Many of the songs that make up the CMY(K) project are written for and about friends, each of whom has or will receive letters about the songs. I’m posting a few of those letters here. ”33″ is written for my Dad, Jonathan Walter McRoberts, who ended his life on May 6, 1998. This is the letter I wrote to him about the song:
You were thirty three years old when I was born. You were only fifty five when you decided the cards you had been dealt could not be played out and chose to end your life. I think of you often. You fool. I wish you were here.
Nine years after you left, on the morning I turned thirty three, I woke at 6:00am, put on a pair of your old running shoes and your favorite jogging shirt. I drove to the foot of Mt. Diablo, parked at the end of the Mitchell Canyon trail and ran up the valley where you and I most often ran together. Two miles into that valley is the place where your friends, along with Mom and I, scattered your ashes. I ran past that place and proceeded up the switch-backs, out of the valley toward Deer Flat. Deer Flat was as far as you and I ever ran together; It’s about four miles from the trailhead, every inch of it up-hill. I did not stop at Deer Flat this time. Though my lungs burned and my legs ached, I ran the entire 7 miles and over 1700 ft. of ascent to stand at the peak of the mountain. You never stood at the top of the mountain,save once when you came to pick me up the first time I peaked Diablo. That day I had done it in an act of youthful energy. But this time, on the morning of my thirty-third birthday, I did it to say something to myself and to you:
I am stronger than you were.
I know that now. I was afraid for many years that might not ever be true; You were a man of great strength during your short life. Yet, despite your strength you were broken down by the weight of the Market’s standard of success. I have had that same yoke placed on me and had feared that I would not be strong enough to cast it off. I am. You fool. I wish you were here to see it.
So much has changed so fast since that New Year’s morning. Things have come about that I had not seen. I have a son now. His name is Asa Jonathan, his middle name is a tribute to you. His first name means “healer.” His presence in my life is a daily reminder that the sickness your broken culture and fractured mother passed on to you ends with me. Many times since his birth I’ve been struck by the realization that you didn’t see this day coming. He is your grandson. He will never know you. You fool. I wish you were here.
I don’t intend for this to sound harsh and I am not writing you out of anger or pride. I’m supposed to have grace for you and I do. I always have and so did everyone in your life who mattered. I think that is perhaps the most tragic part of your foolish act: it didn’t matter to you that there was an abundance of grace available to you. You had judged yourself and had your verdict. What you didn’t count on is that, in doing so, you judged me as well. Just as you could not measure up to your own expectations, much less the expectations of your world, neither will I. None of us do, father. But you were accepted by those of us who mattered regardless of your success and failure; you were always received in grace. It is the knowledge that I am received in grace that saves me from your dark fate. This grace is my strength and it will not fail. I will pass this grace on to my son and it will not fail him either. My hope is that Asa will grow in this grace and in the unbreakable strength it grants those who receive it; and that, just as is the case with you and me me, he will grow to be stronger than his father.
You can pick up the EP at iTunes.
It is also available at my web store.
For more on the whole CMY(K) project, visit the CMYK info page.
At 33 I climbed the devil’s mountain in your clothes
And stood there choosing to believe what I had come to know
And reeling from the truth that I would heretofore live in
That some good thing must always die for some new good thing to begin
You were scattered at the devil’s feet; I was standing on his neck
So, I carried with me everything of yours that I had left
To say what broke you will not break me; I am stronger than you now
I am a father with no father but I will not let my grandson down.