It is obvious that your father leaves a lasting legacy and he touched so many people through his life’s work and performances. I feel blessed to have spent an evening several years ago celebrating your shared birthdays and listening to his stories. His spirit shines on in you and Siri, and I am grateful to him for creating one of my dearest and most trusted friends.
On June 30, 2021, in New Zealand, colon cancer took my father’s life.
I’ve been through some difficult times in my lifetime, but I can honestly say that the shock and stress of this situation was unlike any I had ever known. You never met two people who took such good care of themselves as my parents. Their dedication to physical, spiritual, and mental health is legendary, at least in my mind and my sister’s mind, as we would joke that they would easily outlive us. For a cancer linked to a lifestyle the exact opposite of that which my father lived; which thrived and ultimately overwhelmed his otherwise perfectly-healthy-76 years-young body; is something I have no choice to accept, but will never ever understand!
The outpouring of support from around the world, and so many responding with powerful and touching comments, was so heartening. It takes my breath away even now, re-reading the most incredible words about how my father touched so many. But as this one year has gone by and I have slowly re-stabilized, I realize that what gets me more than anything is that I just miss my dad. MY dad.
Antion Vikram Singh Meredith has done more in his life then can be quantified into anything other than a lengthy book. There’s no need here to reiterate the vast depth and breadth of his life; his own website with much written by him is an excellent source and Wikipedia goes into great detail about his rock ‘n’ roll past. Or just Google Vic Briggs. From a daughter’s perspective I wrote about my parents healthy lifestyle in ‘Your parents are cool’ (a few years ago) and An (extra)ordinary Father’s Day (shortly before my dad died.) No doubt I will write more.
I know I’m not the only one who thinks that the fact that my father did not write a book is a tragedy. But no book was needed for him to leave his mark.
Yet in the entire world, only my sister and I can say that Antion Vikram Singh is our father. The reality is, when we were young, my dad was headstrong, stubborn, determined, and a control freak, who didn’t just think, he KNEW, that he KNEW what was best for us growing up. I think some folks from those days in the San Diego Ashram would agree—it wasn’t when my dad yelled that it was scary, it was when he got really quiet that you got truly frightened. He was fairly intolerant of what we might want to explore during the formative years of our lives.
As soon as I knew how to work the record player, I would sit and listen over and over to the one Eric Burdon & The Animals LP that had survived Vic Briggs turning his back on the music industry. I would sing along, all the lyrics memorized, and I knew early on I wanted to learn and play music and sing. Yet my father did not teach me to play guitar, in fact he did everything in his power to discourage me from a life in music. This, despite my obvious ability and creative talent as the daughter of two gifted artistic people who had found success in that very business—and walked away from it.
My father made decisions such as sending his 9-year-old and 12-year-old daughters to boarding school in India to “keep us away from the corruption of the western world,” a traumatizing and life altering event for both my sister and I. He decided I should be engaged, yes engaged to someday be married, when I was 11. He and my sister clashed from early on. Although their relationship had improved, it was not close to repair, although he did say a few important things to my sister toward the end. (Interestingly, he had a conflicted relationship with his own mother, who did not support any of his life choices, starting with music.)
I could continue on about how I was raised in 3HO, but I’ll save it for the book that I fully intend to write someday. And I know now that my dad was seeking spirituality. This is how he summed up his life choices in a short, sweet interview that we were made aware of after he died. And I get it, I really do.
My father was, in short, human, a product of his own upbringing. I know he tried his best to raise his children differently than he was raised, because he told me. But it doesn’t mean that his choices didn’t impact our upbringing in unfortunate ways—although I don’t hold it against him, I do not dismiss it either.
So when people talk to me about his music, his presence, his wisdom, how cool my parents are, I understand—but I don’t feel his loss in that way. I feel that there’s this guy that was my dad, and he is gone, never to return. I feel the end of a family dynamic I relied upon. I feel our family is missing 1/4 of what made it our quirky little family, my sister and I complaining that we never knew where our globe-trotting parents were at any given time, talking only every few weeks, with Facebook keeping us more informed of our own parents whereabouts then they did.
Our family rarely sends cards, instead we call each other on the special occasions (which in our family weren’t a big deal in the first place.) My sister and I shared not just my dad’s birthday, but also his dry, pragmatic outlook on life, and we found ourselves laughing together quite a lot at my mother’s idealistic, rose-colored-glasses vision of the world (she always thought we were making fun of her but we weren’t—well, maybe a little, sorry, Mum!)
My dad was simply a dad in so many ways, replacing the garbage disposal when he visited, available when I called with a question (but wasn’t big on talking on the phone,) imparting bits of wisdom throughout my life such as “when you drive through a small town always go the speed limit, because if they see you are not a local, they will get you,” never missing an opportunity to go to Costco with me over the years (my sister and I got our love of Costco from him—it was a big thing in our family to visit Price Club in San Diego and buy a huge case of Near Beer and a giant bag of corn chips in the early 80s.)
He finally bought me a guitar when I was 14, and plenty of books on how to play guitar. He signed me up for a summer band program in my 20s, regretting that he had not encouraged me earlier. He always asked me to sing with him when he performed if we happened to be in the same location–on Kauai, in New Zealand, many times in Seattle, here in Texas at the house concert that my husband requested for his birthday. We always did a very good live “Kamali’I O Ka Po” and harmonized beautifully on several other songs. Sometimes I sang with him and sometimes I didn’t, but he always asked.
I give him so much credit for his dedication to growing and learning and changing, and he did very much change as the years went by. And all of these things that I remember about him, including his faults, is what makes him my dad, all of that is what I love and miss.
The very last time I sang with my dad was at my husband’s birthday concert in August 2020. The very last song we sang together—which happened to be “Kamali’i O Ka Po”—I got the harmony wrong. We didn’t practice much beforehand, and it had been years since I sang this harmony (harmony was never ever my strong suit in music.) So I got it wrong, and maybe no one noticed, but as the last notes died down, my dad and I gave each other a look, kind of an “oh well that wasn’t our best version” look. It didn’t crush me like it would have when I was younger (my perfectionist tendencies have dissipated) but yeah, I was bothered that I didn’t nail the part. I said something to him real briefly a little while later, I said, well at least we got to sing together after all these years even if I didn’t get the harmony. He said something like, we will practice a little bit more next time.
There will never be a next time.
But I am old enough and wise enough and mature enough to be happy and grateful that we sang together one last time, glad it’s captured on video and of the look we shared as only two musicians can, and maybe as only a father and daughter can. Imperfections or mistakes don’t diminish the essence of what is important in life.
One year after losing my dad, I am better able to understand that my father did the best he could and could do nothing more. I am who I am in part because of that. In fact, it’s his humanity and his imperfections as a person that make him who was and is, the person who touched so many of us.
Some of my dad’s final words to me:
“I really want you to be a great musician and I wish you would.”
“I was wounded and discouraged, all those people I lived with, discouraged me. It was horrible.”
“Seriously, if you want to pursue this, you have what it takes, to study, to learn, to sing.”
“If you really got into it, you’d be really good.”
“I am sorry I didn’t give you the encouragement you needed.”
But you did, Papaji. You did.