He Died With A Smile And A Song

 

On Thursday a friend of mine passed away.

By worldly accounts, he was probably the richest man I ever knew.  He was a founder of the Ultramatic bed and, along with his wife, one of the largest personal contributors to Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, ON with a stunning two-storey glass and steel encased lobby named after them.  He owned several high-end cars, and a handful of custom Harleys.  He loved his gold rings and his flamboyant attire, and was more of a fashion statement than I’ve ever seen on the cover of a magazine.  His own circle of friends included celebrities and he had a long-standing friendship with Canadian icon Gordie Tapp of Hee Haw fame, who was the spokesperson in many Ultramatic bed commercials.

But it won’t be his material wealth, his bling, his vehicles, or his famous connections that I will remember about him.  It will be his spiritual riches. Continue reading

Take Me Home, Country Roads


 

Late summer / early fall of 1978.  A mixed bag of events in my life.
A mixed tape masterpiece of music to tag along.

 
The blockbuster Grease was in the theatres.  I saw it three times.  Once with friends and a parent chaperone just in case it was too risqué for our young, naive, impressionable minds.  And once with each of my two sisters, the poor things.  Stuck babysitting me and I probably didn’t let up about how much I wanted to see it again.  32 years later my son starred as Kenickie in his high school play of it.  One of my proudest mama moments to date.  Today I own two Grease DVDs, one the original movie and one of my son’s school production.  And I don’t know how many vinyl, cassettes, and CDs I have worn out listening to the soundtrack.

The wedding of one of my sisters and I was a junior bridesmaid in the ceremony.  Next month she will celebrate being married to her high school sweetheart for 37 years.  Beautiful.  I remember dancing to Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce and Thank God I’m A Country Boy by John Denver at the reception.  And with a cute boy no less.  Today, I own both of the albums those tracks are from.  Well, several actually.  I have an affinity for the Colorado Poet Laureate and own about a dozen of his albums.  My kids say I’m corny.  I say I have excellent taste.

And the summer and fall of 1978 were the seasons that Marvin Lee Aday and James Richard Steinman changed my life.  They helped save it too as a matter of fact.
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What Goes Around Comes Around

October 1985.  My sweet 16 birthday.  It was sweet alrighty.

My mom gave me an all-in-one dual cassette, turntable, and AM/FM radio player.  Gone would be the days of putting my single-used portable cassette player in front of my mom’s large radio system trying to perfectly capture the latest greatest hit by Springsteen, the Eurythmics, or Wham!.  And then going back to my room to transfer over a song from a record album to be the next tune on the mixed tape.  Then back downstairs, and the cycle would continue.  I was in “Heaven” – Bryan Adam’s #24 Billboard hit for 1985 by the way.

Fast forward to August 1988.  Heading off to university, I left behind that same piece of stereo equipment with my mom.  She had started to use it herself to copy cassettes she liked of friends, and play her Doris Day, Tony Bennett, and Slim Whitman records.  I was off to bigger, better things – buying myself a Walkman as soon as I got a job.  We were both in heaven.

Fast forward again to May 2011.  My kids and I had traveled up to where my mom had lived before she died a few months earlier for the internment of her ashes.  It was a “Family Affair” and many friends of my mom were there as well to join in the backyard holler (my mom’s name for a BBQ party) we held to celebrate her life.
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She Loves Me Like A Rock

In response to today08 Christmas 050‘s Daily Prompt, the first virtual album I opened was Christmas 08.  The first pic I’m in is with my mom on Christmas Day.  However she was quite ill at the time and I could just hear her stomping on heaven’s floor shouting – “don’t use that one – I look terrible!”.  Okay mom, I won’t.  Suffice to say, the pic shows both of us enjoying the special day and the adoring love we had for each other in our eyes.  My eyes are fully closed in the next pic I came across that I’m in but I’m using it anyway.  I trust some more parent-child love can be seen in it.

Below is a YouTube video for Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like A Rock”.  I picked this song not just because it’s fitting for this post, but also because all of my mom, my son, and I love Paul Simon.  My mom didn’t listen to much contemporary music, but I have the concert DVD this clip comes from and she liked watching it.  Even in the later stages of my mom’s several illnesses, I remember her sitting in my recliner with her feet up on the foot rest just a tappin’ along to the music.  She especially liked this song as it also has Stevie Wonder in it and The Dixie Hummingbirds, an American Gospel band.

My son is a big Paul Simon fan too and he can credit me for playing so much of his music while my son was growing up, especially the “Graceland” album.  Just last month, my kids and I went on a vacation to Cleveland and the highlight of the trip was visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.  They currently have a Paul Simon exhibition on and my son and I were in that section the longest I’m sure.

Finally, “Loves Me Like A Rock” is on my funeral party playlist.  It’s on there both in dedication to my mom for her unwavering and unconditional love for me that gave me strength and the foundation to become what I can only hope will be as good of a mom as her.  It’s also for my son, because he likes the song and the artist of course but also because after I have passed, I want him to know I will do exactly what the lyrics say:  “she gets down on her knees and hugs me, she loves me like a rock”.

Photo source:   someone in my family!  –  me hugging my son  –  Christmas 2008