It is the the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death. These days the memories are fond and even balanced. My Dad was a great guy and frustrating all in one. Human, just like the rest of us.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about my dad, except perhaps, his deep dark secrets. I don’t think I want to know those. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I posted a photo of my family on Facebook. My cousin posted a question and it completely threw me. “Do you still have his harmonica?” Excuse me…His harmonica? My dad had a harmonica? The closest my dad ever got to creating music was whistling. Maybe she was confusing him with Bob Dylan.
Who knew the cool cat on the left played the harmonica?
Over the next couple of days a story unfolded. My uncle confirmed that my dad played the harmonica. Not only that but he was good at it. He played it all the time and it was always sitting beside his soup bowl at dinner.
I had known that his sister, Julie, was a classically trained pianist and very talented, but I never heard of anyone else having musical talent. From my uncle, I learned that their brother, Charlie, could play drums and bugle. He was part of the Oakland Tribune Drum and Bugle Corp. in the 1930s and 1940s. I knew that my Dad loved the drums. He was a huge fan of Gene Krupa and loved Rap music because of the beat. But, the harmonica? He never mentioned it.
My mom doesn’t remember this tidbit about my dad. None of my siblings remember my dad playing one when they were little. I guess he put it away once life got serious and he had a family to feed.
This may sound silly, but in some ways I feel like we missed out on a part of him–a part that was very important to him growing up. He he loved music, but always as a listener. It makes me feel sad not knowing that he could make music. Never did we ever get to hear him play. I keep imagining a harmonica sitting on a shelf in the garage where my dad spent a lot of time and not realizing it was his.
My cousin is looking for a photo of my dad with his harmonica. I hope she finds it. I would like to have this piece of my dad’s story. I knew he loved cars and baseball. Now, five years after he died, I find out he loved the harmonica, too. You just can’t know everything about a person, even one you are so close to.
I think it’s awesome that my dad had this talent. Maybe I should follow in his footstep and take it up myself. The kazoo is probably more my speed.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com