Controversial? Yes. An asshole, sometimes. An original? Undoubtedly. Don Imus died Friday at the age of 79. And with him, part of my childhood and a link to my father.
You see, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Imus was on WNBC in New York City. My father would drive my sister and me to school, and he would fiddle with the rotary knob on the car radio until a barely audible signal would emanate from the static din, and the caustic, witty sound of Imus’s voice could be heard. News of the thunderous approach of Moby Worm would alert us that he had found the correct station. Zeroing in on an NYC station from Middletown, RI was no easy feat with the radios of the early ’80s! The preaching from the Right Reverend Dr. Billy Sol Hargis always made me laugh before heading into school. The worst situation was when we would have to get out of the car and enter school before Imus’s bit was done. I was left trying to fill in the blanks and finish the skit on my own.
In the seventh grade, I was disciplined by my homeroom/social studies teacher for not knowing the difference between wit and sarcasm. Maybe that’s one reason I liked listening to Imus. The other was because it was a shared experience with my dad. We laughed together and shared a sense of humor.
I continued listening as Imus moved to WFAN and then MSNBC. His politics changed, as did mine. But he was always able to get the newsmakers of the day to let down their guard and show the humanity behind their polished, over-produced exteriors. I thought of my father every day I listened. I wondered what he thought of the interviews. What he thought of the skits. What he thought of me.
My dad died in 2014. And now Imus is gone. That link is gone. But as I’ve learned over the past few years, I don’t need the “thing” to have the memories. The car is gone. High school is (thankfully) over. My dad is gone. And now Imus is gone. But I’ll always have the memories of those morning rides. Good night, Imus. Say hi to Dad.