One of my favorite memories of my dad is finding him alone—listening to his records.
When I was growing up, he was often working or serving others, so finding him at home sitting comfortably in the front room—listening to his records—was an unusual yet fun experience. His eyes were closed, his head leaning back, and beautiful full music—that only a vinyl record can produce—filled that southern California room.
I couldn’t interrupt him as I normally would have. Instead I found a chair and listened as well.
The music emanated from a wall of electronic equipment (including hand built speaker boxes that my father had assembled in his garage). I was hypnotized by the glowing lights and the bouncing audio meter—all signaling that each piece of my father’s arrayal was functioning properly.
But he didn’t need to see it to know. The sound was full and rich – textured by the vinyl’s soft breathing as the needle rode between the grooves.
Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Jazz, Big Band, Country, and more all performed in that room. The audience was small but they were bonding in a way that doesn’t come through talks, lectures, or warnings…
Later, as life marched on, and circumstances lead my parents to move. The sound system moved with them and became part of the decor of the new house. But I don’t remember hearing it played very often. In fact, it mostly just became another thing to dust.
The only time I remember it being used was when my father would walk into the room in the middle of one of our movies and push a button which would totally expand and enhance the soundtrack of the show we were watching. Other than that, those lighted displays stayed dark.
Then recently, on a trip to visit my parents in their home, my mother was upstairs, but I could hear music playing from the basement. Soon my father came up. He had a playful look in his eyes and gestured for me to follow. I excused myself and descended the basement stairs. My father proudly pointed out his new turntable. Apparently, the old one had stopped working years earlier.
He let me choose the record we would be listening to.
As the large disc began to spin, my father turned off one of the lights and took his position in his comfortable chair. The scene was familiar. I sat near him on the couch and we both listened to the stereo.
Eventually, our families found us, but for a little while time stood still, stress seemed to melt away, and I saw my dad very happy.
Now, occasionally when I am tired, I find myself putting my earbuds in and relaxing to whatever iTunes decides to play. And when my kids find me and ask me what I am listening to. I share my music with them.
What is your favorite way to relax?