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Thinking about ‘real things’

I was coming home from work, and one of my favorite songs came on – “Real Things,” written by John Brown and Billy Dean, the country singer of hits like “Somewhere in My Broken Heart.”  It’s performed by one of my favorite country voices, Joe Nichols.

The song is a tribute to genuine things in life like memories, grandparents and first kisses. The last verse says “I want real things, like ‘I love you’ or an amen from the very last pew, and ‘I miss you dad; Son, I miss you too.’”

I heard that for likely the hundredth time, but it hit me like never before.

There I was on Highway 24, teared up in my Silverado, missing my dad like I hadn’t since I was a little boy. Because of COVID-19, he hasn’t been able to visit Alabama in almost a year and a half – the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing him.

My father’s career in nuclear power led him to a life in Minnesota. The Navy led him to nuclear power. My impending birth led him to the Navy.

It’s a cruel twist of fate that the thing he did for me is now the thing that separates us by an 18-hour drive.

Dad and I talk on the phone often, but different shifts and busy lives make that hard sometimes. I talk to my son every day, even if only for a minute before he puts his Xbox headphones back on. The thought of routinely going a couple weeks without seeing or hearing from him pains me. Who knows where life will lead the both of us – but that might be coming.

I was having lunch with a couple of older friends a few weeks back. We were talking about their adult children – where they were, what they were doing now, when the last time they talked to them was. I asked them about adjusting to life after your kids are gone. I wanted to know how they did it.

One said, “Well, you don’t really have a choice, you know? They got a life of their own to make. You raise them so they can make it. So you just let them go and do your best to move on.”

My dad worked out his travel restrictions and got here last Friday. It’s been good to finally see him again.

I inherited many of his mannerisms. I passed many of those on to my son. We all make the same faces, have similar voices and use the same hand gestures.

Yesterday morning we were in the kitchen watching my wife cook breakfast. I can’t remember what she asked, but it was something none of us knew the answer to. My Dad, myself and my son threw our hands up, pursed our lips to the right and raised our eyebrows. All the same way, all at the same time, all in the same room. Then we laughed at the moment, together.

That’s a “Real Thing.”

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.

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