Thursday, May 18, 2017

Play God Only Knows

When you were a kid
Every night
I’d sit by your bed
And you’d say—

‘I’m not going to sleep’

And I’d say ‘Okay’

And we’d sit there
The two of us
And I’d sing to you

And you’d say—

‘Stop, stop’

Because I have
The worst voice
In the whole world

And I’d say—

‘I’ll stop when you go to sleep’

And you’d groan
And roll over
And I’d keep singing

I’d sing anything—

Italian art songs
Whatever I could think of

And you’d say—

‘Dad, you’re going to run out of songs’

And I’d say—

‘Not until you fall asleep’

And this would go on and on
And your mother would be in the next room
Yelling at me
To leave you alone
Because eventually you’d get tired
And pass out
No matter what

She wanted me to turn off the lights
And close the door
And leave you by yourself
But I…

You know, I couldn’t do that

Because that’s what my dad used to do to me

He’d leave me alone all the time
And I didn’t like it

I remember laying in bed
Wishing I had a dad like Joey Rio’s Dad
My best friend in third grade
Was named Joey Rio
And he used to tell us
That his Dad sung to him every night
And wasn’t that so embarrassing?

And we’d all go—

‘Yeah, Joey, yeah’

But secretly?

I wanted a Dad like that

Joey Rio became a doctor
And I didn’t
And I always thought
That was because
His Dad sang to him
And mine used to turn out the lights
And go drinking down the street
With Uncle Pat and Uncle Tim and Uncle This-and-That
You never saw so many uncles
I had a thousand of ‘em
And they’d all be in the living room
At three in the morning
Shouting and swearing at each other
And if I opened my bedroom door
Even a crack
To ask them to be quiet
Or just to see what they were doing
My father would holler at me
With this voice
That sounded like it was coming
Straight out of the ocean
And if I didn’t close that door right away

So I didn’t sleep much
When I was kid

And the only time I could get to sleep
Was when I’d put ‘Pet Sounds’ on
And if put the record player right by my bed
Sometimes I could fall asleep
Pretending it was Joey Rio’s Dad singing to me
Instead of Brian Wilson

So I grew up
Because what else could I do?

And I had you

And every night
You’d say ‘I’m not going to sleep’
And I’d say ‘Okay’

Because I wasn’t going to argue with you
And I was used to not sleeping
I had a lot of practice at it
So I figured I could stay up all night with you
If I had to
Didn’t bother me
Didn’t bother me at all

But I’d sing and sing
And you’d force yourself to stay awake
And your mother would swear at me
From the next room
And that was our night
Every night

But then…

Your eyes would start to close
And I’d hear your breathing get a little slower
And you’d ask me for my hand
Even though your hand was so small
It would only fit around one of my fingers

Then I’d sing your favorite song
And that would be the last thing you’d hear
Before you went to sleep

And after you were asleep
I’d say—

‘I’ll be here when you wake up’

And I always was

Because you were all there was

And you know,
The thing about being a parent is—

You know that one day
Your kid isn’t going to need you
To help her fall asleep anymore

And one day
She’s going to leave you
And you keep on being you
And you wake up
And you live a day here
And a day there
And you go to sleep
But life—

It’s not the same, you know?

Until one day
Your kid brings home
Her own kid

And the kid’s crying
And won’t go to sleep
And your daughter
She says to you—

‘Dad, He won’t go to sleep’

And you say—


And you tell her
About when she was a kid
And she wouldn’t go to sleep

And then you sing your grandson
His Mom’s favorite song

And you think—

This must be what that song’s about

All those years singing it
And you think—

This must be it

1 comment:

  1. A brilliant combination and composition of life’s reality, beauty of relationships, habits of kids, love of parents, nostalgia, continuity of sentiments, and what not? I simply love to read it again and again.