Musical Memories

Dixie Chicks (2)

Several months ago, DJ texted me to inform me that the Dixie Chicks were playing at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh on the night that she and Stephanie would be returning home from overnight camp.  I don’t think she asked me to buy tickets; she told me.

I know a ton of their songs, but perhaps the most widely acclaimed, Wide Open Spaces, was released in 1998.  That was a year after DJ was born.  It was also around the time that we purchased a brand new forest green Honda Odyssey minivan with a CD player right in the dashboard.  We had hit the Big Time!

Our oldest child sucked her pacifier to the beat of Where’s Your Trouble and Cowboy Take Me Away.

In the 90’s, I was not a fan of country music.  I was more Earth, Wind and Fire than Miranda Lambert.  But my wife, she liked country, and she made sure that her daughters did too.

As songs were played last night, DJ and I had a ride down memory lane.

When the much slower song, Top of the World, came on, my oldest reminded me that I did not like the tune.  “Remember dad?  You would always fast forward this one.”

“It’s depressing.”

“But I loved it!  When mom was in the car, she would make you play it.”

“I don’t specifically recall.”

Toward the end of the song, there is a long pause.

“And every time we got to this part, you would press the skip button.”

“It’s a long pause, I’m sure I thought it was over.”

“And then I would cry and mom would make you rewind so I could hear the end, which is the best part of the song.”

“I still don’t love this song.  Makes me want to cry.”

When they played Stevie Nick’s Landslide, I was reminded how Lisa and I got into a feud about whether they were singing the word “older” or “bolder” at a certain point in the song.  I did not recall this dialogue either.

“Dad, it was a big deal.  You were both insistent that the other was wrong.”

Isn’t it interesting what kids watch and remember?

Of course, I was too cheap to purchase good seats for the concert so we were on the lawn in beach chairs.  But I was glad.  The view of the open sky was amazing that night, and there was one star that shone regardless of where the clouds moved.  I think I know why.

Sunday Post 178: I Can Almost Hear

Lisa recorded our voice mail greeting at some point long ago. Over four years later, I had not recorded over it. So if you called our house, she would greet you.

However, after years of going out of my mind with Time Warner Cable, I decided to go with a new carrier. After I made the decision, I realized it would mean our voicemail greeting would be deleted. I’d have to re-record.

We worked hard to preserve Lisa’s voice, saving it on every phone and computer the family owns. And now, if I want to hear her, I just pull it up on my iPhone or Dell and listen.  Sometimes its just nice to hear.

A while back my minister talked about the importance of voices. Someone referred to your voice as your thumbprint on the world.  Man, I wish I could still hear those who are gone.

I imitate my friend Trey but I long for that slow southern drawl. He died in a car wreck several years before Lisa.

I lay in my bed the other night trying desperately to remember how each of my grandparents sounded. I almost could – my Grandmama Tanner’s laugh, Granddaddy Tanner telling me, “You have a hole in your head boy.”  I could see my other grandmother’s face – she was by me on the bed.  But I couldn’t quite remember her voice.

It’s like the inflection is there, rolling around the outskirts of my cerebrum, but I just can’t pull it out.

What a shame.

I get used to pictures, but I always had to brace myself when I phoned the house.  Not in a bad way, but I had to be ready.  Sometimes her tone would bring a smile.  Sometimes it would bring longing.

I don’t know what I miss most – seeing, touching, or hearing her.  She was a talker, man could she move those lips.  Sometimes I’d wish she’d stop chatting everyone up after church and just get in the car – I was hungry!

Now I’d give anything to stand behind and wait.  If only to hear her one more time.


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Sunday Post 169: Dear Sarah

I received an email last week from Sarah. She’s a mom with a chronic illness. At some point in the future, she will need a liver transplant. If she doesn’t get one, she won’t make it.

In the correspondence, Sarah told me she was trying to live each day to the fullest. She shared that she was beginning to preserve her thoughts for her husband and daughter – just in case. She then asked me if there were things I would suggest she do now in the event she isn’t around ten years from now.

It made me stop and think.

As I pondered my response, I put some thoughts together on what I’d do differently had I known ten years in advance that Lisa would die.

 Dear Sarah,

 It sounds like you are approaching your life in a strong and courageous way. Of course, our situation was dire from the start, but I can’t tell you how inspiring it was for our family to watch my wife fight with a positive attitude. She never felt sorry for herself (at least outwardly), and she kept hope until the bitter end. Her strength and optimism made it so much easier for us. She didn’t spend the last six months of her life crying. She laughed and lived, what a blessing for us.

 You have tons of time! Enjoy each minute – and when you live to be 90, you will have maximized every minute which most of us don’t do.

 I think that we did some things very well. Our memories of Lisa, our ability to talk about her with humor and warmth are all wonderful. The girls and I laugh about her often. There are, however, a couple of things I would have changed had I known she would die so young.

 1)    I would have taken more pictures. Lisa was our family photographer so we have plenty of family photos but just not that many of her. I wish I had great snapshots of Lisa with each of the girls. I wish we would have captured her expressions, the ones I can’t see anymore. Occasionally I find a pic tucked away somewhere. But there aren’t enough. There aren’t close ups. She hated close ups of herself. 

Sometimes I want to see that face – and my memory only captures a bit of what we shared.

 I work hard now to capture those casual moments with the girls and me. They will have plenty of photos of me and I’ll have pictures of them that will be with us for life.

 2)    The last weekend my wife lived, she scratched short notes to each of the girls. She was so sick at the time I had to do some of the writing for her – she would talk, I would scribe.

 I wish she had done more writing or video taping to share what she wished for the kids. I’ve heard of moms who died who left notes for their kids to be read on special occasions. We don’t have that. We can just imagine what she might have said. That may not be something you need to do now, but in the future you may want to consider leaving a written legacy for your kids.

 3) Finally, for me, there have been hundreds of times that I wish I had known more about what she would have done in various situations. How would she have dealt with dating, prom, hurt feelings by the “mean girls,” buying expensive shoes, when to allow my teenager to drive out-of-town by herself. I wish we would have talked more about heaven and what she, what we, believed. I knew, but not enough.

You’re on the right track. I don’t have regrets of how we dealt with her death. I just wish we would have focused more on our marriage, taken advantage of opportunities to travel as a couple or a family, realized that the afternoons we drank a beer on the beach were special and not something that would come to an abrupt end. I wish we would have made more fires in our outdoor fireplace, maybe held hands more often. I do miss her hands.

I think everyone should do a better job of thinking about life as if it was precious and not going to be here forever. If we’d all do that, we’d all be a lot happier in the long run.


Sunday Post 168: What is a Mother?

A mother may carry you in her belly for nine months and be the primary caregiver in your life.

Or, a mother may officially belong to your friend but still tell you how special and beautiful you are.

A mother might be a church elder who walks your kids through their church confirmation process.

A mother could be the Aunt who after a long days work takes her nieces to the Food Bank to volunteer to meet their required school service hours.

A mom might be the friend who texts ten days in a row in anticipation of your child’s pathology report.

She could be a housekeeper who quietly goes the extra mile, week after week after week.

A mom might actually be 77 years old and might still pray for her too stressed out son every single day.

Or a grandparent who volunteers in her grandkids’ schools because their mom isn’t around to do it herself.

A mom might be the former art teacher who takes her favorite student to dinner three years after the kid last took her class.

A mom could be the one to tell the single dad that his daughter really needs white jeans to fashionably make it through the summer.

Or, a mom might actually be a dad – a dad who loves his kids as much as any other two parents ever could together.

Sunday Post 117: Love My Mom

I have such wonderful memories with my mom, and we’re still working on building more!

I remember her, as the preacher’s wife, sitting on the front row of our church.  Very few others would sit that close to the pulpit so we often had our pew to ourselves.  As a young kid, when it neared sermon time, I’d sprawl out, legs stretched out, thumb heading toward my mouth.  I’d plunk my head in mom’s lap.  She’d scratch my head.  Sometimes I’d curl up in a ball.  It’s as if I were in my own bed.  Wouldn’t wake up until she stood for the Doxology!

As a young teenager, I once coaxed my mom into running around the car with me at a stoplight.  I begged and begged, it was very in at the time.  She finally relented.  We pulled up, each of us jumped out of the car.  One lap around and I was back at the passenger seat.  Interestingly, my mom was nowhere to be seen.  As I walked to the front of the car, I found her laying face down on the pavement.  Apparently her red sandal high heels weren’t meant for running on gravel.  She ripped her hose and laughed and laughed.

Another time, when I was in high school, we were in the car on our way to a southern Baptist covered dish  dinner.  Mom had me hold the Corningware pot of field peas, just taken off the stove.  She wasn’t known for her driving prowess,  and her short frame kept her from fully seeing at intersections.  The one at the corner of Marlborough Road and Village Drive slipped up on her that day.  She braked hard.  Scalding pea juice poured into my lap.  She got tickled.  I bit my lip to ease the pain.  Went home and had to pull down my pants to see if anything had melted away.

I can’t count the number of times my mother and I got tickled in church.  Weddings were the worst.  Once we were at a 3rd cousin’s wedding in rural South Carolina.  As the Kimball organ started playing Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady, we lost it.  The more I laughed, the more she laughed.  My grandmother was mortified.  We were used to it, this wasn’t our first.

I’m forty-seven, and I still call to chat.  I still want her opinion.  She’s my go to with problems.  Yeah, I love my mom.

As good as these memories are, my joy on Mother’s Day is hampered by the knowledge that my girls won’t get to experience that same connection with their mom.  They have some, but simply not enough.

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