Fate works in mysterious ways, as a man with a lifelong passion for singing achieves fame at the age of 80.
This is a son’s memoir of life with his father and of his undistinguished father’s life well before the author was born. Though McDermott’s father, Ted, was not a successful professional singer and the author isn’t a professional writer, this story has a strong, sentimental pull, as the viral response to the videos of the father’s singing have attested. The elephant in the room is the Alzheimer’s to which it appeared the author had lost Ted. Though the family had been late to acknowledge it, Ted had become a totally different man: dangerously belligerent, accusatory, and denying there was anything amiss. “Alzheimer’s is a thief—it takes away all the light in family life and robs you of normality,” writes the author. “Even the shape of the word looks like it’s going to attack you. It strips you of precious moments and possible memories.” The narrative also pivots on an earlier before-and-after, the 40-plus years before Ted became a father, much of which he spent as a working-class singer on various bandstands, trying his best to support himself and perhaps delay the rooted responsibilities of adulthood. A crooner amid the rise of the Beatles, he saw this phase of his life come to an end when he impregnated a casual girlfriend and belatedly married her. The marriage that produced Ted’s only son was disharmonious throughout, but they somehow persevered through frequent arguments and occasional breakups. Then came the Alzheimer’s and the discovery that only through music could Ted reconnect with his former self. What followed was a video that went viral, a surprisingly successful fundraising campaign for Alzheimer’s support, a flurry of publicity and TV appearances by the son, a recording contract for Ted, and, now, this book.
A pleasantly expressive story with two primary morals: You never know what will happen, and you can find support when things are darkest.