Praying for a Piano Player

Comments   7   Date Arrow  December 24, 2023 at 2:00pm   User  by Mark Willis

Every family with an oral tradition has a story that is told and re-told at Christmas until it acquires the power of myth. This is mine. It tells how my grandmother, Ona Willis, joined the Salvation Army.
It was a rainy night in Columbus, Ohio on Christmas Eve in 1944. All three of Ona’s sons were [...]

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Song For My Father

Comments   5   Date Arrow  November 3, 2023 at 9:44am   User  by Mark Willis

Robert F. Willis (May 12, 2023 - November 3. 1987)
For Bob Willis, All My Love
I remember walking through snow to Long’s Bookstore
two men not at work on Wednesday morning
with time to kill before going to the clinic.
The father says tentatively
pushing hands into coat pockets:
I don’t know what poetry is
I work with my hands
I’m awkward with [...]

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Bonne fête Papa: A Flaneur’s Gallery

Comments   1   Date Arrow  June 21, 2023 at 12:05am   User  by Mark Willis

Paul Cézanne. The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”. 1866. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
When I stood before this painting last month at the NGA, it happened to be the day that would have been my father’s 88th birthday. It reminded me of his devotion to reading newspapers, his pride when I [...]

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The King of Swing at 100

Comments   0   Date Arrow  May 30, 2023 at 11:40am   User  by Mark Willis

Benny Goodman was born 100 years ago today. If my father were here to celebrate Benny’s centennial, he’d surely turn to this music from the legendary 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, the first jazz concert performed in that august space. NPR Music had a fine Benny Goodman tribute this morning.

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Things Are Looking Up for the Willis Brand

Comments   0   Date Arrow  March 13, 2023 at 11:13am   User  by Mark Willis

My father took a Jeffersonian, big-tent approach to family. If your name was Willis, that was good enough for him. “Everyone’s a cousin somehow,” he liked to say, “even the ones who got hanged or thrown in jail.” So he would have been pleased with today’s news that Chicago’s Sears Tower, once the tallest building [...]

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Moving Out

Comments   2   Date Arrow  November 23, 2023 at 8:10am   User  by Mark Willis

Here’s a story for Kaitlin on moving day. Like the best of possessions that we accumulate and move from home to home throughout our lives, it’s mercifully light and has legs of its own.
I remember when I told my parents that I was moving out. Actually, I didn’t tell them, I asked for their consent [...]

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My Kind of Republican: In Memory of My Father

Comments   2   Date Arrow  November 3, 2023 at 6:28am   User  by Mark Willis

Robert F. Willis (May 12, 2023 - November 3. 1987)
I can still hear my father’s Rock of Ages voice confessing, “I voted for Richard Nixon for President three times, and I was wrong every time.” That was after Watergate. By the time Ronald Reagan came along, my father was a Republican in name only. He [...]

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