It was during the summer of 2001 that I started to REALLY “branch out” and “discover” more music on my own…I grew up primarily listening to “oldies” and the “oldies” radio station(s) because that’s what my parents would listen to and have on in the car. And I was perfectly content with that. You could say they were verrrrry lucky with me. (That might be a subject for some other time, though)
So it was 2001 that I “officially” “got into” country music. Basically, “contemporary country,” late-90s/early-2000s. Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Shania Twain, loads of others. Established artists, newer ones, a mix. If it played on CMT or the Toldeo country station (99.9FM?), I considered it country, and that was the stuff I got into.
Skip ahead a year, to Fall of 2002. I came across a Joe Nichols song that hit me pretty hard with its opening verses.
My dad chased monsters from the dark
He checked underneath my bed
And he could lift me with one arm
Way up over top his head
He could loosen rusty bolts
With a quick turn of his wrench
He pulled splinters from his hand
And never even flinched
In 13 years, I’d never seen him cry
But the day that Grandpa died, I realized
Unsinkable ships sink
Unbreakable walls break
Sometimes the things you think will never happen
Happen just like that
Unbendable steel bends
If the fury of the wind is unstoppable
I’ve learned to never underestimate
Well, change that “13 years” to “9 years” and it was basically my story.
I had just turned 9 in early December 1989. As I recall, virtually every Christmas we’d visit Zanesville and Pittsburgh–Dad’s family and Mom’s family–but that year was a bit different. Grandpa–Dad’s Dad–was in the hospital. I don’t recall any WORDS, but I do remember going in WITH Dad, to see Grandpa.
And then before we left Zanesville, we went back to the hospital, and Dad went in alone. I don’t recall for sure, but I have a guilty half-remembered memory of not wanting to go in again. (Thinking as I type this now in 2022, it’s likely I had already come to have an aversion to hospitals). I was Nine, and “a little kid” (compared to now 41) and blissfully ignorant of so much in the world and life and alllll that.
Skip ahead a couple days, and we had some sort of gathering. I don’t recall if it was a “Christmas party” or just some thing for “the kids,” but I remember having at least a couple friends over. Whether I’ve amalgamated memories, blending something in that wasn’t there, I couldn’t swear to in court.
But…December 28, 1989. While we were going about being kids, the house phone rang. I can’t remember if I picked up immediately that “something” was “wrong” or not. I suspect Mom came and got me, probably took me aside to tell me.
That call was from Zanesville, and Grandpa was gone.
Again with 32 years between now and then and the faulty memory of a barely-9-year-old, but I then remember finding Dad in their bedroom to tell him I was sorry about Grandpa, and seeing him in tears.
It was the first time I’d ever seen him cry, and it would be a lotta years after that before I would ever really realize the significance of that moment.
And there’s a LOT of stuff that “hit me” in my college years. I have a vague memory that the first time it really, truly hit ME just what I’d lost, what WE’D lost, with Grandpa, was in my dorm room one night when it kinda crashed into me and I broke down in tears.
But seeing Dad cry, I suppose that was the first time I saw that side of him; saw him hurt, and not the absolute indestructible papa bear that wasn’t afraid of anything or vulnerable to anything.
And back to that song… “Sometimes the things you think will never happen, happen just like that…” How terribly, heartbreakingly true.
Intellectually, you may know something’s gonna happen. Intellectually, logically, statistically, clinically, coldly, simple fact-ly, whatever. But your heart doesn’t necessarily believe it. Your heart may never be ready, however much you tell yourself intellectually that you are, however much you steel your mind for a pending loss, etc.
And thanks to the heart, that way…sometimes the things you feel will never actually happen [to you and/or your loved ones], happenjust like that.
Tuesday, December 28, 2021, Dad was rushed outta here by the EMTs to transport him to the hospital. I say “rushed” because I didn’t get a chance to TALK to Dad before they had him out. I had noticed the clock on the wall said 11:37am somewhere around there. Never realized it’d be so…”significant.”
35 1/2 hours later we got that call. Just short of 39 hours after he was transported from the Cave, from this house…he was gone.
Unsinkable ships sink, unbreakable walls break…