The Leader of the Band

For a very long while I’ve known that I’ve gotten whatever creativity I had from my mommy.
I think the first time I realized it was when I was in 5th grade or 6th grade and had to write a poem for some reason. Well, I struggled a bit with it to make sense as it was the first one I’d ever written – but my mommy helped me out with it. I was actually able to attend a writing festival after writing this as well. Apparently my teachers thought it was good…

This is the poem:


You always siad, “Don’t worry”
When I was in a jam.
You always said, “Don’t friek out,
It’s just my brother, Sam.”

You always told me, “Look out!”
When a car came whizzing by.
You always said, “Shoo”
To each bothersome ol’ fly.

We had fun while dancing,
And doing the ‘monster mash’.
Together we got our homework done
In what seemed like just a flash.

And when you had to go away
I did not understand.
Heaven seemed so far away,
A long and distant land.

One day I saw a rainbow,
As beautiful as you.
Reminding me of friendship,
The kind we always knew.

Now the creativity doesn’t end at writing. I remember my mom doing all sorts of creative things for her Primary classes and such when I was growing up. She claims she isn’t so creative anymore, but every once in awhile it still shines through.

Anyway, I’m getting off the subject of what I really wanted to make this post about.

For those of you who haven’t heard/didn’t know, my maternal grandpa died when I was just 13. His death was sudden and so unexpected that a lot of the family had difficulties with it. We accepted that he moved on and he was in a better place away from the crappy world we were living in, but we all missed him HORRIBLY.

…Grandpa as a young man…

That first year I think was extremely difficult for my mom and for me. I remember that my thoughts were focused on my grandfather for a large part of that year and that I would break down in tears at random times. I also wrote a lot of things that year in English in regards to him.

This is one such thing:


As I sit alone and frustrated,
Wondering why he left me deserted,
I think of his garden and lovely vegetables no more.
And I ask why, why, why?

I think of all his wisdom,
And how I never heard him complain.
His wonderful rootbeer floats,
Which leads me to ask why, why, why?

I’m missing the smell of nature,
and talk about my future.
His loving arms around me no more, all gone.
Why, why, why?

He worked as if a robot,
His arms were iron bands.
There’ll be no more asthma, aching pain.

I’m missing the sound of his hum, hum, hum.
The sweet taste of his sugar-free gum.
Nothing is going right in my life,
And all I ask is why, why, why?

My mom was the baby of the family, born when my grandpa was 45. But, this allowed them to have a very special relationship. My mom always admired her dad and in her eyes, NO ONE could be as great/special a person as her daddy was. No one could live up to the type of spiritual giant he ended up being.

…Grandpa with my mom as a newborn…

…Grandpa with kids #3, 4 & 5 (My mom is the little girl)…

…Grandma, Grandpa and Mom (About age 16)…

My grandpa wasn’t the type of ornery old cuss that a lot of old men end up being. No, he enjoyed being with his grandkids and even watched my little sister (who was a baby around this time) quite a bit for my mom. He was also willing to drop whatever he was doing if we needed help. I feel sad that Eric and the kids never got to meet my grandpa (although I guess technically, my kids probably have met him…), but I am thankful that Eric’s grandpa is so similar to the spiritual giant that my Grandpa was and that he is still around and the kids have got to meet him.

Anyway, so my Grandpa died in March of 1993 and for Father’s Day in June of that year my mother adapted this song into a “poem” that fit her dad. I had all but forgotten about it until the other day when I went searching for a completely different song. Well, the album that I found that had the song I was looking for also had “Leader of the Band” on it and I made sure I got my mom’s poem from her after hearing it again.

Here’s my mom’s take on the song:

(adapted from Dan Folgelberg’s “Leader Of The Band”)

Though he was not an only child
And not a rich man’s son.
His hands were meant for constant work
And his heart he kept from none.

He left us here and he’s gone on
To find a better way.
But he gave me a gift I know
I never can repay.

A quiet man of wisdom,
Denied a sinner’s fate.
He tried a life much different once
Vowed to change – he couldn’t wait.

He earned his love through discipline,
A thundering velvet hand.
His gentle means of sculpting souls
Took me years to understand.

The leader of the band grew tired,
And his eyes did soon grow old.
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul.

My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate this man.
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.

As siblings we are different,
Still we hear our leader call
“Stay close to the gospel,
Then children you won’t fall.”

I’m doing all that I can do,
As I remember time will tell.
I’m living out the life I’ve chose
The one he lived so well.

I thank you for the music
And the stories that you told.
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go.

I thank you for the kindness,
And the times when you got tough.
And papa I don’t think I said,
“I love you” near enough.

The leader of the band grew tired,
And his eyes did soon grow old.
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul.

My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate this man.
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.

I am the living legacy
To the leader of the band.

Dedicated to Alma E. Kehl – Fathers Day – June 20, 1993
– Alaine K. Merchant

So, yes. I think most of my creativity was born of my mom. She may not admit it, but I will forever be thankful to her for it.

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2 thoughts on “The Leader of the Band

  1. Marisa says:

    I remember when your grandpa died … you were so sad all the time, and I wanted to do something to help. It was my mom who helped me know what to do (do you remember the card?). Aren't moms wonderful? I'd be happy to be just half the mom my mom was. You are such a good daughter … recognizing your mom on a random day. I'm sure she appreciates it.


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