Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Glenn Miller Story

The Glenn Miller Story was filmed in 1953; the same year my parents were married. I remembered this as I was surfing through the cable channels late one night and clicked on the movie. I always think of my folks when I see The Glenn Miller Story, and this particular evening those thoughts are heavy with nostalgia.

My Father passed away last October after a varied and fruitful life. I am sure there were regrets, as he had his vices; my favorite was that he read too much. Yes, he read too much: when all the extroverted personalities in our family were in attendance, he would do his thing: go read a new paperback and avoid or deny what was going on around him. He sometimes read as many as ten paperbacks in a week. I don’t blame him for needing some alone time: my mother, who gave birth to the four children, can be very intense and driven and Pop was the only introvert amongst us. (I called my Father “Pop” once and my Mother disapproved, thereby assuring this nickname be etched in granite for eternity.) But I do wish he had been more present sometimes. Yet, when he was present, he was totally there; no multi-tasking for him. As the eldest daughter and the most like him, in personality if not in extroversion, we had a bond that transcended words. Sometimes I would help him fix things around the house even though I tried not to . . . as that just wasn’t very feminine, and at fifteen, I was very concerned with being female. Pop would reach his hand back and make the universal hand signal for “hand me that thingie”, and I would know which “thingie” and what size. I liked finding out how things went together and would have grown up to be a mechanic or an electrician if there had been more opportunities for face-time with people.

In Virginia, a death certificate lists the departed one’s most recent occupation: in this case, “Opera Singer” . I think Pop would have liked that although he had many occupations in his life: Oil Scout, Back-hoe Operator, Life Insurance Salesman, Knife Maker and a very brief stint as a Mortician. The cliché around our home was that he was, “A Jack of all trades; a Master of none.” Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that was really accurate: he always was very curious about different things so it appeared as if he jumped around a lot in his work life. Yet, if he was really interested in a topic he became the local expert.

Since Glenn Miller had attended University of Colorado, the filming of portions of The Glenn Miller Story took place on the CU campus, at Boulder. My parents were students in the music department at the time and had been introduced to each other by a mutual friend: Mom should meet this frat-boy who was a on football scholarship and also happened to have a great bass baritone voice. Fraternity boys were one thing, but dating Jocks, never! She said, maybe coffee sometime – and over tepid coffee at The Sink, he stated he was going to marry her. My parents were into a six-month courtship when they were chosen to be extras in the film.
So yesterday, the Glenn Miller film competes for my attention and thirty minutes go by before I see my parents stroll behind June Alyson and Jimmy Stewart. I recognize Pop’s distinctive walk, which my brother and son share and Mother’s sashay which none of the girls seem to have inherited. I am sandbagged with tears again.

I cry for the joy of their lives together; I cry for my own loss of his company. I contemplate the future, when I am on my own death bed: I will be thinking about the living I’m leaving behind, but, Oh, the Joy! of seeing Pop again.


  1. What a great way to see your Mother and Pop, a page (or film clip) from history that touches you so personally..Jack of All Trades? Maybe, but from reading this, I take away that your Pop was one hell of an interesting man, someone who could hold his own in a conversation...would be interesting to read his blog site too....

  2. Just read this more than 2 years since it was posted...brought me to tears, remembering your dad and his amazing voice. Never knew he retreated into books; my dad hid in the newpaper. Amazing how firm a blockade a few sheets of paper can build. Next time I see The Glenn Miller Story, I'll watch for your parents' younger, happier selves.
    Pat Baker