Jun 192016
 

Sorry, this is arriving a little late for ‘Father’s Day’, but I hope things are going well. Your three great-grandchildren are fine… the kids send their regards.

I’ve come across a lot of your things during our current move.

I found your official black and white 8×10 navel photograph: full uniform and double-breasted overcoat, with your cap slightly cocked to one side – your broad smile reminiscent of a young, handsome 1940’s movie star.

I see that you enlisted early in the 2nd of the “great wars” – upholding a proud family tradition. Yet, I found papers indicating that, in less than a year, you were discharged as medically “unfit for duty” due to an epileptic seizure.  How devastating that must have been for you… such a loss of self-esteem!

As a kid, I remember how frightening it was to see you shaking uncontrollably on the floor while shocked adults tried to subdue your convulsing body. Thankfully, drugs were developed to control these seizures. I know your generation didn’t like to talk openly – choosing to keep things locked inside – however, I feel I would have better understood “you” if you had.

“Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got”
The Living Years by Mike & The Mechanic

Reading through your diaries – back during those nasty divorce years – I remember dealing with my own issues as a young teenager; never realizing how you suffered as well… especially missing mum.  Your words convey a sense of loss and fading hope: you wanted her back; she said it was too late; I struggled on.

“Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye”

But, I also remember the fun times:you letting my band practice at home – windows wide open – entertaining the neighbours, whether they liked it or not. And, after all these years, we’ve reunited as “Reunion.” Your determination, then, made our music possible, today.

“I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears”

And, because of your influence – especially through your writings – I learned not to prejudge people. Being imperfect, you’d think we’d all know the folly of stubbornly expecting perfection from others.

 “I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say…
I just wish I could have told him in the living years”

Now that my dad is gone, I find myself mentally packing his old navy kit-bag full with memories of both the good and not-so-good years… proud to “carry” it the rest of my life. But, if I could, I’d write, “Dear dad, I miss you … would give anything to have you back… have the talk we never had.”

Love, Fred Jr.

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca         The Music In Me
June, 2016

 

 

May 212016
 

The dictionary’s definition of “friendship” describes “… a relationship that can linger in the memory like an appealing chord of music.”

It’s a remarkable thing about music: an invisible connection or universal relationship, we have with the artists and their work – bringing back memories special to our lives. Everyone’s memorable moments are different, but we share the same basic emotions.

My first memorable music moment is easy; it’s ‘Your Song’ by Sir Elton John. It was “my” love song to my wife – words that  would intertwine our future lives together.

“It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside/
I’m not one of those who can easily hide

I don’t have much money but boy if I did/
I’d buy a big house where we both could live”

Funny, but after 34 years, including raising a family, we’re now leaving our grand old country home. Initially, it was an impossible dream; but today, we’re planning different dreams… adding new songs.

 “So excuse me forgetting but these things I do/
You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue”

Next, I’m sure people can relate to the celebrity deaths of Elvis, Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, David Bowie, ‘Prince’ (to mention a few); but, the senseless murder of John Lennon stunned millions… such genius denied! As the de facto leader of the Beatles – the world’s greatest pop group – his death also meant the end of the beginning of his promising personal and professional comeback. And, it was Sir Elton’s memorable tribute, ‘Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)’ – expressing our feelings better than we could say them ourselves.

“He must have been a gardener that cared a lot/
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop

And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed/
A gardener like that one no one can replace”

Although Lennon was by no means perfect, his music became an articulate, passionate voice for a whole generation’s aspirations: including world peace,

“All we are saying is give peace a chance”

and peaceful relationships.

“Woman, I know you understand the little child inside the man/
Please remember my life is in your hands”
– from ‘Woman’ 

But, it was Elton John’s/Bernie Taupin’s rendition song, ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’, which John performed at the funeral of Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey  – a worldwide televised audience of two billion – that’s my most memorable music moment. The song’s sales– top 20 in Canada for three years – and later overall global proceeds, raised close to $300 million USD in support of her charities like landmine victims.

“Goodbye England’s rose/
May you ever grow in our hearts.
You were the grace that placed itself/
Where lives were torn apart”

“And it seems to me you lived your life/
Like a candle in the wind.

Never fading with the sunset/
When the rain set in”

Yes, music can bring back memories, but only we can measure the tears… the joy… the meaning to our lives… moments that will forever live within our hearts.

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca        The Music In Me
May, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 262016
 

When my son was in public school, it was determined he had Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Otherwise a normal kid,he had a mild problem concentrating. He understood most of his teachers,but on his bad days, he just smiles and says he was “slow to learn and fast to forget.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states it affects 11% of school-age children – including 19 percent of high school age boys – struggling with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. So, naturally, as parents, we were concerned not only with his marks, but with how he viewed his own potential.

However, the psychiatrist and ‘special needs’ staff – who had indentified our son’s ADHD – had a conflict dealing with his grade seven home room teacher. He refused to change his teaching ways… saying the classroom for “dumdums” was down the hall.

“How can you just leave me standing?/Alone in a world so cold?” When Doves Cry  by Prince

In my experience, all great teaching is built on acceptance. A teacher can be respected for their knowledge, but a great teacher is loved because they care.

Then things changed for the better.

His secondary school guidance teacher – who didn’t let the confines of a wheel chair disable her from thinking of possibilities  – was an educator our son trusted. It took some time to convince him that he could handle university work, but she taught him to develop a disciplined approach, along with some study strategies and time management skills; his confidence doubled. Who can put a price on that?

It’s probably, why he became the emphatic, encouraging teacher (and parent) he is today: demonstrating any willing professional can easily adapt ADHD teaching skills – and better understanding of all students.

I wasn’t diagnosed with it until adulthood, but related signs were there, including: anxiousness, wanting everything done yesterday, and trying to do too much. ‘All or nothing’ became my motto, but at what costs? Now, I see this way of living is no way to die.

My best learning experience didn’t involve a “teacher”… it was at the reigns of an older horse named, Johnny. He was the pride of Pat – a champion western horse rider, trainer and breeder.

The two were a natural training tandem, and when I, as a rookie rider, started by putting Johnny’s saddle blanket upside down, Pat said, “Well, you really are a beginner aren’t you?” Johnny sighed.

Yet, by the end of the practice, she asked me to take Johnny back to the barn; and along the way, I had to lean over, unlatch the gate, ride through and turn Johnny again and close the gate. I didn’t learn until afterwards that this was an advanced skill – not normally taught to beginners. Pat said, “I figured you could handle it… Johnny likes you!”

“And feelin’ good was good enough for me…” – Me and Bobby McGee, by Kris Kristofferson

Pat and Johnny proved what having a little faith in someone can do.

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca              The Music In Me
April, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 252016
 

Last week our youngest celebrated her ‘30 something’ birthday – and what a start to life she’s had!

It all began one day when I thought someone had left the radio playing upstairs – only to find one of our girls (then a 3rd grader) singing to herself… unaware of how good she sounded. What followed, in the years leading up to womanhood, saw her enrolling in singing lessons, joining a band, playing at some of Toronto’s top clubs and winning a government grant (to produce an introductory CD)… we all thought they were “on their way.”

When their CD came out, the original songs were well received, but her warm, “pitch-perfect” voice seemed buried in the instrumentation background. Apparently, this was deliberate as it was considered in vogue. We all wondered why, if the group had this “ethereal” voice, it wasn’t featured along with those intriguing lyrics emanating from her heart.

“And with a voice like Ella’s ringing out,
There’s no way the band can lose”
Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder 

Plus, after she came back from an international jazz festival in Poland, much of the production arrangements – creative input she’d been promised – had been completed. Whatever the reasons, it seemed like a lack of faith – something she highly valued.

“How on earth did I get so jaded?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Life’s mysteries seem so faded”Runaway Train by Soul Asylum

The management entertainment team who signed her because she wrote (let’s say) ‘Green’ music, now expected her to write ‘Red’ music’ – because that was getting radio play. Not wanting to copy someone else’s style, she explained, “Dad, even if I’m successful doing it their way, but I’m not happy, is it worth it?” She and her group voted and made the hard decision to disband – two going on to earn their music degrees.

Worried her career talent would never sustain past this point, I talked with Canadian folk recording legend Valdy, who after hearing the story, graciously invited her to write some lyrics for his new album. Being a father himself, I believed he was moved to offer help because he didn’t want to see any young artist’s future in music die. With such dedication to the arts, no wonder he’s been awarded the ‘Order of Canada’ for a lifetime of individual and social responsibility. She was grateful for his support – we love him – yet, in the end, felt she hadn’t earned the right. Valdy understood.

“Runaway train, never goin’ back,
Wrong way on a one-way track”

I just wasn’t seeing things through her eyes. As much as I wanted it for her; it was her life. No matter how well-intentioned my urgings were, I had to let go or become ‘another brick in the wall’. I could never control all the outcomes in life, why act as if I could?

Letting go was a challenge. But her forgiveness and an old piece of paraphrased scripture saved the day for me: “It may not come when you want, but when it does it’ll be right on time.”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca               The Music In Me
March, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 202016
 

“Gather ’round me, everybody…
Feel a sermon comin’ on me
The topic will be sin,  And that’s what I’m ag’in'”
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen

Over the past two years, I’ve been involved in resurrecting our ‘60’s rock band, with some of the original members. And, based on the simple, eternal flame of friendship – and, doing what we love – we reclaimed a prize we thought lost.

“If you wanna hear my story
Then settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin’
The attitude of doin’ right”

We decided we were going to do justice to the classic songs, their creators, and performers… feeling everything else would fall into place. However, early on, one of our members was diagnosed with cancer. And, despite undergoing chemo and radiation treatment, he still attended 90% of our scheduled practices. Such is the measure of his resolve and commitment to do something worthy. We stand in awe of him: he has become the rock to our roll. Rob’s battled on; he’s beaten the cancer into submission; he’s our hero!

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

This dedication to his craft hasn’t changed since we were kids – like not standing up for his brother at his wedding because we had a last-minute gig. His family was not pleased!
So, when standing shoulder to shoulder with someone with such a laser focus, how can you not play to your utmost?As Gmail creator Paul Buchheit, said, “Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.” Being true to yourself; putting quality over quantity, and daring to ‘do the right thing’, has lasting rewards.

That’s a worthy goal. But, who will show us the way… the courage not to give in to our fears? Often, it will come from those with the most challenges and personal limitations – especially from family and friends.

I remember Uncle Earl – confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis: a disease he said he wouldn’t have wanted to wish on anyone. But, when people visited him, it was they who we’re cheered up; he had so many funny stories! So, how much we improve people’s lives is something totally within our control no matter the circumstances.

Last week, our family attended the funeral service for our friend Neil; a man who lived to give. His son, Perry, remembered when he anonymously paid for the breakfast of a complete stranger – with a knowing wink and smile to Perry. It was typical of a man who would drop everything to help anyone who asked… and many who didn’t. Neil was loved.

“You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene”

Yes, negativity is real, but we’re not naïve in our hope – seems we can afford to be generous – realizing that we ‘reap what we sow.’

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca               The Music In Me
February 2016