One night this summer we were camping at a fairly crowded campground near a beach on the Oregon Coast, and I became keenly aware of something that has been missing from my camping summer. I was walking back from the bathroom with Mary Polly and as we passed the different groups and families camping around us, a song drifted through the air and woke something up inside my heart. Mary Polly was talking and I stopped still and said,
Shhh…wait, do you hear that?
Goodbye is too good a word, babe
So I’ll just say fare thee well.
I wanted to go and find that campfire and sit down, only it might just have been a little disappointing that the voice singing was not in fact, my daddy. Plus it might have been a weensy bit awkward. But still…the guitar and Bob Dylan. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my dad sing that song around a campfire. And a million others. Now I know as I did not then understand that it was magical that he could remember every lyric to an endless list of songs that made me never want the campfire to go out as a child. Sometimes I sang along. Lots of times I just listened. I’m not exactly sure when Daddy hung up his guitar for good, but it was a sad day. And so far no one in the close circle of people with whom I camp on a regular basis has picked up the legacy of singing to me until I reek of campfire smoke.
I stood in the street until the song finished, and then I stood there a little longer with my eyes closed picturing many of the campfires I have sat around with my dad. In Colorado. On an island in Lake Ouachita. In the Smoky Mountains. Such good memories.
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kind of wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s alright.
Surely the sun has not set for the last time on a day when I will hear Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen songs sung around a campfire.