We just attended our eighth-grade daughter's final orchestra concert at Tomlinson Middle School. The next step is high school, where music is an elective. Many of the freshmen, including my daughter, will drop it.

I have grown accustomed to seeing all the parents at these concerts, beginning with Mill Hill Elementary. We will not be seeing the familiar faces in any high school concerts. One of the songs the kids sang was "Danny Boy," my late father-in-law's favorite.

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summer's gone, and all the flow'rs are dying

`Tis you,`tis you must go and I must bide.

My daughter is dropping music in favor of a marine biology curriculum. However, she sings in the Fairfield County Children's Choir, so she will be continuing music after school. This was the last mandatory concert in which every kid in her grade had to participate. All the familiar parents were there in the auditorium. It was standing room only. Over the years, we have become very friendly with many of the parents, and we grew into almost a family. That is, if you only see your family a few times a year, they are forced by law to be there, and can't remember half their names. Actually, it's identical to my family.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow

Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow

`Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.

Considered an Irish tune, even though the words were written by an Englishman, Frederic Weatherly. My father-in-law, Jason Becker, loved "Danny Boy." He was Jewish.

And if you come, and all the flowers are dying

If I am dead, as dead I well may be

I pray you'll find the place where I am lying

And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

When Jason was terminally ill, he ordered a music CD from an infomercial on television. It featured 12 different versions of "Danny Boy." One day he asked me to listen to the entire CD with him. I could not refuse him. After about four versions, I grew tired and noticed there were no chairs in the room. After about six versions, I sat on the edge of the bed. After eight, I was lying down with him. I don't find it unusual that two men can lie in bed and listen to 12 versions of "Danny Boy." When my wife walked in (around version 10), she had a different outlook.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me

And all my grave will warm and sweeter be

And then you'll kneel and whisper that you love me

And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

I didn't know half the people singing on the album. People like James Galway, Mario Lanza, Arthur Fiedler/The Boston Pops, Robert White, The Chieftains, Roger Whittaker, and Kate Smith. When Kate Smith was finished, we looked at each other, neither one wanting the music to end. We silently agreed to put the CD on repeat.

Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.

So as my daughter transforms in what seemed like a blink of an eye from kindergartener to high schooler, I realize I will miss the parents who we have grown with also. I got a little choked up, knowing we would not be together again and knowing how much my father-in-law would love it. It is going too fast. I wish sometimes we could, like the CD, put life on repeat.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at tlawlor@mcommunications.com.