• lenten journal: considerable love

    by  • April 20, 2011 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    Because Easter is a moveable feast, our twenty-first wedding anniversary falls on Maundy Thursday. So we celebrated tonight. The Playmakers Repertory Company at UNC is doing a production of Big River, a musical telling of the adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The musical was on Broadway in the mid-eighties. The songs were written by the King of the Road himself, Roger Miller. Playmakers put on a great show, as usual, and we had a wonderful time.

    At one point early on in the play, Jim tells Huck that life has “considerable tragedy and considerable joy.” One comes with the other. I would go as far to say one is essential to the other. When we have the capacity to experience considerable tragedy, it opens up to considerable joy, and vice versa. To be able to feel deeply means all of the feelings. To keep pain at arm’s length is to do the same to joy. It is also to keep others at bay as well. The shared experience of considerable emotion, regardless of the emotion, is a tie that binds.

    One of the songs that most moved me this evening was called, “You Oughta Be Here With Me.” A daughter was singing in grief at the death of her father and in uncertainty of what the future might hold.

    if you think it’s lonesome where you are tonight
    then you oughta be here with me
    if you think there’s heartache where you are tonight
    then you oughta be here with me

    because with you I’m whole, without you I’m cold
    so if you think about me where you are tonight
    then you oughta be here with me

    if teardrops are falling where you are tonight
    then you oughta be here with me
    loneliness calling where you are tonight
    then you oughta be here with me

    because with you I’m whole, without you I’m cold
    so if you think about me where you are tonight
    then you oughta be here with me

    “There’s bound to come some trouble in your life,” Rich Mullins used to sing, “but that ain’t nothing to be afraid of.” Poets and songwriters all the way back to Ecclesiastes have known what Jim was telling Huck. The contour of our existence goes as low as it does high. The human race is not run on a flat track.

    I listened to the woman sing, “You oughta be here with me” seated next to the person who has been here with me more than anyone in my life. Twenty-one years ago, we were juggling last minute wedding details and imagining a life together. The years that followed have brought highs and lows that neither of us could have anticipated. We grew into the promises we made on our wedding day as we walked into days that offered both better and worse, sickness and health. We’re still waiting on the wealth to show up. Now as Ginger’s dad continues to disappear incrementally as his Alzheimer’s takes a stronger hold, we are learning new levels of feeling and sorrow.

    The joy takes the face of gratitude for me these days. In the midst of hard times, I lie in our bed at night and listen to the symphony of breathing sounds offered in concert by Ginger and the Schnauzers and I am grateful to be in the room listening to what joy sounds like. The best news I have is, after twenty-one years, the best place I know to be is with my wife.

    A number of years ago, I wrote a song with my friend Billy where I tried to imagine what love looked like farther on in a marriage than I was at a time. The title I came up with was “Well Worn Love,” which conjured up an image of lives that had been gently and daily softened and polished by the love they shared in much the same way that the stairs on the old buildings in Boston were changed by the daily foot falls, or the tails of library lions worn smooth by thousands of small touches. The chorus says,

    this is the story of two common hearts
    that started out young and grew old
    they have practiced a lifetime
    the waltz of a well-worn love

    We’re not yet as old as the couple in my song, and I look forward to many more years together. I’m also happy to say, twenty-one years on, I wrote a pretty good song back then. It was not just my imagination running away with me. I am grateful for the considerable love that Ginger and I share in both our tragedy and joy.

    And that we still stay our late on a school night.

    Peace,
    Milton

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