They trudged up Gay Street on a chilly December evening like a gray army, and as I threaded the throng toward the parking garage on State Street, I couldn’t help but think of my father.
My plan was to join these seniors, along with my brother and mother, to partake of the Christmas show by the Oak Ridge Boys, and I readily confess: I didn’t have high expectations. I didn’t have low ones, either; more than anything, I wanted to take my mom, who a year ago would have attended with my father, the two of them reminiscing about days long past, when the Oaks were in constant rotation on that old cabinet console turntable in our downstairs den.
My folks could have joined the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s; they certainly were of age, but flat feet kept my father out of Vietnam, and they spent most of their days and nights working and studying and eking out a living as a young married couple new to East Tennessee. They appreciated Bob Dylan, but they found solace and comfort and joy in mainstream country music. They preferred Kenny Rogers and the First Edition to the Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond to the Beatles, the Oak Ridge Boys to the Velvet Underground. After a day riding around in a Knoxville Utilities Board truck, checking meters and water lines, and a night bent over books to finish a bachelor’s degree, my pops didn’t have much time for protests or love-ins; those tumultuous years passed them by without much fanfare, and growing up, WIVK-FM was their radio station of choice.