When memories of loved ones pop up unexpectedly

I watched a poignant video where a young woman was presented with a birthday gift of a talking teddy bear. The bear had a prerecorded voice and she soon realized the voice was her father’s speaking to her using her name. It brought tears as her dad had passed away a year before.

This beautiful story made me think of two poignant movie scenes and a real story. The first movie scene is from “Peggy Sue got married.” Kathleen Turner played Peggy Sue, who went back in time to avoid marrying her boyfriend who eventually left her. The poignant scene occurs when she answers the phone at her mom and dad’s house and hears her grandmother’s voice, who had died years before her time travel occurred. It gives me chills to write this as she spoke to a departed loved one once again.

The other movie scene is from “Field of Dreams,” with Kevin Costner. After building a baseball field in his corn crop, the now deceased players of the Chicago White Sox, who had been banned for gambling, appear to play. But, the real reason he is inspired to build the field is his father comes to play as a young man and former ballplayer. When he asks his dad for a game of catch, it is a very emotional for me as I used to play catch with my father.

While these movies are dramatically poignant, we came across an old cassette tape of my father-in-law singing. Before he passed in 1997, he used to play guitar and sing in clubs, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, church, senior living centers, etc. So, we just sat and listened to his crooning, as he performed old standards from the 1940 – 60s. It was a treat for my wife and me. One of my favorite memories is returning from New York at night, with him and my mother-in-law singing old songs like these while riding in the back seat.

Cherish your memories, especially when they unexpectedly pop up. Sometimes, all it takes is a prompt – a song, a movie clip, an old friend, or an old piece of clothing – to flush out the memories.

Two favorite memories

Many moons ago, my wife and I drove to New York City with her parents. Our mission was to visit her sister’s family on Governor’s Island, since, her brother-in-law was in the Coast Guard stationed there. The trip was eventful and a lot of fun, but two memories linger on as favorites of mine.

The first memory is of a kids play area which overlooked Manhattan. We would sit on benches as our niece and nephew played in a huge sandbox with the skyline across the river. In the early evening after dinner, it offered such a relaxing view and allowed easy conversation. I should note the Coast Guard moved off the island and those two kids are now married, one with two of her own, and the other expecting a first.

The second memory was on the ride home. While we split the ride into two pieces on the way there, we decided to drive the fourteen hours home in one day. But, that set the stage for the memory which was my wife’s parents singing old songs in the backseat after sunset.

My father-in-law was a good guitarist and singer who tried to make a living early on in a band. Unfortunately, he was unable to make a living, so he limited his singing to church and retirement homes, as he got a more mundane job. So, he knew lots of songs to sing on our journey home. We heard Sinatra, Bennett, Como, Clooney, Martin, Cole, and many others.

They are both gone now, but when I think of them, this memory comes to mind. What a nice trip. Thanks for the memories. What are some of yours?

My father-in-law, the man with the deep voice

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.