Working my way through this tournament bracket has been pretty tough thus far, but the more I think about it, the more I realized that for all the praise I’ve heaped on both contenders, this decision would be an easy one.
The TL;DR version of this post is that Cole Swindell’s “Dad’s Old Number” is the winner of the my ‘Song Of The Decade’ tournament. I could launch into a high-minded, qualitative discussion as to why I made the decision to choose it over Chris Janson’s “Drunk Girl,” but as I’ve reflected on 2019, I realized that this outcome was settled over two months ago, the day I posted a cryptic message referencing my work-week post schedule:
You know, I was pretty proud of my unbroken Monday-Friday post streak. Through wind and rain and travel and home maintenance and grading blizzards and Splatoon 2 cold streaks, nothing qualified as a showstopper for this blog!
Something qualified today. I won’t go into details, because frankly I just can’t even right now. I’ll see you all Monday.
Back during Columbus Day weekend, I went to spend a few days with one of my oldest and dearest friends, a fellow Vermonter I’d known for many years. I knew that he had been struggling with various issues for a while, but he’d always fought through them in the past, and I wanted to be there for him and let him know that he had a lot of folks pulling for him in his corner.
We spent the weekend hanging out and talking about everything and nothing (I recall a lot of complaining about his beloved New York Yankees), and while his spirit didn’t seem quite as resilient as before, I felt like things were finally on the upswing by the time I left.
I was wrong.
On the morning of October 18th, I got the last call you ever want to receive: My friend had been found face-down on his kitchen floor, and was now one of the roughly 22,000 people lost every year in the U.S. to suicide by firearms.
The next few days were the kind of thing you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy: Long drives, somber conversations, pain and anguish on a scale I never knew existed before, and above it all were the questions hanging over everyone’s head: Why did this happen, and what could we have done to stop it? Over two months, I still don’t have an answer.
So what does this have to do with “Dad’s Old Number”? Last week, I spoke with the daughter of my old friend to wish her and the family a happy holiday. The conversation naturally turned to her father, and she admitted that even now, she’s forever grabbing things at the store to buy for him, or thinking of old neighborhood trivia to ask him about, or (you guessed it) dialing up his old number before she realizes he’s not there. I know how she feels: I can’t go twenty-four %$#&ing hours anymore without someone or something reminding me of the man I once knew. Heck, I’ve reached for this dude’s number a few times, and he’s not even my dad!
“Drunk Girl” is an excellent song that absolutely deserved to be in the ‘Song Of The Decade’ conversation. However, after everything that’s happened, I’ve realized that there was no way “Dad’s Old Number” was not going to walk away with this title.
So drop the balloons and put on your party hats, but forgive me if I don’t join in the celebration this time around. However, there’s one last thing I need to say before I wrap this up: If you ever reach the point where you think you’re better off dead because you think you are a burden to those who care about you, YOU. ARE. WRONG. Trust me on this one: The burden your memory leaves behind is far heavier than any burden you think you’re causing by being alive.
(Editor’s Note: If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please please PLEASE reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website, or at the very least let someone you trust know about what you’re thinking. Don’t suffer in silence.)