The King of Oak Street

My dad used to sing to me before bedtime. Whether I asked to be serenaded or if it was his idea I’m not sure, but I remember being sung to. The song I remember most is The King of Oak Street by Kenny Rogers. What’s that? Not on your current playlist? Let me introduce you to the opening lyrics:

Like a leaf caught in the wind, he drifted awhile
with no purpose or direction to his life.
He tried to get himself together, to pacify his mind,
and forget about the things he’d left behind:
a cryin’ woman he left standing in his door,
with a two-month-old baby in her arms;
his little black book he left torn up on the floor.
God only knows, he never meant to do her wrong.

Cheery, right? Totally appropriate lullaby fare. Right up there with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I actually remember asking what a little black book was. Oh, but it gets better. The two other songs I remember hearing are Tell Laura I Love Her, which includes these charming lines:

No one knows what happened that day
or how his car overturned in flames
But as they pulled him from the twisted wreck
With his dying breath they heard him say
Tell Laura I love her tell Laura I need her
Tell Laura not to cry my love for her will never die

and The Gambler (old Kenny again), which I think we can all agree at least has a somewhat uplifting life metaphor/message couched betwixt the booze and gambling.

So let’s review: cheating husband, young love ending in a car wreck, and two chain-smoking drunk guys on a train, one of whom DIES IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONVERSATION. Come to think of it, two of the three songs actually have a death in them…which kind of makes the cheating husband who wanders around town for a week and then comes home to a forgiving wife seem downright lullabyish.

The point is, I remember being sung to. I remember learning to appreciate song lyrics that told a story. I remember being put to bed rather than sent to bed. It’s really about showing up in the end, isn’t it? None of us really know what we’re doing as parents anyway, and showing up authentically, consistently, seems way more important than playing by the (song)book. My dad showed up at lullaby time. He continues to show up for me, for my family, for his grandkids. I love him for it. And I still love those songs.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.



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