I Thought I’d Have More Time

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

You’ve been gone since January, 1976, when I was sixteen and a half years old. The cruel hand of death snatched you away long before any of us were ready. (Not that we ever are.)

I had only a few Mother’s Days with you. It’s been so long ago now, I barely remember them.

I barely remember you. I look at pictures of you now, and you’re almost a stranger to me.

Almost.

What I do remember, though, is a sweet, compassionate, fun-loving, beautiful-in-every-way person who loved life, family and friends. Who had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh.

Someone who loved playing with her grandkids, and card games with her friends. (Does anybody play Rook anymore?) Who enjoyed a good game of Mad Libs on long car trips. Who loved going to Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers games.

Someone who took care of her little boy whenever he was sick, which was pretty often early on. Lucky for me, you were a nurse.

Someone who catered to my finicky appetite when I was little. If only you could see what I like to eat now.

Someone who saw something in me that inspired you to sign me up for piano lessons, the idea of which initially repelled me, but that I eventually came to appreciate.

Someone who laughed when I laughed, held me when I cried, and disciplined me when necessary. (Although, between you and me, probably not enough. But I wasn’t ever gonna say that. 😉)

You never let me forget you loved me. If only I had worked up the nerve to say, “I love you” to you. Just once.

I thought I’d have more time, you know. I guess we always think that. You just take it for granted the people you love are always going to be here.

I wish we could have had a grownup-to-grownup conversation. I think you would have been fun to talk to on that level.

I wish you could have been here long enough to meet the wonderful woman I married. I think you would have approved.

I wish a lot of things with you that, unfortunately, will never be. But, I guess that’s life. I just know, I’m glad I had you as long as I did. It was a wonderful, if terribly brief, life with you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for being so good to me in the time we had together. Thank you for all your love and care and support. You were the best mom I could have wished for.

I never said it, and I’m sorry for that, but I always felt it: I love you. ❤❤❤❤

Mes Frères

I have two brothers. Two older brothers.

Much older brothers, as I like to remind them.

See, I showed up a little late to the party. Guess I wasn’t part of the original family plan. Surprise!

So, my brothers and I didn’t have a lot of time together when I was little; they were practically grown already. I remember going to my oldest brother’s wedding when I was six. By the time they gave me three nieces and a nephew, I was twelve.

My brothers were my mentors when I was little, teaching me important things. Like curse words. Which I then repeated one day to Mom and her guest. Or so I was told.

Father was so proud. 😡

When they left home, they left behind some things for me. Like a small metal box packed full of their old 45’s. (Google it, kids.) Classic songs like “At the Hop”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” I still have ’em, in that same metal box, but I can’t listen to them; I ain’t got no record player anymore!

They also left me some comedy albums, by guys like Bill Cosby, Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory and Brother Dave Gardner. I memorized all their routines, and recited them to anyone who’d listen. (And a few who wouldn’t.) I’ve always loved an audience. My friends and relatives know this.

When my next oldest brother went away to college, he would often write to Mom and Dad at home, and at the end of every letter was a personal note to me. I always looked forward to those.

When I was a teenage piano player, he suggested I check out an artist named Elton John. Boy, did that have an impact! EJ has remained my man all these years. Thanks, bro.

Both my brothers made me laugh a lot when I was a kid. (Still do, in fact.) In my teenage years, I tried to make them laugh, too. I guess it was a way to make them think I was cool enough to hang with them. I didn’t want to be their kid brother; I wanted to be their peer. You know teenagers, they always wanna be grownups.

My next oldest brother has an artistic streak, like me. He wrote poetry, screenplays, a novel. He acted in community theaters. I used to play piano, and even wrote a few songs. I thought we were kindred spirits.

I didn’t connect with my oldest brother like that. I kinda felt he, like Dad, didn’t really get me. Maybe that was all in my head, I don’t know. We relate much better now. I’m proud of him; he gave up some unhealthy habits and is taking better care of himself, now. More so than me, for sure.

I know I’m just firing off random thoughts here; just writing these things as they come into my consciousness, things I hadn’t really thought of in a long time, until just recently.

The three of us got together last week. Twice. It was the first time in quite awhile that the oldest was here from Costa Rica, where he’s lived happily for 13 years now. I really enjoyed being with the two of them.

And as we all get older, I become more acutely aware of our dwindling opportunities to do that.

We are brothers. We may not have been as close as some brothers are due to our age difference, but the bond has always been there.

And I know the time will come when all three of us won’t be here. And I hate that.

So, while we are all here, I want to tell my brothers how much they mean to me.

How much they’ve always meant to me.

And how much I hope we’re all around for a good long time, yet.

Slim, Bubba, I love you. Always have, always will.

Your kid brother, Fat Boy. (AKA Stud)

Songs I Wish I’d Written

You got some time? Good, pull up a chair.

In my younger days, I fancied myself a songwriter. 🎵 I even imagined making a living at it, until I realized just how tough a profession it is in which to succeed. I’ve never been the kind to take rejection well, and there’s a lot of that in the music business.

Besides, I can be more critical of my work than anyone else can. Many times, I wrote something thinking it was pretty decent, only to later dismiss it as utter garbage. I still go through that sometimes with this darned blog, actually.

And, if I’m being totally honest, I just wasn’t willing to work that hard at it. It’s a character flaw of mine.

But I’ve always appreciated a well written song, and there are plenty of lyricists and composers I greatly admire. They are master craftsmen, (is craftswomen a word?) experts in creating a story or an image that moves me in some way. 🎶

In my life, I’ve heard plenty of songs I enjoy, and a great many I love and want to hear again and again.

And once in a while, I hear one that’s just so beautiful and powerful, I’m left sitting there with my jaw hanging down, thinking to myself…

Wow.

I wish I’d written that.

Not for monetary reasons, though that would certainly be nice. But for the satisfaction that comes from creating something so brilliant. To take a poem, a melody and a rhythm, and assemble all those pieces so they fit together as a perfect work of art, must feel indescribable. I’ve known just a hint of that feeling, and it’s pretty cool, I admit.

Here are some songs that got a wow out of me when I first heard them, listed with their writers:

I Can’t Make You Love Me/Allen Shamblin and Michael Reed. First time I heard Bonnie Raitt sing this, I knew it was something extraordinary. Nobody does heartache better than Bonnie, anyway, and this song rises to her level. Props also to Bruce Hornsby for his just right piano accompaniment. The whole thing is flawless, and the best set of lyrics I’ve heard in ages.

Say Something/Chad Vaccarino and Ian Axel. Absolutely devastated when I heard this piece by the group A Great Big World, made up of Vaccarino and Axel. It hooks you right at the outset, with the opening line, “Say something, I’m giving up on you.” The words and the melody, piano and vocals, all combine into a stunning and unforgettable piece of work.

Ticking/Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Elton ends his Caribou album with this compelling drama of a young man who comes unhinged, and the horrifying consequences. Some of Bernie’s very best lyrics; a story of mass murder, written in 1974, that has only become all too familiar in our time.

Make You Feel My Love/Bob Dylan. Dylan, as we all know, is a Nobel Prize winning songwriter, and his work includes many great pieces, but this one in particular resonated with me. Obviously he has more complex material in his oeuvre, but the simplicity of this song makes it more approachable. The first time I heard it was a performance by Billy Joel, and I like his voice better, so that probably made it more appealing to me, too.

(According to some, this song was written from the point of view of Jesus, impressing upon all us sinners the totality of His love for us.)

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant/Billy Joel. Speaking of Mr. Joel, I’m a longtime fan of his songwriting. This track, from his The Stranger album, is a wonderful little vignette of two old friends catching up and reminiscing. You can see these characters in your mind, and the music moves the story along perfectly.

Nether Lands/Dan Fogelberg. I’d never heard the late Dan Fogelberg before I listened to his album, Nether Lands in 1978 or ’79. But from the opening notes of the majestic title track, he had me. Dan was, to me, a true poet, a skilled wordsmith, as well as an extraordinary composer. I’ll always remember how awed I was listening to this beautiful piece.

You Say/Lauren Daigle, Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury. “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough”, goes the opening line of Lauren Daigle’s powerful reaffirmation of her identity as a child of God. This song, delivered by Lauren’s amazing vocals, became a hit on both the pop and contemporary Christian charts with its universal message, “The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me.”

Tonight/Elton John and Bernie Taupin. From Elton’s Blue Moves album, the sound of a marriage gone sour. You can hear the weary resignation, yet a still barely burning ember of hope, in the earnest plea of the protagonist for just one night of truce. One of Elton’s most classical compositions, along with James Newton-Howard’s orchestration, gives us this splendid work.

Of course, there are so many other great songs by so many other great artists, more than I could name here, and more from around the world I don’t even know about, and they all have my sincere respect and admiration. Not just because they write songs, but because they write them so well, and so consistently, then share them with the rest of us lucky folks.

So we listen, we laugh, we cry, we think, we feel, we remember, we dance, and we sing along. 🎶

And how much richer are our lives for that?

Now, tell me: have you ever heard a song that just stopped you in your tracks, made you catch your breath and say Wow?

I’d love to hear it.

The Best and Worst On My TV Lately

BEST

You know what’s been cool for me to watch on the Winter Olympics this year? (And the Summer games last year, come to think of it?)

The watch parties. All the families and friends of the athletes competing, not allowed to cheer them on in person due to COVID, gather together in parties small and large around the world, to witness all the events – just like the rest of us – on their television screens.

Now, I’m sure these parties have been going on for years, because not everyone gets to go to the venues, but now we get to watch the watchers! Whether jubilantly cheering the victories, agonizing over the defeats, or audibly gasping at the unimaginable surprises (ahem, Mikaela Shiffrin), we see their reactions, and we feel them, like we’re sitting alongside them.

And I don’t know about you, but that enriches the whole experience for me. I think we should be in on every Olympics watch party from now on.

EVEN BETTER

The Chevy commercials featuring Walter the cat. If you haven’t seen them, you owe it to yourself to do so. I am a 100% Walter fan.

WORST

I will be eternally grateful to the person who invents a television that automatically deletes political ads.

As it is, I have to quickly reach for the remote every time these idiots come on my TV and insult my intelligence with their astonishing, jaw dropping bull$#!t. The only thing even more jaw dropping is that someone out there actually believes it.

Personally, I think they should all be banned. Permanently. We would all be so much better off.

EVEN WORSE

Nope. No such thing.