My Father’s Eyes – The Song

In 1971, the year I turned 18, I was dating a Swedish twin.  We lived in a small city near the Baltic Sea.  One day, her older brother came rushing in with a new album he had just bought: James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, the one with “You’ve Got a Friend”.

I was mesmerized.  I had applied to be an exchange student in America, and James Taylor’s music and lyrics were the sounds of the country I felt an inexplicable longing for.

In America, it seemed, you could create your own happiness:

“I’m gonna cash in my hand

And pick up on a piece of land

I’m gonna build myself a cabin in the woods

And it’s there I’m gonna stay

Until there comes a day

When this old world starts changing for the good.”

Through all my years of medical school, residency, fatherhood and life as a married man, I have found James Taylor’s songs to somehow speak directly to me: I even made a PowerPoint presentation last year about diabetic neuropathy, juxtaposing James Taylor quotes with imaginary quotes from Harvard’s top neurologist, Dr. Martin Samuels.

James Taylor’s brother, Livingston, is also a singer-songwriter.  I have heard him play at much smaller venues than his brother, including a nearby middle school. While James has always spoken to me, Livingston has come to touch me more and more in recent years.

Livingston Taylor wrote a song in 1991, the year I turned thirty-eight, ten years after I emigrated to America.  It moved me to tears then, but now, almost twenty years after that, I’m not sure how deeply I understood then what it would mean to me years later in 2008.

My trip to Sweden last month was divided between spending time with my elderly mother in her new apartment and joining her for her daily visits to the dementia ward where my father is.

When I arrived, my father was asleep in his wheelchair.  He was hard to rouse, but when he finally opened his eyes the recognition was instant and unmistakable as he laughed and cried at the same time.  He never spoke a word, but his fingers rubbed mine while I held his hand, and although his eyes drifted, they locked on to mine every so often, and sometimes his lips started working as if he tried to form words. 

Since that moment, Livingston Taylor’s song “My Father’s Eyes” has been echoing in my mind almost constantly:


“My father stands before me

In a place that’s his alone.

I’m guided to the future

I have the world to roam.

I stand up and I’m counted

A million miles from home

I can see forever

In my father’s eyes


My father’s eyes

My father’s hands

Oh daddy quickly pick me up

When will I be a man

When will I live long enough

To make somebody fly?

When will the mirror show me

My father’s eyes?

1 Response to “My Father’s Eyes – The Song”

  1. 1 Andrew Brown September 19, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing that moment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Bookmark and Share


contact @

RSS A Country Doctor Reads:

  • Fish Oil May Have More Benefits for the Inuit than for Westerners
    I have heard many people advocate eating local foods, and avoiding things from far away. Human metabolism, some say, isn’t the same everywhere. Now there is new evidence that whale blubber may be better for the Inuit than for westerners. In the 1970s, Danish researchers studying Inuit metabolism proposed that omega-3 fatty acids found in […]
  • Value Based Care: Whose Values?
    The Journal of the American Medical Association is taking a stand for elderly and disabled patients in today’s online issue: “As Medicare moves to implement value-based payment initiatives tied only to current quality measures, the values of large populations of disabled and frail persons, whose care is the most costly and most concentrated in Medicare, […] […]
  • The Call Within the Call
    “We all go into professions for many reasons: money, status, security. But some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling. These experiences quiet the self. All that matters is living up to the standard of excellence inherent in their craft.” These words by The New York Times columnist David Brooks, in a […]
  • A Crazy Old-School Physician
    A post by Suneel Dhand on KevinMD asks the question who is crazy – the elderly physician who knows his patient’s history by heart, or today’s young doctors, who know the computer better than their patients: Then there’s the reality that his generation represents exactly what a personal physician should be. A solid physician with […]
© A Country Doctor Writes 2008-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.