“Everywhere we go we have a conversation about things with the people we find there.” This sentence comes out of my ninety-three year old father’s mouth. We’re sitting together near the window at Hubbard and Cravens coffee shop. He picked me up after I dropped my car off with the mechanic. Outside, even though its near the end of April, it’s snowing – big white globs melting on contact. Inside the light comes in through the window at a near perfect pitch for seeing things clearly.
I see my dad. There he is in front of me. He throws his gaze out over the round tops of tables. He’s caught in a reverie. His eyes peer into some other place, another time. There is his white beard, his Italian face, the yellow beret from France. But I know he’s listening to music in his head, seeing the notes in his memory. I grew up hearing his stories told with non sequiturs wrapped in haiku-type riddles. This left me to fill in the gaps using inventive logic. Did I mention he was a teacher?
He still plays records on record players. This guy spent the better part of a decade trying to whistle, exactly whistle, the Benny Goodman introduction to “Can’t We Be Friends” – a tune written in 1929 by Kay Swift with the lyrics by Paul James. My father said he was a kid when he first heard it as an instrumental. He didn’t know it had words until after he retired.
I tell him that we should consider doing a Kickstarter project focused on his intimate embrace of music over the course of his long life… “What’s a Kickstarter?” is his response. I pick up my phone and hit the app. “The Greatest Band Ever” project comes up on my little screen. My father smiles and tries to understand me. He pushes the phone gently towards me.
I get his point. How do you turn what can only be called love into a project? I’m absorbed into my father’s ninety-three year old project of music and kids, teaching and traveling, the baristas at the coffee shop, the auto mechanic down the street, the bank teller in Broad Ripple. My father’s project of love is the conversation he is having today with the people he finds everywhere he goes. I’m glad I had to take my car in and that my dad insisted on a cup of coffee. With him, in this place, we are place-making. And even the late April snow fits in perfectly.