Tim’s first favorite Beatles song was “Yellow Submarine”. The cartoonish imagery of the song, pre-dating the 1968 movie, was easy to follow with Ringo Starr’s monotone vocals. My 1994 Camry had a tape deck and I bought the Beatles “1” album and when I would play it when we went on trips to the mall, grocery store, the mountains, or shore; Tim would sing along. Sometimes I would have to rewind the cassette tape and play the song over and over at his request.
As he grew older, I told him the story of the Beatles. I had learned their history and music from my grade school music teacher, Jane Ashworth, when I was growing up in Ventnor. I explained to Tim how John Lennon had just come out of self-seclusion after five years, recorded Double Fantasy, and on December 8, 1980 was gunned down by Mark David Chapman. I continued telling Tim how Lennon influenced my writing, my thoughts about life, and learning to play the guitar; I also confessed how I cried on December 9, 1980 for the loss of my idol.
Tim picked up my love for the Beatles music; he even listed it as one of his “Likes” on Facebook. As Tim became a teenager, he began to influence me with his other tastes in music – Three Days Grace, the All-American Rejects, There Might Be Giants, and Linkin Park. If a song caught his ear or mine I would download it and burn it to CD. Often times, I came home after a 4x12 shift to hear Tim’s stereo playing as he slept. I loved how he was discovering his own tastes in music and was making his own mixes and playlists.
As my 45th birthday approached in October, 2009, Tim bugged me for weeks if he could borrow $200. When I asked him why he needed the money, he would say something I had said to him: “I could tell you but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.” He was very tenacious about his goal of getting the money.
One afternoon, we were shopping in Wal-Mart and Tim disappeared to his favorite section – Electronics and Games. Soon he came to find me and he was very excited.
“Daddy, I really want to borrow that money!”
“For what,” I asked.
I handed him my debit card. Tim told me not to follow him or peek. I promised I would stay put. Soon he was running back.
“Daddy I need your PIN.”
I gave him the numbers and he ran back to the section.
An employee came up to me and told me I was needed in Electronics. The cashier wanted to know if I had given Tim my debit card. I told him I did and that Tim was my son. Tim stood with an embarrassed expression on his face. His jacket was off and covering a large rectangular box. When he saw me he covered the box with his body. “Don’t look Daddy. Don’t look.”
I turned away.
Tim came over and told me not to turn around. He asked for the car keys and that he had something to put in the car. Soon he came back having put in the trunk whatever it was that he purchased. Tim was grinning from ear to ear as he walked towards me. I knew he learned how to be crafty when it came to hiding presents or not letting me know what he would get me or his mother as a gift.
When Tim was little, during our treks to Toy R Us or Wal-Mart, if he found a toy and it was getting close to Christmas I would tell him to scan it. I told him it was the Santa Scanner and that the bar-code sent a message to the North Pole and Santa or his helpers would use a world wide network to keep track of some items that a little boy or girl had an interest, but may forget when it came time to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what was wanted for Christmas. It was a game we enjoyed. He had the fantasy of Santa sitting at a computer and Tim’s name would pop up with a picture of a toy he wanted. I could look at the read out and see the price.
When we got home, Tim had me close my eyes. He rounded up his sisters to help him bring out the presents, having Charlotte carry a smaller thin package as he had Alaina cover my eyes to ensure I didn’t peek. Tim told me to open my eyes. He had Charlotte and Alaina give me the smaller box. I was instructed to unwrap it from the double tied black plastic bag.
“Sorry Daddy, I didn’t have any gift wrap except Christmas paper.”
“Monk, no need to say sorry; this is wonderful.” I pulled out a game package from the bag.
The Beatles Rock Band game for the Nintendo Wii; I flipped it over and read the liner notes on the back. On the cover the Beatles trademark logo with the extended “T” and the Beatles running – a shot from their first movie A Hard Day’s Night.
Tim came over with a double bagged box. The girls helped me pull it from the bags. It was a Fender Stratocaster replica game controller.
“I tried to find the Rickenbacker/John Lennon guitar and game, but everyone was sold out.” Tim sat next to his sisters. “Do you like it?”
“I love it Monk. Thank you!”
“What about me and Charlotte, Daddy?” Alaina huffed.
“Yes. Thank you two also!”
Tim got up and ran to the kitchen. He came in carrying a chocolate cake with only a few candles lit atop.
He and my daughters sung “Happy Birthday” and we ate chocolate cake. Afterwards we played the game, listening to the music and seeing a history of the Beatles as they evolved. We listened to how John Lennon’s songs…and Paul McCartney’s lyrics matured with the sounds they discovered and made into music.
It was one of my best birthdays. Actually, it was the best because my son wanted it to be special and shared the limelight that was his with his sisters. I will never have another birthday again that will come to mind such as my forty-fifth birthday.