My dad pulled into the driveway after a day of working his air-conditioning business.

But he left the engine running so he could listen to a song on the radio.

He hadn’t said a word for the last several minutes. But for the moment, he was listening only to that song.

It was an Elvis song. 

I can’t say that he was a particular Elvis fan, but I think he liked him.

As the truck rolled to a full stop, Elvis was not yet finished singing. So, dad put the transmission in “park” and left the engine running. He wanted to hear the last of the song.

And then I noticed something different.

Tears were rolling down his face.

I’d always known that my dad was emotional. He could watch an old war movie and remember something from his past and tears would roll down his face.

He could speak to an AA meeting and recall the details of some terrible event or story in his lifetime and tears would come.

We sat there, engine running, and Elvis singing.

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

And his mama cries
‘Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

And his mama cries …

Dad was an actual red-headed step-child. And they were poor.

I’m not even sure what his dad did for a living. He may have been a farmer. I do know that dad started drinking at around ten years old. He learned the craft from an old guy that lived next door who made moonshine.

Which was probably cool to a 10-year-old.

He managed to continue the art of drinking for the next 30 or so years.

Maybe that’s why the song was so emotional to him. Perhaps he saw himself in that little boy that Elvis sang about.

Just another nameless kid growing up in a place with no chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.

Maybe he saw his own mother crying. Severe poverty. No father for her firstborn.

I don’t know.

I just know that the sappy song made him tear up there in our driveway one hot summer afternoon.

And I’m glad.

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