I come from one of those Midwestern towns with more trains than people. I have attempted escape on many the occasion, but my compass seems to point back here on instinct. It’s like I wouldn’t know how to drive on unfamiliar roads that didn’t consist of braking for deer and farm tractors. I wouldn’t know what to do if the little church ladies didn’t insist on chatting me up in between my trip to the drug store. It seems as if I may not have an identity if I weren’t known as, “Andy’s daughter”.
You see, my father is a small town business owner. He is “The Pump Man”. He has put it water systems for nearly everyone I’ve ever known and some I don’t. He’s spoken of in the highest regard to sports, kindness, and generosity, and I feel honored to be his daughter.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
What does this have to do with the passing of Tom Petty? Well, his music is part of my dad, and a part of this town, and a part of me. When I hear “American Girl” I smell soil and Cornhusker’s lotion. When someone mentions “Wildflower” I’m suddenly brought back to sitting in the passenger’s seat of a big red pickup truck, driving down a dirt road.
My passion for storytelling didn’t start the day I learned to pick up a pen. It started the day I learned what song was. My father is not the best singer, but he sings the songs that make his heart glad, and at the loudest volume possible. It’s what the inside of his soul sounds like, and who am I to tell him to turn it down?
He won’t. I’ve tried. It’s a futile fight.
Some of Tom Petty’s greatest hits are those I hear in my dad’s intentionally off-key drawl and joyful nonsense. I am grateful for Tom, and his ability to strike happiness in my dad through his gift of music.
Today, my heart’s broken.
It is a sad day when music can no longer be safe, life-giving and beautiful. It is a sad moment when festivals become war zones, but that, compounded with the loss of a soul that told beautiful stories makes this day heavy. May I suggest an autumn morning drive to work listening to “Free Fallin”? I think it’s going to help me get through Tuesday.
Thank you for the words, Tom. Thank you for being a part of the things I hold dear. Thank you for finding a way to live on in everybody’s hometown. Well done.