Honour thy father

"Viva enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita."
"The life of the dead is set on the memory of the living."

My father's birthday was last week. I'm not sure which date because his birth certificate did not reflect his actual birth date. Even my brother and I can't agree on the date we'd celebrate as a family though I defer to his memory because, in this case, it's better. In fact, when my brother and I were speaking last week, he pointed out that our father would have turned 100 this year.

I'll mark my father's centenary with lyrics to a song I wrote for him (but never recorded) and some stuff he used to like.

Long ago, in the mist of almost forgotten family lore, "they" (I guess my father's family) used to say that my father's eyes were as blue as the Lakes of Killarney.

The Lakes of Killarney

In salty air,
on sandy feet,
you pointed out across the waves,

“Somewhere out there Ireland lies
and one day I shall take you there.

"It is the place where we come from.
Out of the marshy timeless mist,
with poems and magic we are kissed.
Our souls forever breathe her airs.

"Our thirst is legend,
for we are Irish.
In dreams we drink the rainbow dry.”

and now I dream in gold
and now I dream in green

If your soul is in repose,
then all Killarney’s lakes must seem
as blue as your eyes,
as blue as heaven.

©1995 Suzanne McDermott/Drexel Road Music (ASCAP/STIM) All Rights Reserved

Some things about my dad

Ed McDermott graduated 3rd in his class, Order of the Coif, from University of Pennsylvania law school in 1932. At 29, he argued a case before the US Supreme Court that's still quoted today.

He was once arrested for bathing without a top at Atlantic City beach.

During WWII, he taught naval officers accounting at Penn.

Before he was married he loved driving convertibles, especially when they were filled with pretty women.

He was a passionate audiophile, brought home the first serious turntable in the neighborhood from some local radio station, subscribed to High Fidelity and built varieties of huge speaker boxes over the years. By the time I was 5, he'd taught me how to drop the diamond stylus needle at the start of LPs and how to carefully retrieve and replace the albums in their sleeves.

Sam Goody helped my father build his early record collection. One day, Sam insisted that my father bring a particular record home for me. That night, Dad handed me a copy of Meet the Beatles and said, "I understand you should listen to this."

He read things like Donald Francis Tovey's Essays in Musical Analysis for fun. On the other hand, he'd skip down the stairs singing "Harrigan" and played infinite variations of "Collegiate" on the piano.

He was a huge fan of Arnold Toynbee, Toscanini (he once caught Toscanini's baton at a live concert), Shakespeare (especially the Cambridge Dover Wilson editions), Q, and new camera equipment (he had a good compositional eye.) He collected first editions of the Cambridge Shakespeare, A Study of History and Modern Library editions. He read stacks of Erle Stanley Gardner and Iain Fleming.(My brother would have to fill you in on his enthusiasm for sports teams because I couildn't have cared less and paid no attention whatsoever.)

An avid health nut, my father jogged, walked everywhere he could and kept things like blackstrap molasses, honeycombs, wheat germ, protein bread and such in the kitchen. As a young man, he rowed single scull on the Schuylkill River. While I was growing up, he swam a mile a day.

My father never spoke down to me, always brought me along for a jog and made sure that my brother and I had swimming lessons as young as possible. He taught me to body surf and always cut me a wide swath of independent space without ever letting me out of his sight.

The only real argument I remember between my parents was when my father wanted me to watch the film of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones with Albert Finney. My mother thought it was too mature. (She won.)

One of my fondest memories was when he took me to see Forbidden Planet and explained afterwards how it was adapted from Shakespeare's The Tempest.

A great dancer, I especially liked standing on his feet while dancing with him as a little girl.

He was an exceptional bridge player though all I saw of that were his blue ballpoint pen markings on the newspaper bridge puzzles he did on the train rides in and out of town.

Every weekday morning, he went to 6 AM Mass at St. John the Evangelist in the city before heading into his office and never said a word about it.

He loved the ocean.
"Let us not burden our remembrances with
A heaviness that’s gone." 
—Wm. Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene 1
One of my father's photos from the late 1940's - early 50's


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Steve Spencer said...

Such a beautiful tribute, Suzanne.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I loved the flute music in the video and the tribute is beautiful.

Suzanne McDermott said...

Thank you, Steve and Mary! Great to hear from you both!

joshemari said...

Suzanne, he leído este artículo tuyo en memoria de tu padre y me ha emocionado mucho! Está hecho con mucho sentimiento. Sí, es muy hermoso tener ese recuerdo de tu padre y homenajearlo en sus 100 aniversario, como lo haces tú. Bravo!
Amaba el mar, como tú.
También el arte, como tú.
Desde donde esté, estará feliz viendo como su hija guarda ese bello recuerdo de él.
Un abrazo.

Suzanne McDermott said...

My dear Joshemari,

Thanks, as always, for your heartfelt comment. You always warm my heart with affection and just seeing that you've left a comment brings a smile to my face. Thank you for your contribution to my blogging life! XOXO