Friday night, December 11, 2015, was the last time I heard Micah perform with his school choir.  Sure, I’ve continued to work with the CVHS Choirs, and I’ve heard them pour their heart and spirit into an incredible impromptu piece and two concerts since that were, in one fashion or another, dedicated to Micah.  But the last time a choir included our child was ten months ago…until tonight.

Tonight, Avi took her turn, taking her place on the stage in the Gilbert High School Auditorium to perform with her new 7th Grade Girls Choir.  She and her classmates were fantastic!  They were wonderful to hear.  We were so proud of Avi, and she was so happy with herself.  But…just as she had sat through many of Micah’s choir concerts, it just was not the same sitting at her concert without Micah next to us.  We could almost see it in Avi’s eyes.  Cynthia mentioned it in a Facebook post earlier this evening: the conversations that Avi and Micah would have been having–before and after the concert.  Micah’s “seasoned” critique of Avi’s performance–not to belittle her or make her feel sad, but that she did a great job, and she could do even better if she would…fill in the blank.  Avi would be annoyed for a minute, but would then smile, knowing that Micah’s true goal was to make her even better.

Yes, Micah was certainly there to watch his sister perform.  He’s undoubtedly explaining to my parents and grandparents right now what “vibrato” is, and how Avi needs to tweak a little of this and a little of that to achieve perfection.  Micah knows that he needs to finish his discussion soon, because tomorrow night he’ll undoubtedly want to be present for his CVHS choirmates first performance of the year.  I don’t know if there will be a “Mic 19” on stage or not, but Micah will be silently checking his microphone along with his friends before adding a little extra aura to the performance.

Micah’s choirmates have certainly not forgotten him.  Every time I enter the choir room at CVHS, I’m greeted with hugs and told–verbally and not–how much they miss him.  Ally dedicated an audition to Micah (and another departed-too-soon choirmate, Keli).  Colton has asked to visit Micah’s grave.  As I prepared the program for tomorrow night’s concert, I was told that his Advanced Vocal choirmates had made a special request–to indicate their membership in Advanced Vocal in the program not with a superscript “AV”, but with a 37.  Twenty fantastic voices–fantastic kids–fantastic loving souls–will bear Micah’s number in their choir program.

Sometimes I do think Micah is watching, trying to give me signs that he approves of what I’m doing, trying to let me know that he’s “got this” for me.  Monday afternoon, I was asked to cover the public address announcing duties for Arizona Coyotes on Friday night, their final preseason tune-up against the San Jose Sharks: my first “real” chance to announce for the Arizona Coyotes regulars and a full Friday night crowd.  No, it’s up to me to do the job well–Micah’s assistance on Friday night will just be the thought of his smile as he watches and listens to his father fulfill a dream that started meagerly enough, seven years ago, announcing a mildly-attended ASU club hockey game at the small rink where Micah then played his hockey, in front of maybe 150 fans.  Maybe if Micah really likes the way Friday night goes, and others do as well, there will be more Coyotes games to come…

Music will carry me through to that game on Friday night.  Tomorrow morning, I hop in the car for an impractical, yet necessary, drive to Hollywood, California.  I’m driving six hours tomorrow and six hours back on Friday morning.  No, not for a baseball game (though I suppose that kind of thing might be possible in a week or so if the Cubs and Dodgers play in the NLCS).  To fulfill another dream that dates back almost 40 years…

I always tell people that I don’t remember much of my childhood.  Sure, a few flash memories here and there, but aside from a few distinct memories, not a great overall picture…except… I remember my mother and father tucking me in at night, then walking down the hall to the living room, where my father would put on his favorite albums to gently, musically play me to sleep.  Sometimes it would be a folk singer like Joan Baez, 70s soft rock like Judy Collins, a folk trio: Peter, Paul and Mary, Harry Chapin, or my favorite, gentle voice: Cat Stevens.  Hearing Cat strumming Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow, Tuesday’s Dead, Peace Train…and I would drift gently to sleep like no other night.  No, the music didn’t bore me–it soothed me from anything that had gone wrong, anything that had stressed my young mind.  It did not matter whether my parents were happy with a grade I brought home, or were angry that I broke one of my father’s model train pieces.  A Cat Stevens album would play on the turntable, I would smile and drift to sleep.

I continued to listen to Cat’s music throughout my formative years in elementary school, junior high, high school, college…  When I put a video of Micah together to share with family and friends (and, yes, I planned to eventually pull it out for the fiancée some day), it was set to Cat’s Moonshadow.  I can still close my eyes and see the video of a 2-3 year-old Micah running around at the park, in our first house as it was being built, and then–the end of the video, with Micah walking up the stairs of the house, turning around briefly and saying, “Bye bye.”  Bye Bye as he ascended the stairs…

Cat Stevens, for those who don’t know, went through a religious transformation in the 1970s, becoming a very devout Muslim.  He became Yusuf Islam, and for many years stopped performing or recording music.  Eventually, Yusuf/Cat would come to believe that there was nothing spiritually wrong with sharing his music, his gift, with the world again.  As Yusuf, he made new music, beautiful music, and occasionally would perform a concert where he drew back from his Cat Stevens days.  A few years ago, he did a very brief concert tour of North America, performing, if I recall correctly, four concerts.  I discovered this too late, and was unable to get tickets.  On a whim, I had been following a chain of links on Yusuf a few months ago, and discovered that he had just announced a new short North American tour that would include two nights at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.  I grabbed a fan club membership and purchased my tickets a few days afterwards.  That concert is tomorrow night.  I will, at some point, close my eyes and be back in my bed at home, with my parents in the living room…and I will relive that bliss from so many years ago.  I will not think about the drive or the expense of this short concert trip, I will only lose myself in the music and memories as a dream from 40 years ago comes true.  Dad–this concert is just as much for you as it is for me.  As you passed the gift of music, specifically Cat’s music, to me, and I passed it to Micah, I now go to Cat’s concert knowing that I am, by attending and enjoying and enriching my soul, I am fulfilling that journey–and that you and Micah will be sitting with me sharing my experience.

After spending a night in the outskirts of Los Angeles (to avoid having to fight Friday morning rush hour in LA), I will turn on the music again as I head homeward to freshen up before making my primetime Coyotes debut…

As I prepare to sign off and get some sleep, I keep hearing Frankie Valli’s ending monologue from Jersey Boys in my head.  “The best part?  The first time we stood under a streetlamp making that sound, our sound…”  I’m going to let the music wash over me and carry me through the rocky stream safely, but I will never forget the first time Micah made that sound, his sound…and how much I miss hearing it.

David

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