My Way

4 Jul

my way 2We were at a backyard barbecue in Tijuana. Father’s Day. I’d never seen it celebrated this way – with lots of families getting together in appreciation of their fathers. Growing up white in the suburbs, we gave dad a card if he was lucky; maybe my mom cooked him a special meal – if she did it didn’t register on me.

Sophy and I, and Denisse and the kids were the first ones to arrive. I made a Squirt and tequila and sat in the concrete backyard, playing with the dogs. Eventually the yard filled, the grill was fired up and the family DJ got out the karaoke mic. Everyone had to sing and the mic was passed around the table. I was fourth in line. Up to then it had been all Spanish songs. Part of me was nervous and part of me was itching to sing.

When they handed me the mic I asked for “Always on My Mind.” No luck. “House of the Rising Sun?” Nope. I flailed around, trying to think of a song to sing and blurted out, “My Way. Frank Sinatra.”

The melody started and the lyrics appeared on the screen. I started to sing, and instead of keeping it light, I found myself hurtling down into the song. It’s a bombastic song, but for me, at that moment, all of its lines of triumph – of having seen things through, having few regrets – were to me declarations of failure. I almost started to tear up. I thought of my son refusing to talk to me, hanging up when I called, emailing me that he threw the book I’d bought him in the trash. It seemed the height of failure to crow “I did it my way” in the face of such failure.

By the last verse of the song, instead of looking down at the table, I felt like I was peering into a deep pit.

I must have kept my feelings hidden. At the end of the song there was lots of applause and Sophy’s aunt leaned over and said in Spanish, “You sing that better than Frank Sinatra.”

But inside I was a wreck.

June 2015

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