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After a career in consulting, a veteran looks back on what could have been

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today, a dream deferred but not forgotten. Born into a musical family, Dez Rubano was pulled on stage as a drummer for the first time when he was just 12. He came to StoryCorps 80 years later with his daughter to remember.

DEZ RUBANO: My uncle Jimmy pulled up in his car. He said, hey, kid, I need a drummer tonight. He took two teaspoons and showed me how different beats were played. I thought, this guy's crazy. However, I got the bug. I said to myself, this is pretty cool.

MARTIN: Dez knew he had found his calling. What he didn't know was that because his opera singer mom gave birth to him in Montreal, he wasn't a U.S. citizen.

RUBANO: Well, one night I was sitting with Grandma and Grandpa having dinner, and there's a knock on the door. Bursting into the apartment were two uniformed immigration guys with pistols on their hips, and they clicked a pair of handcuffs on me and said, you're getting deported. I called Grandpa's lawyer, and I said, you know, what do I do? He says, join the service tomorrow, and they can't touch you. So the next day, I went and joined the Air Force.

GINA LIVINGSTON: Had you ever thought about joining the military before?

RUBANO: Never. Good Lord, no.

LIVINGSTON: What might have been different about your life?

RUBANO: I probably would have stayed in the music business. When you get musicians cooking on the bandstand, the hair goes up on the back of your neck. And it's a feeling I can't describe in words, but it's almost like the love of a woman.

LIVINGSTON: Our house was always the house where every kid in the neighborhood was. My favorite thing was when it was time for everybody to go home, and you would play a march, the Get Out of My House song.

(LAUGHTER)

LIVINGSTON: I feel like the musical talent skipped me. You made me get up on stage and sing "My Blue Heaven" with you. Maybe I was 12. And I hated every second of it.

RUBANO: Did you really? You never told me that.

LIVINGSTON: Well, 'cause I would do anything for you. But I don't know why anybody wants to be on stage.

RUBANO: It gets in your blood. The urge is still there. But who wants to hire a 92-year-old guy? Be sitting up behind the center drums, waiting for him to drop dead. No, no (laughter). I did one thing right in my life - I raised you. You've been a joy as a daughter. Everybody should be as lucky as I am.

(SOUNDBITE OF GENE KRUPA'S "DRUMMIN' MAN")

MARTIN: Ninety-two-year-old Dez Rubano. He spent most of his career in consulting. He was interviewed by his daughter, Gina Livingston, in Decatur, Ga. This holiday season, NPR and StoryCorps invite you to interview a loved one as part of The Great Thanksgiving Listen. More information at thegreatlisten.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a reporter for Harvest Public Media, I travel throughout northern Colorado, and parts of Wyoming and Nebraska to cover agriculture and rural issues.