Sunday, June 21, 2009

Past Tense

In the early morning hours of June 25, 1994 my father, Lee Bacino, died, unexpectedly, in his sleep; he was 62.

My dad passed away while on vacation visiting the tiny, eastern Long Island, summer cottage he and my mother bought with their hard-earned money back in the winter of 1982. A small, country dream realized for this born and bred Bensonhurst boy who, contrary to the urban surroundings from which he came, loved the outdoors, the water, fishing, hunting and working with his hands.

By trade my father was a sales and distribution manager for a local NYC milk company; spending his days behind a desk assigning delivery routes/drivers and accommodating store owners although, as he often said - perhaps revealing more than I ever realized - he much preferred the freedom he once enjoyed as a scrapper road salesman, visiting potential customers and landing accounts back in his earlier days within the food service industry.

A smart, charming guy who knew what to say and when to say it (vestiges of his salesman days, no doubt) but one who also did not suffer fools gladly. Cross him and you'd soon know it; possessing equal and imposing amounts physical strength and Sicilian/Brooklyn temper, LB was a force to be reckoned with. Finding myself on the wrong end of that wrath from time to time growing up I can most definitely attest to that notion.

That said, my father also had a softer side - he was generous, loving, had a good sense of humor and was a pretty devoted family man. When not working long hours he could generally be found at home with my mom and I as opposed to the bars and bowling alleys many of my friend's dads seemed to permanently inhabit at the time. Surprisingly too for a 'man's-man' born in the 1930's, my dad loved to cook, taught himself how to play harmonica and ukulele as a boy and even merged his love of music and craftsmanship as a kid by hand-making a respectable ukulele out of wood from scratch. An instrument that no doubt later provided my father with a welcome diversion from the harsh realities of the role he willingly assumed in his 20's as 'man of the house' when his father became ill and passed away. Working various jobs, my father helped make ends meet and looked after his mother and younger sister.

Isn't it funny (and odd) how little we truly know about our parents? Although he never said, sometimes I sensed my dad might have given up a good deal of what he may have wanted for himself in terms of a career, aspirations, etc to do what he felt was the right thing to do; whether that was helping his mom and sister or later providing for his wife and child via a desk-job yielding better pay if not necessarily personal satisfaction. I'm not sure but I believe he carried that sadness or disappointment (but never regret) with him throughout the years, torn as many of us are between our dreams and our responsibilities, with both being of equal importance to us.

In the last days of his life I was lucky enough to hang with my dad out at the summer house and oddly have, what I felt to be, some of the most interesting/honest conversations we ever had together. He seemed to be in pretty good spirits, reminiscing with me about his past while looking ahead to the future, retirement and a building project he soon planned to undertake wherein he would expand the country cottage to a more roomier retirement home for he and my mom.

Sadly this was never to be.

When I recorded my debut album in 1998 I included a simple song I wrote for my dad culled in part from some favorite chord changes he used to play for me on his uke when I was a kid. Fifteen Father's Days from his passing I thought I'd once again revisit/offer this song and its lyrics in tribute to my dad.

I suppose I'll never get used to talking about him in the past tense...

PAST TENSE (click to listen)

I'd like to thank you today

For all the love you sent my way
Yet I'd give it up, it’s true
For one more chance to speak with you

Just as if you were here, plus a year...

‘Cause I will never get used to
Talking about you in the past tense...

Oh, now that you’re gone
I hope you've moved on
To a better place,
just a smile on your face

No more worries, no more cares, just time to spare...

Time I will need to get used to
Talking about you
Time I will need to get used to
Talking about you

In the past tense
Talking about you...

In the past tense

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