever again. In my own apartment, which I share with a friend who collaborates with me on silly musical endeavors, I see constant reminders of him: an African decoration he had, a portrait of Copenhagen, even my own cooking ware that was handed down to me. I can’t even cook bacon and eggs without being reminded of him!

I’m glad these reminders exist. Now, I’m listening to “Moonlight Mile,” his favorite song, and hoping he’d somehow come back and talk to me. Little moments like that are the moments I miss: the moments when he’d have a beer in his hand and give me advice about life that still proves to be good advice even to this day. I miss the times he’d take me to get a Happy Meal at McDonald’s when I was younger, even if those trips were only a few minutes. It’s amazing how one person can have such an impact on one’s life.

I love you Grandpa.


More to follow...