David Murdock Column: On soaking up a few dreams of my dad

Here’s a strange opener for a Father’s Day column:  In the 2002 song, “Soak Up the Sun,” Sheryl Crow sings the lyrics, “It’s not having what you want/It’s wanting what you’ve got.” Obviously, that song has stayed with me for over 20 years now, and I keep coming back to it a lot these days.

Another experience has been happening to me a lot these days — I’ve been dreaming quite often of my mom and dad. I mentioned it in the Mother’s Day column, and it’s continued.

David Murdock
David Murdock

I’ve always had a particularly vivid dream life. These recurring dreams are  some combination of Mom, Dad, my older brother Greg, and me. Usually we’re sitting at the kitchen table, just chatting. I can never quite recall what we were chatting about, but I know that — as I said in May — it’s “Nothing all that earth-shattering. Nothing like ‘We hid the family fortune in the following location.’ ”

It’s just us chatting and laughing, as we did.

I have noticed something new about these dreams, though. Something that kind of shocked me when I realized it.  Not that it’s “shocking,” but along the lines of “How could I have missed that one?”

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Not long back, someone took a photo of me after a really, really big haircut and beard trim. I took one look at the photo and thought, “I look just like my Dad when he was about my age.” I called my brother and told him. He started laughing and said, “Yes, and I look just like him, too.”

I’d never really noticed how much Greg and I do look like Dad.

That’s when I noticed the “shocking” thing about these dreams — Mom and Dad are in their 50s in them. Greg and I are our current ages.

The next time I had the dream, it was just Dad and me, talking over coffee. I have no idea what we were talking about, but I distinctly remember having the dream.

And it took me back to … “Soak Up the Sun.”

One topic of conversation that Dad and I had over the years when we were off by ourselves — especially when I was old enough to drive him around AND pick the radio station — was how bad my generation’s music was. Oh, Dad would get animated about it! Seriously.  I remember him particularly mocking one song from the late 1980s that … to this day … I cannot enjoy because I hear Dad mocking it.

Dad would have hated “Soak Up the Sun” if he ever heard it.  It’s just not his thing.  It came out a long time before he passed away, but I don’t know that he ever heard it.

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I never married and had children, but I’d taught quite a few 18- to 20-year-olds over the years.  I have no idea who any of their “singing sensations” are … except for Taylor Swift. I’ve heard exactly TWO Taylor Swift songs over the years. Side note: I wish her well. She seems like she’s enjoying herself, and it seems like her fans enjoy her. 

Dad and I not only look alike and seem somewhat flummoxed by the current music scene, but we both read a lot of “genre fiction.” Here’s the difference: Dad read Westerns; I read either detective fiction or science fiction. Dad and I can both blaze through a book. He and I both have knocked out a favorite in an evening before — for him, it was a Louis L’Amour; for me, it was a Dashiell Hammett.

However, one memory of Dad — and our reading — that I treasure is C.S. Forester. Somehow, we both realized that we loved Forester’s “Horatio Hornblower” series, and it sort of took off from there. We read all the words Forester ever wrote about Hornblower. In fact, we read just about everything Forester ever wrote in the way of “naval fiction.”

And, of course, we watched every movie based on those books — "Captain Horatio Hornblower," "Sink the Bismarck!," "The African Queen." There lies a problem, though. Dad didn’t like the Hornblower television series that ran from 1998 to 2002. I don’t know why. He just didn’t like it. I would have loved it had Dad lived long enough to watch the 2020 film "Greyhound" with me, starring Tom Hanks and based on Forester’s "The Good Shepherd."  I don’t know whether Dad would have like it or not.

That’s what always got to me about Dad and me and our tastes in books and movies — I’ll leave music out of this one. He liked movie Westerns, for example, but nothing with Clint Eastwood.  I think Eastwood’s "Unforgiven" is one of the best Westerns ever made. Dad didn’t.

He wouldn’t read detective fiction. The thing is that “genre detectives” and “genre Western gunslingers” are the same guy! Han Solo from Star Wars is just a Western gunslinger in space. Literally, Captain Kirk from "Star Trek" was created to be like Horatio Hornblower in space. He never saw these protagonists as being the same protagonist, just set at different times and places.

All that being said, I really enjoyed watching movies with Dad, especially the ones we both liked. Watching those movies today isn’t the same.

Happy Father’s Day, all!

David Murdock is an English instructor at Gadsden State Community College. He can be contacted at murdockcolumn@yahoo.com. The opinions expressed are his own.   

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: David Murdock on his dad's opinions of books, music and movies