To say music ran on my father’s side of the family would be incredibly inaccurate. Music flowed majestically through my mother’s side of the family. That is for certain (you’ll learn of that later). But music flowed through my father’s blood about as easily as mushroom gravy flowed from its pitcher held six inches from the mashed potatoes: It hits the target, but it’s a bit messy and all over the place. Yes. That would be more accurate indeed.
Don’t get me wrong. He could sing. Sort of. Most of the notes he bellowed were spot on. The other notes, not so much. Looking back, I don’t think there was one time when dad sang softly. Even in church.
My parents were devoted Christians. I think my mother was pregnant with me when she and my father sang in the choir at one or two Billy Graham crusades. Growing up, I recall the three of us attending church almost every Sunday.
Ah, the drives to church on Sunday mornings. Da always drove, mum always sat in the passenger seat across from him, and I always sat in the back. Unfortunately, the only drives to church on Sunday mornings that I remember were the ones when mum would get out her white, fine linen handkerchief, lick the wadded center portion of it, and then turn around and wipe the corners of my mouth and cheeks. Yuck! God, I hated that! Going to church smelling like my mother’s spit was never part of my plan!
Anyway, I digress. This particular recollection took place on a Sunday morning at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon in the mid 70s. I was at least 8 or 9 years old at the time.
My father and his… “singing.” During a congregational singing of a hymn at the close of the service, I remember the organist started off playing boisterously and triumphantly as though ushering in Christ’s return, but then quieted just in time as those in attendance sang the familiar verses. I would later learn that that was an act of perfection and mastery for an organ player. Within moments, however, what started out as and what should have been a beautiful close of a service became a memory of which I will never forget. Unfortunately.
For whatever reason, my father, evidently forgetting that he was not singing in a choir at a Billy Graham crusade, sang so loudly over other congregants that a few heads turned including that of my mother’s. The looks on their faces… some smiled as if they were thinking, “Oh! Listen to how much he loves Jesus!” But some weren’t smiling at all as if they were thinking, “Oh! Must he love Jesus that much?”
As for me, I was easily embarrassed, to say the least. I knew I was because I could feel the heat all over my face as one would feel when turning red. When the hymn was over (which I was extremely thankful for), I looked up at him and he looked back at me with a beaming smile of pride on his face. But that smile slowly disappeared as he looked at mum. The scowl on her face said it all. He asked, “What’s wrong?” “Making a joyful noise unto the Lord is one thing, dear,” she replied. “But that noise coming from you just then… I think even God plugged His ears.”
He never sang that loudly again, with the exception of every Easter and every Christmas. But, then again, so did many others, including myself. And I wasn’t embarrassed by that at all. (Probably because I was a much better singer. Thanks, mum.)