Tag Archives: Harry Chapin

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 27: A song that breaks your heart

Life is short. Childhood is shorter. Spend it well.

My early childhood, like so many of my contemporaries, was one spent often in the care of grandparents while my parents both worked to maintain the household. My dad, especially, often worked 2-3 factory-type jobs to help make ends meet. His grueling work schedule, mostly overnights, meant that I really only saw him awake on weekends–those precious couple of days where we would drive into Marietta to pick up his paycheque and have lunch at Taco Bell still stand out as defining moments of my young life at the time.

This song is difficult to listen to for me even today as I find so much of my own life in the lyrics. While my dad wasn’t a traveling musician with “planes to catch”, there were many “bills to pay” and working overnights in a plastics factory was one of the best unskilled occupations in the Atlanta area in the 80s. In the 90s, it was fueling diesel trucks supplementing 24-hour shifts on an ambulance supplementing 24-hour shifts at the fire department. Sometimes I wouldn’t see my dad for days at a time while he worked consecutive jobs. I don’t blame him for this work; our lives–like so many others during that era–were financed through debt. I made the most of it, though, and my friends will oft remember so many afternoons and overnights at “The Yellow House”. When my domestic family fell apart in the 90s (brought on by many factors, but mostly by financial disputes, I’m certain), my friends were there to fill in the gaps. My dad and I had many falling-outs in my later teen years, and just before moving to college, I quietly moved out of the house and didn’t talk to him for months.

We have since, of course, reconciled. Today, those days are long passed and we enjoy a healthy relationship. Dad is nearing retirement (something I’m not sure how he’ll deal with, honestly, as he still manages to work 2 jobs, though he does take more holidays), and I live on the other side of the continent, but we do manage to keep in touch and visit about once a year. That bittersweet ending to the song punctuating a story that continues to this day.