Once I Was: The #LinkYourLife Challenge Day 2

The Day 2 prompt for the #LinkYourLife Challenge was to write about who we were. It made me think of the song “Once I Was” by Tim Buckley.

One thing I’ve always been is old in my tastes. I can clearly remember when Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” was an MTV Buzz Clip. I was 20 years old and a perfect age to be his fan. Instead, it was his father Tim, who died when I was just over a year old, that caught my fancy and inspired me to read their dual biography “Dream Brother”.

What struck me repeatedly when reading that book was Jeff’s mixed feelings toward his father. Jeff hardly knew Tim who died at 28 when Jeff was 8. Their musical connection was purely genetic. (Both had incredible multi-octave voices.) Jeff came to love music purely on his own, not hearing his father’s work until adulthood. Still, he seemed often to be somehow haunted by Tim’s legacy, wanting to know about his father but hurt by his abandonment and often chagrined by comparisons.

I knew Jeff’s mixed feelings quite well. I never knew my own father, and that caused me a lot of pain and anxiety over the years. There were times I was bitter, but I grew out of that as I realized he probably felt much of the same fear I did. I was 34 when he died. I could’ve reached out to him but never did.

My father wasn’t famous, and I’ve never carried his last name. (Jeff Buckley, in fact, went by a different name for much of his childhood.) I have, however, often felt that same haunting of my father’s legacy. I briefly considered a similar career path (law) and served in the military during a war. As I mentioned, I feel much of the same anxiety I’m sure he felt. Also like him, I long used alcohol to deal with it. That anxiety has been a significant factor in my not having kids, but if I do, I will not let fear keep me from being the best father I can be.

I’d listened to “Grace” many times by the time I read “Dream Brother” but had never really appreciated it as the work of Jeff Buckley rather than Tim Buckley’s son. After reading that biography, I finally found myself listening differently and now can appreciate the unique qualities in each of their voices. Unfortunately, Jeff died young like his father, age 30, in 1997.

Once I was a son, but my parents are gone now. Now my lady and I are talking about having kids. I have some work to do: become healthier, finish school, get a steady job. I know she’ll be a great mom just like mine was. I will certainly try like hell to be a good dad. I’m both scared and excited by the whole idea.

Very early in his career Jeff Buckley performed at a Tim Buckley tribute show, closing the event with “Once I Was”. Maybe I’ll sing that song to my kids as a lullaby.

“Once I was a soldier,
And I fought on foreign sands for you…”


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