Dead Man's Party

"It's a Dead Man's Party, who could ask for more"

I was 13 years old, and in 8th grade. It was Halloween and this would be the first year I did not go trick or treating. No, this year my dad would take me to my first concert on Halloween night. To see the band he took my brother to 8 years earlier for his first concert. One of my father’s favorite band to see live, Oingo Boingo. It was their farewell concert, the last day of the last tour, the final show they ever had. I was there with my dad. My mom and my brother came along too. We sat in the mezzanine at the Universal Amphitheater.

 I’m not sure what about this band my dad loved so much, maybe it was the large brass ensemble they had, maybe it was the eclectic sound they had, or the quirky lead singer. Really it was probably all of it. He felt like their farewell concert needed to be my first concert. I needed to see them before it was too late.

One of their most popular songs was titled Dead Mans Party. A strange song when you pay attention to the lyrics, but the theme of celebrating death was all around at this final concert. Held on Halloween night, the day before Dia de Los Muertos. The stage was adorned on either side with larger than life skeletons that came to life like marionettes when the band played their famous song. The colors reminiscent of the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos. Maybe it was supposed to be symbolic of the death of the band, and yet in a way that celebrated their accomplishments rather than mourning their break up. Just like Dia de los Muertos, we don’t fear death, rather we celebrate life, and the idea that death is merely the door to another life.

My dad was sad to see that they would no longer perform as a band, but he was comforted in knowing the lead singer Danny Elfman would go on to have a successful career in music scoring films and the like. My dad would recognize almost immediately when he was watching a film scored by Elfman. He loved Elfman’s signature take on music in movies. He would watch any movie if it was scored by Elfman.

My dad was really a great fan of music in general. He played the congas, and loved listening to salsa music. When my son Cruz was very young, he would sit him in his lap and let him play the congas with him. He said Cruz would be a great conga player, because he had big hands. To this day every time I hear salsa music I think of Sunday mornings after church coming home and my dad would blast salsa music from his speakers. Or those rare evenings when there was nothing else going on and he would put the music on and sit and try to play his congas along with the music, listening intently for the conga sound. I would sit and watch in wonder how he kept the rhythm so perfectly.

It has been over a year since my father has passed, and although I have come a long way in my grieving, it’s remembering moments like this that reminds me how sad it is that he is not here with me, with us. There are so many moments I stop and think I wish my dad was here for this. But we all have a limited time on this earth, and if my dad only had the time he had, I feel lucky to have had him when I needed him the most. He was there when I was born, to tell me the story of how I came into this world. He was there when I was a kid to teach me how to swim, he was there when I was a teenager when I was going through my awkward years to remind me how special I was. He was there when I was a young adult not sure what I was going to do in life, there to reassure me no matter what path I chose he would support me however he could. He was there when I was an adult making career and life decisions again reassuring me I was making the right choices. He was there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, and to give a beautiful speech. He was there in my sons first few years of life to teach him soccer skills early on, and be an amazing grandfather, which by the way Cruz still carries with him today. And my dad was there early in my second pregnancy, telling me how happy he was for me.

He was there to take me to my first concert, and share his love of music with me. And in fact it’s all come full circle. I recently found my dads collection of record albums, like actual vinyl records. And I remembered he has Dead Man’s Party on vinyl, and low and behold I found it! And it brought back all these memories for me, and yet it’s the one thing, the one possession of his that I really care to hold on to, and his black serape he used to wear. So many beautiful memories: Halloween 1995 was my first concert. Halloween and Dia de los Muertos 2014 was the last time my father was with all of my family together. Dia de los Muertos 2015, I finally felt some peace about his death, because I made sure to celebrate his death as his passing on to a new life. It was my fathers first dead mans party.

Renee LemusComment