My father once asked me who I thought was better at guitar, Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan, to which I replied they’re two different kinds of guitarists and that there’s no way that Eric Clapton could be Stevie Ray the same way Stevie could never be Mr. Clapton.

This, he said, was not an answer, and thus he turned his line of inquiry onto me, asking me if I thought I was better than Eric or Stevie, to which I answered in a similar manner that implied it’s not a matter of who’s better, but that each of us is unique that matters.

“You’re not better than them,” he said in his usual drunkenly insulting way, a way of speaking and loving he often protected himself with, when he was simply terrified to tell me he loved me more than anything in the world, the way he used to when I was a small child that needed him to get ready for bed.

“You’re right, I’m not better than them, and will never be,” I said in my usual double meaning kind of way.

“Maybe you might be better than them,” he said, seeming to be thinking about something other than my guitar playing, and I replied I’m just Chris Russell, and that’s that.

“No, I think you are better than them,” he said, and that’s how Dad loved me in his final years. He was trying to get back to that feeling he had when he was a young father and nothing mattered more than the happiness and self-esteem of his son, to a place where nothing compared to his love for him,

the same way his son is now in his own veiled and indirect way trying to get back to asking himself what important and perhaps traumatic event is actually happening right now, but while he tells the sky inside himself that he doesn’t cry like this.