Erin Recommends: “Chalk” by Buddy & Julie Miller

“I carried you with me everywhere I went. I carried everything ’til my back was bent…”

I’ve been trying to write about my dad. There’s one line and then another. No, scratch that. I mean it’s complicated. You know, the way fathers and daughters are.

What a hot mess he was, gregarious as hell. He taught high school English and Drama. Beloved. His students adored him. They still see me in town give me a big hug and say, “I loved your Dad.” I nod and assure them that he loved them too. He did.

Make no mistake; he was my hero and my first heartbreak. He moved away when I was eighteen. He left me standing in an airport. I was broken. I did not know how to be whole without him. It has taken me a lifetime to stitch together a life I can call my own.

After decades of estrangement he came back home two years ago. I didn’t meet him at the airport. I left homecoming banners and confetti to my siblings. I’d see him in a week or so. I needed time. I warmed to the idea of us watching the Seahawks together, slowly getting to know each other again. I could find my way to forgiveness. I took a deep breath as I convinced myself this was true.

But he died before I got to see him. He ate dinner, went to his room, turned on MSNBC, lied down on the bed and his heart gave way. I never got to say welcome back or goodbye.

I am his daughter through and through. There is so much I want to put into words about this man. He was beautiful and flawed. His ashes sit on the top of my bookshelf in a shrine. I haven’t been able to let them go.

I heard Buddy and Julie Miller’s song “Chalk” several years ago. He was still alive then. I was driving and had to pull to the side of the road, the tears waterfalled. In a few short verses the Millers articulated what I’d been trying to say for decades.

After an Irish ballad to raise a glass, “Chalk” was the second song played at his memorial right before I choked out how much I loved him.

(Song recommendation by Erin L. Cork)

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