The Karaoke King

Frank Sinatra, you’ve been served!  I imagine this Father’s Day there may be a “sing off” going down inside the pearly gates where Rat Pack crowd cigar smoke doesn’t stink and carries with crooning over the clouds.

I put Google to work early this morning to do its stuff and after a few keystrokes it quickly served up the lyrics to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.  Though appreciative of Sinatra’s music I am not a “fan” in regards to personal ownership of any of his tunes nor do I know any of them by heart.  My Dad, however, loved that song in particular and when occasions arose for him to dust off his Karaoke King crown it was one of his two favorite “go to’s”.  We played that song at his memorial and it amazed me how prolific the words were, perfect for his “swan song”.

My full family went on a short, Caribbean cruise together several years ago, generously gifted by my parents to celebrate my dad’s retirement together.  Predictably one of my dad’s favorite activities sailing with my mom on their umpteen cruises was the onboard karaoke.  I thought this was pretty hilarious.  My Dad doing karaoke – you MUST be kidding!  Can’t wait to tell my friends about this!  Ha, ha, ha, and blah, blah, blah.

Let me tell you what – he FLOORED them!  Yes, if there was no age limit, my Dad could truly have been the next American Idol!  Well, that and a makeover.  Sorry, Dad.  Your tragic wardrobe choices, most notably the shiny, silver Keds with the dark dress socks and plaid shorts, live on in infamy  But I digress.

I very begrudgingly went to see him “perform”.  Although I didn’t let my folks know that was the adjective I would have used I’m certain they were wise to it but appreciative of my attendance all the same.  I went into the lounge being used for this hokey pastime and took a seat.  The girls performing upon my arrival were tipsy, young, and giddy…..and just plain AWFUL, exactly the performance one would expect from cruise ship karaoke.  Painful to sit through.

When the warbling, drunken, trio’s song blessedly came to a close the Cruise Director called out a man’s name whose companions apparently had signed him up without his knowledge because he adamantly refused to do it while his friends caused a jolly scene, egging him on to no avail.  Dad was next in line and offered to go ahead.  Problem solved.

Here we go.  Keep a straight face.  I know I can do it.

He. Was. AMAZING!

“And nowwwwwwwwww……the time is near……”

BEAUTIFUL!!  He sounded BEAUTIFUL!

All of the sudden the attending crew member broke out these slowly spinning, multi-colored spotlights on him.  Ambiance, why thank you.

The room got quiet.  He sang like a tenor angel.

His first round of the chorus, “I did it myyyyyyyyyyy waaaaaaay.”, had the audience erupting in applause & whistles.  He was a supahstah!  As he continued singing there were occasional whoops and whistles, and even one loud & enthusiastic “YEAHHHHHH, BOB!” from the back of the room (they had introduced him by his first name before he began.).

As the song and my papa songbird came to a close, I kid you not, he got a heartfelt standing ovation from everyone in the room.  There was no denying – it wasn’t just me – he was incredible.  I have never been so proud of my father as I was at that moment and I will never forget it.  It is, without a doubt, something that will make me smile in 30 years as it does now while I remember and write.

The following day I participated in some additional cruise ship fodder, some type of trivia game where I was paired with an older couple who looked to be around their 60’s.  As we chatted casually they mentioned how they were just in that same lounge the day before and I said I was too, to see my Dad sing karaoke.  Turns out that’s why they had been there too.  The woman asked what my Dad sang and I said, “My Way” and she exclaimed, “FRANK?  Your Dad is FRANK???” and began acting like a wrinkled school girl!

Again, I smile even bigger now.  I wonder if there’s groupies in heaven?

And now, the end is near

And so I face the final curtain

My friend, I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I’ve traveled each and every highway

But more, much more than this

I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do

And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course

Each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this

I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all, when there was doubt

I ate it up and spit it out

I faced it all and I stood tall

And did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried

I’ve had my fill my share of losing

And now, as tears subside

I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that

And may I say – not in a shy way

Oh no, oh no, not me

I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got

If not himself, then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels

And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows

And did it my way

Yes, it was my way

(My favorite picture of my dad, sitting inside a giant bubble maker that he made)

An African Boy Named Bob

Racism, poverty, oppression, thou hast an enemy and thy name is BOB!

Trust in today’s shift from this blog’s primary focus on humor and travel to indulge in  unapologetic “heartwarming”.  Warm fuzzies guaranteed – stick around!  Travel is still involved though not my own, this lesson not involving fiascos or mischief but instead honor, example, & kindness. For all seeking menu alternatives to the cold & unappetizing chunks of distressing news and disheartening stories offered up by the servers at the shark frenzy buffet, I serve up this infinitely more appetizing & refreshing tale!  And it goes a lil’ somethin’ like this:

The first of the two “Bob’s” in our story is my father.  He passed away in 2004, a (young) senior, Caucasian man hailing from a small & un-heard of town in Indiana.  He left a beautiful wake positive marks, memories, & respect with all whom he crossed paths with.  He was a good father and a good man.  He made me and countless others laugh in eye rolling and, frequently, embarrassing ways and instilled in me an annoyed, frustrated, yet ultimately appreciated skill regarding mischievous, laughter filled, sarcasm & sparring.  His wardrobe choices bordered on tragic, his vibrant and passionate personality and melodic, deep, & talented singing voice never lost on those who encountered it.  A product of a poverty stricken upbringing, he was raised across the street from train tracks with his parents, a brother, and five sisters in a three bedroom, 1 bath household.  With purpose and determination, he embraced education, both personally & professionally, and became known as a standout in his mathematical career and, mostly privately and always humbly, as a man who strove to improve the lives of others through providing inspiration and opportunities otherwise unavailable.

Twenty some years ago my parents together realized a dream as they set off on an eagerly anticipated African safari.  During their trip my parents found themselves so deeply touched and impressed by their young, local, male, tour guide that my father took it upon himself to rally with their other, newly met, tour companions.  Without direct solicitation but merely through intentionally casual conversation relaying a dream, my father managed to gather significant funds from the other travelers in their group to help this young man begin his own safari/guide outfit in Africa, one that he had wistfully indicated was his dream.  Little did he know that this casual conversation with an American tourist would open a door to a new and better life of independence and financial freedom.

And now we move on to Bob #2.

Fast forward eight years after my father’s passing and 15+ years after the trip in reference, the “safari group” continued to remain in occassional touch, primarily over the holidays.  On this long after holiday season, I received a phone call from my mother to share the most amazing information she had just received from someone within the group.  The news was that a message had been received down the internet pipeline from this long-ago man with a dream, a resident of Tanzania, Africa.  The man now had a son…..and the son’s name is BOB.

Yes, there is an African boy in Tanzania named BOB, after my father.

We all hope to leave a legacy.  Some type of positive mark, memory, or difference in this world after we are gone and I cannot think of a better one.  I am filled with pride, joy, gratitude, and appreciation for being raised by a man with such heart, values, and kindness.  I am quite certain that when this son introduces himself in his native country that it is met with question and that the answer always involves my father in the most wonderful of ways.

A favorite quote of mine goes, “Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”.  Helen Keller said that, not Bob….but he could have.

DAD
Bob in his safari hat, ready for adventure!