My Father’s Yahrzeit and Stan Rogers: Who Will Know?

Tonight is my Dad’s 4th Yahrzeit. Since his passing I have come to understand that I know very little about him. At some point along the way over this past four years I have started the practice of listening to the music of Stan Rogers in his memory. My father introduced me to his music. Rogers was a Canadian folk musician and songwriter (November 29, 1949 – June 2, 1983). Rogers was noted for his traditional-sounding songs which were frequently inspired by Canadian nautical history. While my father had no connection to Canada, he was in the Navy and loved to sail. In many ways listening to Rogers’ music has been a mediation on my father and a means to exploring the man he was.

On this occasion I wanted to share a reflection on his song Bluenose. Ironically it is a song I only found recently and my father never played for me, but really reminds me of him. In the song Rogers sings about the celebrated fishing and racing ship. The gaff rigschooner was built in 1921 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. Under the command of Angus Walters, the Bluenose became a provincial icon for Nova Scotia and an important Canadian symbol. The ship served as a working vessel until she was wrecked in 1946.

Rogers sings:

So does she not take wing like a living thing
Child of the moving tide?
See her pass with grace on the water’s face
With clean and quiet pride
Our own tall ship of great renown still lifts unto the sky
Who will know the Bluenose in the sun?

Here you get a sense of Rogers’ and Canada’s love and admiration for this boat. Likening the boat to a bird, child, and a graceful woman, he laments that she is gone. “Who will know” her?

Listening to this song I connect with my dad’s aesthetic. My father really enjoyed the serenity of sailing. His otherwise frenetic mind was at peace on the water.

Sadly, this also reminds me of my father’s shortcomings. He was a great man who did great things, but he had a limited capacity to express love. It seemed to me that it was easier for him communicate his love for inanimate things like the law, ideas, or even sail boats, than the people in his life. This still makes me sad, both for my and also for him. I know that he loved me, but it was so hard for him to say it. I loved him, but I am still left lamenting that I did not really know him. And now that he is gone I cannot. Who will know him in the sun?

Maybe listening to this song will lift his soul, if not your own. May the memory of James Joseph Orlow be for a blessing.


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