My father was admitted into the hospital this week complaining of chest pains; because he’d had bypass surgery in 1992, the doctors were very concerned about the condition of his heart. Let me tell you that as a 71-year-old man, he’s a strong and stubborn as he was when I was growing up. My updates came from my mother, who called me from her cell phone, and in her voice was the same tension and impatience she’s always had with doctors; years of nursing experience will do that to you. My parents have been married for 46 years and as they get older I’ve come to appreciate the tough times they endured, and how strong their love is. I didn’t always think that way. It wasn’t until my father’s heart surgery in ’92 that I really saw how much they do care for each other.
Looking at their relationship, I can’t help but think about my own marriage to Julie. I hope that when Sophie and Jacob reflect on their childhood, they’ll have good recollections of how much their dad loved their mom. Julie and I laugh and kid each other, we’re always hugging and kissing, and we are always there to comfort one another during the troubling times. At times I shake my head when I pause to think about the 15 years we’ve been married. That number seems like a long time, and yet it’s flitted by as a feather in the wind. Like a feather, there have been moments when we’re very high and the joy of life carries us along — and then there are those days when the wind has calmed and the feather lays on the ground, waiting for something to come along and carry us onward.
Music has always been a way in which we’ve bonded. We share our musical tastes and turn one another on to artists and sounds that we might not have otherwise listened to. I forced Springsteen upon her (she’s a big fan now, just ask her) and she brought into my world many beautiful female singers such as Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Bonnie Raitt. More recently, she has fallen in love with the music of Brandi Carlile. Okay, maybe not all of her music, but one song, “Tragedy,” which was featured in a heartbreaking episode of Grey’s Anatomy a couple of seasons ago. On this song Carlile sings like an open wound, so sad and passionate; it’s chilling. I sought out more of Carlile’s music and came across her 2007 album, The Story. It’s a CD of bluesy, polished rock that bears the rootsy trademark of its producer, T-Bone Burnett. Among the songs, the title track immediately spoke to me on musical and emotional levels.
“The Story” begins with a simple, folksy melody and Carlile’s melancholic voice leading us, giving the impression that this is just another sad song. However, midway through the second verse, Carlile decided that she wanted to be Janis Joplin instead of Janis Ian. She whips out a machete and cuts through to your heart with one mighty swing. This song ROCKS. If you have any doubts, fast forward to 2:52 mark, when Carlile sings with such force it sounds as if she’s shredding her vocal chords. This is an artist who bleeds her music; every note on the pages of her songbook drips from her veins and comes from a place deep inside her.
But it isn’t Carlile’s passion that makes this song so special; It’s also the heartfelt lyrics.Â They are a direct, proud declaration from one lover to another, stating that her world is incomplete without her soulmate by her side. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a song that seemed to speak the words I always want to say to my lovely wife, words that get tongue-tied in the tired hours after work and putting children to bed.
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true…I was made for you
Each week I conjure up a thousand words or so detailing my life story, and sure, you come around to see how I’ve been a fool or how I’ve screwed up or how I’m trying to make sense of this messed up world so that my kids don’t have to and so many other things. But I wouldn’t have the confidence to tell these stories, or the desire to share them, if I didn’t have Julie by my side. She calls me on my bullshit and is the first to defend me when someone throws an insult my way. Is she perfect? I don’t know what that means, do you? I’m not perfect, that’s for sure. But together, as two people in love, we make our marriage as close to perfect as we can.
These are tough times we’re living in; every day we pray for the good health of our children and keep our fingers crossed that our money will hold out. Whatever obstacles and challenges lay ahead, I am blessed that Julie and I will face the together. I was made for her, she was made for me, and I look forward to being by her side when we’re both in our 70’s arguing with doctors.
Happy Valentine’s Day.