The recent passing of music legend Gordon Lightfoot has me thinking about simpler summer days. In the seventies, I swear, a family of twelve could join a YMCA pool for a summer for a couple hundred bucks. And it was so much more than a pool. There was a ball field, a basketball/tennis court, picnic tables, and charcoal grills. There were even trails in the woods marked out by the day campers. We’d swim of course, but the day was long and filled with so much outdoor fun.

We’d pile into our family’s wood-paneled station wagon and the cooler filled with hotdogs, watermelon, and lemonade doubled as a prime seat. The drive took about 20 minutes, and the A.M. radio would play the songs that we all knew by heart. I must have been all up in my feelings as a little guy because I loved songs like “Sundown” by Lightfoot, “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen, and “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. I had no idea what a Rhinestone Cowboy was (still don’t) but I was certain I was born to be one. My siblings must love me because they haven’t widely shared this.

My wife Kristen’s family is perhaps the biggest Gordon Lightfoot fans this side of the Canadian border. It came from their father Bob Riehman. Like I always imagined Gordon to be, Bob was the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with on a porch. He was fond of plucking a guitar and singing a tune himself and he spun the heck out of those Lightfoot albums. Upon hearing that Gordon had passed so many people said it made them think of Bob and that shines nicely on them both.

One time Lightfoot was to play at an amphitheater in Peachtree City. I was so excited about the tailgate party I made fried chicken for the first and only time in my life. We had a blast in the parking lot, playing old favorites like “Cotton Jenny”, “Rainy Day People” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Although we did wonder where everyone else was…this is Gordon freakin’ Lightfoot! Right before the show started the golf cart people quietly arrived, neatly parked around us, and filed into the amphitheater like it was a Sunday service. I’m not so sure Peachtree City deserved Gordon Lightfoot but the show was excellent.

Another time my sister-in-law Betsy who also lives in Atlanta called her mother Pat back in New Jersey and Pat just whispered, “I can’t talk” in what must have been an alarming tone.  Betsy tried calling back but no luck. She worried. She came over to our house. We worried. Was Pat kidnapped? Was she in the trunk of a car? We panicked. We called family in New Jersey, neighbors, friends, and eventually, local law enforcement. Where was Pat? Why couldn’t she talk??!!

Well, she was at a Gordon Lightfoot concert and it would have been rude of her to talk on the phone. If only we could read her mind, huh? But this served as a great impetus for Pat to learn how to text plus the family now has a universal safe word should we ever find ourselves held against our will: “Gordon.”

As an adult now, it seems “Sundown” might have been about infidelity or maybe even addiction? But to me as a young child, it was simply about the day coming to an end. When the sun was hanging low and dipping below the trees that encircled the YMCA property, I knew it was about time to go home. I figured both me and Gordon weren’t too happy about that. Maybe this summer in his honor we should all seek out a few of those long, leisurely days and a few of those moments that feel so perfect that we just don’t want the sun to go all the way down.

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Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny.