Bombs. Gonzo. And Drums.

My dad + Fabeku nugget

Dad + Fabeku nugget

Sunday was Father’s Day.

I started the day by burning a mix CD of my favorite punk tunes.

Not because it was Father’s Day.

Just because.

Then I read this post from Patti.

Which got me thinking about Dad.

Even more than I already was.

That long? Really?!

Patti said this is her 30th Father’s Day without her dad.

Which made me realize that this is my 16th Father’s Day without mine.

Sixteen years.



My dad and I had a weird and wild relationship.

There was lots of fighting. And lots of ignoring each other. And lots of feeling more like enemies than father and son.

But there were some sweet times too.

Fishing. Except not really.

Like when I was a little kid and he’d take me fishing.

He’d fish.

And I’d walk all along the banks of the river. Turning over every single rock I could find. Looking for frogs and crawdads and salamanders.

He’d catch a fish. I’d clap and scream.

Then I’d go back to turning over rocks. And he’d go back to fishing.

Even though we were each doing our own thing, I felt like we were hanging out together.

Somehow it just worked for us.

BBQ + Buddhas

Then there was the trip we took to DC when I was 14 or 15.

I was crazy into art. And Dad wanted me to see the Smithsonian’s art collection.

So we took off. Just the two of us.

And we spent three days in DC.

Days full of mind-blowing art, Mongolian barbecue at this little dive joint and buying plastic Buddhas in Chinatown.

It was fun.

There was no fighting, no ignoring, no feeling-like-enemies.

So, yeah, there are definitely some good memories.

Even if, in real life, beyond the fishing and the Buddhas, we spent most of our time not talking to each other. And when we did it was usually more screaming than talking.

Prelude to the huge

Then, during my senior year in high school, something huge happened.

Like life changing kind of huge.

Dad had actually moved out.

He and Mom weren’t getting along. And after one of the worst fights ever, he left.

He was living in some dumpy rent-by-the-week motel.

When I saw it for the first time I remember feeling really sad that he was living there. Even though I was still seriously pissed at him about the fight.

But that wasn’t the life changing thing.

That was more or less just life.


One day Dad called the house and asked if I wanted to go out to lunch with him.


We never went to lunch. Even when he was still living at home.

So I didn’t get it.

Then there was that still-pissed-at-him thing.

So I basically said no way and hung up the phone.

He called back and talked to Mom. She told me I should go.

So I did.

Bring on the bomb

Dad picked me up. We went to eat. After lunch we were just driving around.

That’s when Dad dropped the bomb.

He said, Do you know what I wanted to be when I grew up?

No, I said in my best teenage like-I-care voice.

An artist, he said.


I had lived with this man for 17 years. And painted since I was a pollywog.

And he never said one thing about my art. Or art in general.

He never lifted a brush. Or put a pastel to paper. Or even glanced at an art magazine.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

And now he’s telling me he wanted to be an artist?

It was a total WTF!? moment.

All I ever wanted to do was paint, he said. But grandma and grandpa told me that was dumb. They said I needed to get a real job.

Blown away

Dad’s real job was a gig in mid-level corporate management.

He did well. And made decent money. But he hated it.

I think that’s why he was grumpy pretty much all the time.

So after hearing this all-I-ever-wanted-to-do-is-paint revelation I sat there totally open-mouthed.

Staring at Dad. Staring out the window. Staring at Dad.

Then he said, I know you’ve been thinking about college. And I know your mother and I have been hard on you about this.

But I want you to know that it’s ok to do what you want to do. Whatever it is.

I didn’t know what to say. I don’t think I said much.

But I was stunned.

Totally and completely blown away.

It’s like my whole world just went boom.

He dropped me off. I went inside. He went back to that dumpy little motel room.

Boom (part II)

Then he got sick.

Well got sick again.

He had cancer. It went away. Then it came back.

And a year later he was gone.

It happened so unexpectedly.

Going in for routine tests on Wednesday. Dead by the weekend.

I wasn’t even 19 yet. And Dad was dead.

My world went boom again.

Steaming pile of suck meet aha! moment

Fast forward six years.

I was living in North Carolina with my wife. And working a corporate job that I hated.

I had landed a mid-level management gig. Which sounded like a great idea at the time. But it morphed into a steaming pile of suck in a matter of months.

Tons of hours. Tons of stress. Tons of grumpy and angry and hard-to-be-around.

Then it hit me.

Holy shit. This is exactly what happened to Dad.


You can call me Gonzo

So I walked into the office and quit.

No two week notice. No tying up loose ends. No training a replacement.

I was effing gonzo baby.

I knew I had to do my thing. Whatever it was. I had to do it.

I didn’t want to be stuck in a job I hated for decades. And be miserable for the rest of my life. And die with some unfulfilled wish stuck in my gut.

So I jumped.

And I never looked back.

Life changing. Really.

Yeah, sometimes it’s been hard. And scary. And stressful.

And some people thought I totally lost my mind when I walked out on that corporate gig.

And said no to all of the offers they tossed out trying to keep me.

But I always think back to that conversation Dad and I had in the car.

I know that the whole life changing thing has gotten kicked around so much that it’s become a cliché.

So I try not to say it unless it’s true.

That day?

Totally life changing.

Gotta get it out

There are a lot of reasons why I do what I do.

But the catalyst for it was that extraordinary thing my dad said to me on an otherwise ordinary day.

Somebody – I don’t remember who – said, Don’t die with your music still in you.

That stuck with me when I heard it.

I feel like Dad died without ever getting his music out into the world.

I didn’t don’t want the same thing to happen to me.

That’s what got me moving in this direction.

And there isn’t one single time that I sit down to drum a drum or gong a gong or whack a singing bowl that I don’t think about Dad.

And about how insanely lucky I am to do what I do.

So this is me saying thanks Dad.

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31 Responses to Bombs. Gonzo. And Drums.
  1. Shamsi
    June 21, 2010 | 4:10 pm

    Aho. Truly beautiful love. Thank you for bringing your music to the world. We sure do need it and you.

  2. Noura
    June 21, 2010 | 4:11 pm

    wow… beautiful, amazing, stirring memories. Loss for words really, but very moved.

  3. Tami
    June 21, 2010 | 4:27 pm

    Beautiful post, Fabeku.

    I love the picture of you and your Dad. It must have taken a lot of courage for him to tell you that. So many people who finally come to these sort of realizations, but they are left unspoken.

    I don’t want to be stuck full of music when I die, either. You are a huge inspiration to me, Fabeku.

    Thank you.

    And thanks to your Dad, too….


  4. Pidge
    June 21, 2010 | 4:38 pm

    Wow. I am so moved by what you wrote. I don’t know what else to say except it was beautiful and it touched me at the core of my being. It was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you so much.

  5. Tara
    June 21, 2010 | 4:39 pm

    Oh, this is so fabulous.
    Thank you for sharing! And thank you for reminding me to tell little ones (anyone’s!) to do what they love. They probably don’t hear it enough.

    Big hugs.
    .-= Tara´s last blog ..How to Craft a Brand =-.

  6. Andy Dolph
    June 21, 2010 | 4:41 pm

    amazing – thank you for reminding me how important this is, and how grateful I am for my dad and grandpa faults and all!

    .-= Andy Dolph´s last blog ..Under the Sky in an Inflatable Planetarium =-.

  7. Linnea
    June 21, 2010 | 4:59 pm

    My dad chased airwaves all over the U.S., though he’d landed in Charlotte for good by the time caboose-baby (that’d be me) came along.

    We were best friends, so temperamentally alike that our (thankfully) few fights were terrible to behold. But we talked a lot.

    Dad was scary brilliant. He could have been Mr. High-Level Management (and was for a while with a broadcasting conglomerate, until he learned the hard way that not everyone was as ethical as he was), but he preferred to do what he loved.

    I’m glad he did, because nearly thirteen years ago, at the age of 70, he dropped dead from a brain aneurysm.

    Bless you, Fabeku’s dad, for the love and courage you showed that day — and thank you, because those of us in Fabeku’s orbit benefit from it regularly.
    .-= Linnea´s last blog ..the sensory summer (Wishcasting Wednesday) =-.

  8. Catherine Caine
    June 21, 2010 | 5:04 pm

    That’s so beautiful and hugely timely for me. Thank you for sharing it.
    .-= Catherine Caine´s last blog ..“Professional” does not mean “corporate”. =-.

  9. Jessica
    June 21, 2010 | 5:12 pm

    Beautiful. It made me cry. I wish more people had the courage you have to do what you love. To let your music out – literally! Thank you so much for sharing this.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Wherein I tell you that it’s ok to be a Badass Bitch and show you how Glinda the Good Witch can help you feel powerful =-.

  10. Christine Martell
    June 21, 2010 | 5:20 pm

    My Dad was a teacher, and hated every minute of it. I vowed I would never take a job I didn’t like, and I’ve pretty much managed not to. It was such a painful lesson watching my Dad feel obligated to do something for the money. Interesting thing, when he finally stopped, he made more money doing his own thing full time.

    I’m sorry your Dad didn’t get enough time to realize all his dreams….. sorry for both of you. But inspired that it has driven you to follow your dreams.
    .-= Christine Martell´s last blog ..Who inspires you? =-.

  11. Katie Schroth
    June 21, 2010 | 5:30 pm


    You wrote, “But the catalyst for it was that extraordinary thing my dad said to me on an otherwise ordinary day.”

    What a beautiful gift your Father gave you that day – a truly life-changing, life-giving gift!

    How beautifully what you shared has honored both the gift and the man who gave it in such a determined courageous way during a very difficult period in his life.

    Thank you for sharing this incredible story.

  12. Maryann Devine
    June 21, 2010 | 5:33 pm

    Fabeku, what an amazing, touching story — it brings back memories of my own dad and his support for doing what I wanted to do in life.


  13. Annie
    June 21, 2010 | 5:38 pm

    This is so timely to me right now, thank you for writing it. Thank you.
    .-= Annie´s last blog ..Pondering In My Heart =-.

  14. Julia
    June 21, 2010 | 5:47 pm

    He was proud of you, Fabeku. And wherever he is, I’ll bet he’s still extremely proud, as well he should be.
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Snowflake in June =-.

  15. Joan Bright
    June 21, 2010 | 6:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, and putting it all out there so courageously. It is still changing lives, that conversation with your Dad. When you share it, you let people know they are ok, too, with wanting to do what makes them glow, what makes them bring their music to the world. You let me know I’m ok and not a weirdo who wants to do crazy stuff for a living.
    My Dad told me one time after I had gotten through a lot of sucky stuff in my life without asking him and Mom for help with any of it and I explained that I felt like I had to take care of my own mess…that he was proud of me. And I said, yeah, ’cause I’m finally actually using my degree! (teaching, which I was, at that time). He said it had nothing to do with that, or with me getting myself straightened out, necessarily. He was just proud of me for being – me. I should never forget that conversation. It’s been 10 years without my Dad, as of January. He’s still proud of me, he loves me, and I feel him at my shoulder a lot. And I can and may certainly do what my heart desires and I am dithering around about doing. Your Dad was proud of you and he still is. Thank you for sharing the love in your life with you and your Dad and you and what you do, I appreciate it! It really makes a difference, and helps me to shift my fear to the love that is there for us all, just the way we really are.

  16. Laurie Foley
    June 21, 2010 | 8:15 pm

    Sweet Fabeku Nugget! The world is so much yummier with you playing along. What a dear post. xoxo, L.
    .-= Laurie Foley´s last blog ..Catching Lightning Bugs =-.

  17. Grace
    June 21, 2010 | 8:17 pm

    All I can say is thank you for sharing Fabeku.

  18. David Cohen
    June 21, 2010 | 10:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing the way you do, and taking us into your story and welcoming us there.

    It is such a powerful thought, that phrase you shared “Don’t die with your music still in you.” That really rang a note with me. I sometimes look at my artwork, especially when I’m a little distanced from when I made it, and there is this bit of surprise – a moment of “that came out of me?” and I can’t help but wonder if there’s more where that came from.

    Nobody escapes time, and eventually we write our last poem, bang our last drum, or paint our last picture, and you won’t know it at the time, so I say: Yes! Yes! Yes! Keep making your music. Keep painting in the colors of your words and wisdom and sounds and love!
    .-= David Cohen´s last blog ..Love, brands and forgiveness =-.

  19. Elana
    June 21, 2010 | 11:27 pm


    I’m gonna whip something out for you…It’s that cliche you mentioned. Here’s the twist. THat post. The one you just wrote. Was life changing for me. I’m in tears.
    YOu touched me! What a gift.
    Love you nugget!

  20. ABCcreativity
    June 22, 2010 | 8:56 am

    thank you for this. today i am really struggling with the lack of support i am receiving from my parents about my decision to quit my part time job to do my creative work full time.
    i know all they want is for me to be safe and secure.
    i know i need more than that.
    and it is painful as hell to have them tell me they’d rather see me keep my job.
    so it really touches my heart to hear of a father encouraging a son to fly.
    .-= ABCcreativity´s last blog ..creativity 101: discover, explore + empower your creative genius =-.

  21. Heather Plett
    June 22, 2010 | 10:13 am

    This is beautiful, Fabeku. Shortly after my dad died, I quit my middle management government job for a lower paying non-profit job that I actually cared about, for some of the same reasons as you. People thought I was nuts, but it was one of the best things I could have done.

  22. Cath Duncan
    June 22, 2010 | 10:24 am

    wow, Fabeku, thanks for sharing your story. It’s a beautiful one, for sure.
    .-= Cath Duncan´s last blog ..Using Freedom And Constraints To Create A Life You Love: An Interview With Adam Baker, =-.

  23. Janice Cartier
    June 22, 2010 | 10:45 am

    patinas… your words, this exquisite set of them, makes me think your sounds have patinas of personal offering..richness that adds another layer, and continuity, to the depth of their tone…
    Thank you for letting us know…your why.
    And BTW..I use your sounds to help me add richness to my art. You know that, right?
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..Kisses =-.

  24. Sinclair
    June 22, 2010 | 5:03 pm

    Oy. What a gorgeous tale, thank you for sharing. So many truths in it struck a chord for me…
    A collective hymn for us all – “Don’t die with your music still in you.”
    Someday I want to drum together.
    .-= Sinclair´s last blog ..Defending the baby biz/idea =-.

  25. Dave
    June 23, 2010 | 9:29 am

    Wow Fabeku, amazing story.

    I was really moved by this–the difficulties in your relationship, the loss, the beautiful gift he gave you that day, and how that gift still ripples out through the work you do and affects so many people.

    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Sleepy Buddha =-.

  26. Joely Black
    June 25, 2010 | 1:08 pm

    That was amazing and wonderful – thank you so much for sharing.

    .-= Joely Black´s last blog ..P 1.4.4: The blame game =-.

  27. Josiane
    June 30, 2010 | 3:50 pm

    That is a beautifully touching post, Fabeku. Thank you for sharing it.

  28. Fabeku
    July 1, 2010 | 4:12 pm

    Hey taters.

    Big thanks for all of your comments. I read them with a mix of smiles and tears and lots and lots of thanks.

    After I pressed publish on this one I felt really quiet. Not bad or sad. Just quiet. And almost every day I’ve come back to reread your comments.

    @Shamsi – Thanks you. I appreciate that.

    @Noura – Puffy heart thanks headed your way.

    @Tami – I think you’re right on about the courage thing. It was a big thing for him to do. I didn’t get that then. But now I do. And the part where you thanked my Dad? Thanks for that.

    @Pidge – Totally welcome. I’m glad it showed up at the right time.

    @Tara – I think this is probably a message that people need to hear a lot. Because you’re right. It doesn’t seem like it gets said nearly enough.

    @Andy – I know what you mean. When I look back at the relationship I had with Dad, there were lots of bumps. And then I look at this – the thing that got me moving in this direction – and the bumps don’t seem quite as important as they used to.

    @Linnea – Beautiful! It made me crazy happy to hear how your Dad chose to do what he loved. That’s a really powerful thing to choose. Thanks for sharing that. And thanks for the bless-ey bits for my Dad. Totally appreciated.

    @Catherine – Totally welcome.

    @Jessica – Thank you. I think my initial catalyst was fear. Fear of dying like Dad did without ever doing what I loved. For me, courage has totally been helpful when it comes to keeping at it.

    @Christine – I’m sorry to hear about your Dad’s story. I’m glad he had a taste of doing what he loved. And I’m glad he inspired you to do the same.

    @Katie – Definitely life changing stuff for me. And now, looking back, I’m kind of awed by the courage he had that day. Huge stuff.

    @Maryann – I’m really happy your Dad supported you in doing your thing. That feels like a huge gift to me.

    @Annie – Welcome! I’m always happy to hear something lands at the right time.

    @Julia – Thanks you. I teared up reading that the first time. And every time after that. Including today.

    @Joan – You are so totally ok. Really. I love how much you love the drum! And what your Dad said to you is so so beautiful. Big and beautiful. Thanks for sharing that.

    @Laurie – Big thanks. And lots of appreciation.

    @Grace – Welcome!

    @David – I love those that-came-out-of-me? moments! And you know how much I love your artwork. Here’s to more music and art and awesome!

    @Elana – Wow. That. Is. Awesome. And it makes me crazy happy to hear that. Really.

    @ABC – I’m sorry about the lack of support. That stuff is so hard. It’s awesome that you get that behind the lack of support is a real interest in you being safe. But it’s still hardhardhard stuff.

    @Heather – Go you! And right on! I actually clapped when I read that.

    @Cath – Thanks Cath. I appreciate that.

    @Janice – I love the idea of patinas here. I never thought about that in this way. But I love the way it fits. And I love that my tunes help you out as you make your gorgeous art.

    @Sinclair – A collective hymn! Yes! Drumming together! Yes!

    @Dave – Thanks muches. And thanks for introducing the idea of ripples. There’s something in that that feels really sweet.

    @Joely – Totally welcome.

    @Josiane – It felt good to share it. Even if it did launch me into two weeks of quiet time. 🙂

    Thanks again. All of you. I appreciate you all like crazy.


  29. Cranky Fibro Girl
    July 2, 2010 | 2:33 pm

    Wow-what a wonderful thing for him to tell you. Like he gave you a key to tuck away later for when you needed to set yourself free.
    .-= Cranky Fibro Girl´s last blog ..Do- Three- Things- The Jeopardy Edition =-.

  30. Susan Duffield
    January 16, 2015 | 12:56 pm

    I just happened to stumble across this post from years ago and yet your words could not be more timely. So many serendipitous parallels that align from my perspective I did not want to leave the moment without acknowledging you. Not sure what the universe has in store for me and you but I am deeply grateful for what has already transpired. Your dad was awesome, my dad was awesome, we are apples that fall from awesome trees. Thank you Fabeku.

  31. Greg
    November 19, 2015 | 7:00 pm

    Thank you so much for this truly heartfelt and emotional post. Amazing. Thank you for doing what YOU do!

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