My father-in-law’s birthday is approaching and when looking for a musical post to repost, I found this tribute to him. One of my favorite memories of him is singing old standards with my mother-in-law at night on a long trip back home.
Around the holidays, I often think of my father-in-law Tom, who had a voice that he would take to a velvety deep level. It was not bass level deep, but he could get close to that low if he needed to. He loved music and sang in his small church, actually leading a small ensemble each Sunday with his guitar. Christmas-time brought out the carols and he would relish in singing them.
Some of my favorite memories are when he asked my wife to sing with him on Sunday. She could harmonize extremely well with that deep voice of his. We would arrive at their house on Saturday night and the two of them would rehearse. My mother-in-law kept a dark house so it was very ethereal listening to them play with only small lights illuminating their efforts.
Tom had a rough childhood having to work at an early age delivering German language newspapers in Detroit. Yet, his wages would be handed to his mother to help meet their needs. His real father and mother divorced and he was raised eventually by his mother and step-father. He did not talk much about his childhood, but he did talk about his desire to be a car engineer and musician.
He could not afford to be the former, but he was a professional musician for a while playing various gigs, gatherings, etc. around the area. Unfortunately, he had a tendency to drink away too much of his profits, so my mother-in-law gave him an ultimatum delivered with his suitcases on the porch when he came home. He decided he needed to get a job away from the alcohol and they were married until he died in 1997.
Eventually, he moved down south to become a farmer, where Lee, his wife, grew up. After about a year of farming, he decided if they were going to eat, he better get a job with a salary. So, he became a textile machinery representative repairing the machines. That would be as close as he would get to being an engineer.
In addition to singing and playing the guitar (and accordion before it burned up in a fire), he loved photography and filming. We have footage of him narrating videos he recorded that are priceless with his enthusiasm and deep voice. Even small birds, butterflies, bees, etc. would be entertaining with his excited narration.
So, Tom, here is a toast to you. We hope you had a merry Christmas and please know you are in our thoughts. We hope you are playing your guitar in heaven for everyone to hear.
Note: This is one of the classic hymns my wife would harmonize with her father.