Song: “Same Tattoos”
I read a review of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” once that said something about how his writing must be based on something he actually lived because of some silly detail he put in there about a girl slipping before she got into a car. It added nothing to the story and wasn’t even interesting, the reviewer wrote, so why even bother putting it in if he wasn’t recalling a memory?
That’s how I feel about this song. It’s so specific about tiny details. It’s short, but what is there is just so specific and feels so intimate that it must be from his life, if not at least rooted in his life.
Fences, famous for his song “Arrows”) where he opens with, “My old man he kicked me out, kicked me out/when I told him that I lived this way”. Upon hearing that song I’d assumed it was based on his life. But I don’t think so now. I came across this song later, and man...what a hard song to listen to. It’s beautiful, the melody and music, and Fences has an amazing voice, but the lyrics just break your heart...
“My uncle gave me/on the day I turned 13/a black box that said “Gillette” rusted and scratched. And it was full of memories and memorabilia/and a necklace with a saint I wore in class”
The detail there is so specific...would anyone have written that fictionally for a song? The details to it make it so real and pulls you into the soul of a 13 year old boy and its heartbreaking. He wants to be close to his so bad that he wears his Dads cast off necklace.
“It’s not like you were really gone gone gone gone but you were/and I never felt love”
I was struck by how important Dads are earlier today for the millionth time listening to a guy tell his story on his podcast about his troubled youth and he inevitably mentioned that his Dad left.
It leaves a hole. It just does.
Not everyone whose Dad leaves ends up in trouble with the law, but I think it’s fair to Gus’s that everyone whose Dad leaves for sure is hurt. (And, can I say, there is a special place in heaven for single mothers. Everyone one of them is a saint).
So, what do we do with this? This beautiful song that captures so perfectly the pain and loss and confusion and abandonment and sorrow of a 13 year old boy trying to figure out why his Dad left and how to live in the world without one?
I think all we can do is be a Dad. (If you’re not a Dad, be a brother, or a friend, or a sister or a Mom...)
We all need to feel loved.
I work some weird hours right now, and my son hugged me 5 times in a row before I left tonight. I couldn’t help but hurt for him that I was leaving. But, he knows I’ll be back.
Kids need their Dads. Kids need to be loved. They need to be heard and listened to and laughed with and told family histories and explained how the world works...they soak it up. And if we won’t do it they’ll find another person to provide that.
So, if you’ve got kids, find them, hug them, and spend some time with them. And know you’ll screw up and fail them a bit, but try.
Just...man, just be there. And feel valued yourself. They need us.