Fingers slide along the piano as a smoky sax weaves its way around the room, searching for the rhythm, the melody. A soft drum and a quiet bass are trying to catch up, too, and then it's too late and the music stops and the room is cleared and we'll all heading home.
My father was there in the room, searching for that song. He would have found it, too, if he'd had enough time. He would have burst into song, moving his mouth among the words, accompanying the sax and wooing the ladies and feeling pretty damn good about himself.
The entity that was my dad, that is; the one who would have celebrated his 93rd birthday on November 1, but whose ashes, his pulverized bones, sit on my desk at home and feed the plants in our yard and watch the planes come and go from Madison's Truax Field, where he trained in World War II and where we scattered his ashes three years ago -- on his birthday, of course.
My father's voice was like an instrument and I loved it, loved listening to it, especially in the shower when he would catch just the right echo, just the right timbre, the acoustics so perfect that it sounded like he was singing a duet or was on stage in a 1940s nightclub.
He sang about love and happiness and wistfulness and romance. Not about the soap or the shampoo or how his sex was shriveling and was nearly gone. No, in the voice it was still there, still strong, virile even without the sex. His resonance, his tone, his heart was in all those songs he sang in all those soapy showers.
And now it showers his ashes from the sky like a sputtering Iceland volcano, like Vesuvius over Pompeii and Herculaneum; his being, his life, his voice is coming down from the sky and it's landing on Madison and Majorca and Madagascar and all of us rise up and start to sing and we're a chorus of ash and voices of music and romance. We're an army of old men singing in the shower, our hearts full of love and hope, our spirits vibrant and alive...
And then the music stops, the song is over, and we're all heading home. The room is cleared, except for his body, already losing color and growing rigid, and my vigil, me already missing him, using borrowed scissors to cut a wisp of his once-full head of wavy hair. Why, I don't know...
... Until today, more than a thousand days later, when I touch the strand of hair and in it I hear his voice and my ears are ringing and he's in the shower and I listen to all that he was, all that he loved, all that was once him.