I was eleven. I was invited to try out for the Christmas community choir. A lady visited our church to conduct the auditions.
I had been practicing for three weeks, learning the lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
My father, the welder, took me to the audition after work. Before it was my turn to sing, he gave me a pep talk.
“Knock it outta the park,” he said. “Like Mickey Mantle, you hear?”
I sang for the lady in the wire-rimmed glasses who held the clipboard. She was less than impressed with me.
“Stop singing!” she shouted, interrupting my song. “We’re looking for something else, I’m sorry. Next please?”
My father stormed forward from the back of the church. He looked like he was on his way to pick a fight with an umpire.
“Now wait a minute, Lady,” he said. “I demand you let my boy finish his song. He’s been working on it for weeks. What kind of heartless woman doesn’t let a kid finish his song?”
The woman’s mouth dropped
open. She looked at my father like he’d lost his mind.
She sat down and asked me to sing it again. I cleared my throat. I sang. I did much better than before. It wasn’t a home run, per se, but more like an outfield triple.
I got the part.
I was fifteen feet tall. Until that day I’d never done anything special with my life—unless you counted the noises I could make with my armpits. I was a chubby kid with awkward features, I was neither handsome, nor athletic.
But now, I was a soloist.
It took months of preparation to get it right. Each day after school, I would rehearse for my mother in the kitchen while she made supper.
On the night of the performance, my father arrived home an hour late. He wheeled into…