Song for My Father

dadI always think of my father when I hear “Song for My Father”, by Horace Silver. One of my favourites from the Blue Note classic days. Do enjoy it, if you click (below right) to listen.
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It’s not long after 3:00am, and not too long since my brother called me to let me know that my father died a couple of hours or so ago. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, thinking about it, after calling my mum and sister. He’s been ill for a while, so a call like this was bound to happen at some point, but still… I was under the impression he’d reached a stable plateau of sorts, and was doing ok, all things considered. But not so, evidently. So I’m a bit surprised.

His name was Victor Reginald Johnson, in case you’re interested.

It’s all a bit of a strange feeling, since in recent times I’ve been noticing how much more of him is in me than I’ve noticed before, in some ways. I’ve seen him staring out of the mirror at me more often and more clearly, heard him speaking, but with my voice, and I’ve found him in my walk, my manner, my gaze. And I’ve not minded at all.

Yes, I’ve been noticing him here for a while, and that’s just fine.

I was talking to a friend just the other day about how, although he was away for a lot of my childhood years, there were things that sank into me that came from him. I remember stumbling upon some books of his that had been put away somewhere, since he was gone. I played a lot on my own, and I loved foraging about in old boxes and bags and finding things. I could not have been much more than nine or ten. The books were about electrical circuits. Perhaps he had them from work, or training. I began to teach myself electronics from those books. (There’s a similar story connected to finding some old Louis Armstrong records, probably around the same time…) He never knew any of this, since when I saw him again many years later, we never talked about such things. So I was telling that friend the other day that the next time I see my dad I should tell him about what I did with those fragments he’d left, and how they grew into a large part of who I am today, even though he might be too ill to understand. But you never know, so I should tell him. He’d like to hear it… He’d have liked to hear it.

Now he’s gone, but you see he’s still here in many ways. In all three of us, my brother, sister, and me.

Goodbye Dad.

Hello Dad.


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25 Responses to Song for My Father

  1. Jude says:

    My dad died in 1981, the year my daughter was born. The other day I was telling her a story about him, and she said, “I wish I’d known him.” I replied, “In a way, you do. You know how everyone loves your uncle Ted? My dad was like that–he had a natural charisma and everyone loved him. And the way I sing all the time? He sang *all* the time. A lot of my weirdness comes from him too, and the way I can talk to anyone about anything. He never answered the phone ‘Hello’–he’d say ‘Top o’ the mornin’ to ya’ or ‘Happy 4th of July’ (except on the 4th of July).” It’s funny that I just realized the same thing a couple of days ago–how so much of my father is part of me and my brothers.

  2. David says:

    Really sorry to hear this Clifford.

  3. robert says:

    So sad – so sorry

  4. Kate says:

    What a lovely piece of writing. You express yourself so vivivdly. And your appreciation for your father. You make the phenomenon of your feelings very palpable.Strength and love.

  5. My father died in 1953, and I had dreams about him for many years. Now I occasionally dream of my mother… May you have pleasant visitations!

  6. stefan says:

    Very sorry to hear this sad news …

  7. John Branch says:

    Sorry for your loss, Clifford. As you say, much of your father remains alive in you. I hope that’ll continue to be a meaningful realization.

    I noticed the same kind of thing you mentioned since a little before my father died and have kept noticing it since. My interest in and knack for technical things–his. How the skin wrinkles around my knuckles–just like his. The way I tie a tie–his. In these ways, he’s still with me.

  8. Plato says:

    Hi Clifford,

    My condolences as well.

    I think as one gets older one begins to realize just how much traits of one of their parents can be characterized inside our own mannerisms. Not just of their Dad, but of their Mom too.:)

    The reflections you have, and speak about, are a nice tribute to the relations. Wonderful stories spoken from the heart.:)


  9. Sara Tompson says:

    So sorry to hear that your dad passed away, Clifford. I am so glad you are already focusing on the best memories of him. I have found that helps one move on in the grieving process. I lost my Dad in 1987 and my Mom in 1979. One never stops missing them, but one can get to the point of celebrating them, and their parts in you! 😎
    Sara T.

  10. Elliot says:


    Sorry to hear this news. May you and your family find peace in his memory and as you correctly observe that part of him lives on in you and your brother and sister.

    Take Care,


  11. Mary Cole says:

    Take good care of yourself Clifford at this very sad time. Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing about your father.

  12. Claver says:

    Dear Clifford, sir,

    May you be comforted in this sad moment. You and your family.

  13. Ele Munjeli says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us at this time. Your grace gives meaning to grief.

  14. Christine says:

    I am sorry for your loss.

  15. Ruthie says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss Clifford. I’m sure the best parts of him live on in you, your siblings, and their children. May his memory be a blessing.

  16. Maimon Eckersley says:

    I’m very sorry to hear your sad news Clifford. My condolences to you, your mom & the rest of your family. I really enjoyed what you wrote about him. It’s hard tobe separated from loved ones when someone close dies. My father died in Singapore, 1990 when I was living in the UK. Keep well & best wishes. Maimon

  17. Paulette says:

    my thoughts are with you and Carol,Robert and your mom Delia

    May you all be comforted

    your cousin Paulette

  18. Jeff says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss Clifford.

  19. Athena says:

    My condolences for your loss, and my thanks for your description of memories and shared familial things. It’s added another point of view on the loss that I recently experienced.
    The preferences, gestures, and other similarities that make up our family palette are cause for joy and fond memories — sometimes even warm giggles — that make up our own families and their special places in our hearts.

  20. Clifford says:

    Dear Everyone,

    Thanks so much for your messages of support. They are very appreciated. See the next post for some relevant followup.

    All the best,


  21. Amy says:

    When I first listened to the song you linked here, the lyrics “My Dad, the Man” leapt to mind, in time with the music, and in an uncharacteristically deep voice for inside my head. It took me a bit of digging, and asking some old friends, but I finally figured out why. Here is Leon Thomas singing along to the Horace Silver classic. You may already know this version, but it is very sweet, I think.

    Wishing you and your family well.

  22. Clifford says:

    Thanks for this suggestion! I had heard it before, but it was nice to be reminded of in this version, and at this time.


  23. AnonymousSnowboarder says:

    C – just catching up on blogs and read your post; condolences on your loss and thanks for a very nice post.

  24. Carol&Co says:

    Well said, brother, I see his face in yours, mine and Zachary and hear his voice in you and our brother. Gone never forgotten. cmj+

  25. Ann says:

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely piece of writing. He will forever live on in you, Carol and Robert.