My father’s birthday

My father, Bertram Camp Bruce, was born on November 19, 1915. Had his heart been healthier, he might have lived until his birthday today, but instead he died on December 12, 1969, almost 40 years ago. His death punctuated a tumultuous decade, for the world, for the country, and for my family and me.

This week I’ve been hearing 60’s music everywhere–Ray Charles, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Supremes. There’s no need to make that time more vivid, but the music amplifies it for me. My father loved opera, musicals, symphony, classical and romantic chamber music, big band, jazz, and popular singers of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. But his wide-ranging love of music didn’t extend to 60’s pop and folk. He enjoyed talking with the young people who visited Bruce Piano Co., and was of course happy to sell guitars or amps, as long as he didn’t have to attend the next concert using them.

I enjoyed, and still do, 60’s music. I even listened to it while working in the shop during the summer at Bruce Piano Co., since Fred, the technician, liked it too. But I’m very glad that my father taught me to enjoy other kids of music as well.

I wish we could listen to music together again.

3 thoughts on “My father’s birthday

  1. Dear Chip – How nice that you wrote those memories which, I know, come back off and on for years after a loved one has died. And when one gets some difficult twinges those memories are so precious.

    And how great it is that you and Susie saw to it that Emily and Stephen learned the piano, as well as singing with Glee Clubs, etc. and they, too, have so enjoyed having some of your Dad’s genes!

    Lots of love — how lucky Susie is to have met you! Rhoda


  2. Mother and I were talking on the car ride returning from visiting Austin families suddenly taking on a lower average age.

    Daddy, Bert Bruce, came into the conversation, and I made the remark that has been repeated like an ancient myth in our family for about 40 years. “You know, if his heart attack had happened today, or even ten years later, he probably would have lived.”

    Yesterday, at a breakfast honoring Bill Todd’s memory, a donation was made to the Warm Place. The Warm Place provides support groups for children 25 and under who have lost a family member or significant friend. Most of the parents stay for a similar support group for adults, since they have nowhere else to go, and ‘really’ because they need the support more than the children.

    If the Warm Place was around 40 years ago, not just 20 years, Mother and all three of the children would have qualified for the program, which can last weeks or months. The Director told me there are 3 common lifelong traits of young people who lose someone close. Failures make and to maintain close relationships, chronic low grade depression, and darn if I can’t remember the last one.

    I also saw Dr. Stumhouffer, whose son Brian was a classmate of mine. He surprised me by telling me that Brian had died last year of a heart attack. Brian was an ER doctor and had access to the best of modern medical technology, an yet he died at the same age as Daddy, at 54.

    Life and death are strange, music was strange during the 60s counter culture, and now as always, change is strange to those of us who don’t grow up with it. Change and the strangeness of it can be horrific or beautiful.

    I remember the last thing Daddy said, to Mother before he collapsed. She had since forgotten it, and it always comes to mind when I hear a song from the 60’s by the same title. “It’s a beautiful day”.


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