Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lady Jane

Boy, how do I do this? How do I put down in words the love, goodliness (which is not a word, but it should be), kindness and reverence one person can have? Are there words?

Word comes from my cousin that my Aunt Jane is off to meet her maker very soon and also to hold the hand of her beloved Martin. She's missed him desperately for the last 13 years.

My Aunt Jane burst into our lives in 1969 when my uncle Martin lost his first wife, Bette, who was my father's sister. I hated that woman. Profane, mean, nasty, smoked and drank and cussed with the men. I so totally despised her that the disgust toward her almost negated the love I had for uncle Martin.

Uncle Martin was Dean Martin.

Good looking, dark, wavy hair, smoked and drank and probably had an affair with my mother. We're pretty sure something happened in 1965 to split up my mom and dad and signs from myself and others in the family think it happened with Martin. I couldn't blame either of them actually, their lives must have been pretty empty.

He never gave it up. Ever.

Before Bette died, she had Jane's number in a Bible or something. After Bette's passing, Martin and Jane got together and she transformed him from a smoking, drinking party guy to a down to Earth religious man. He found Christ through her.

One life saved.

She came with Martin to the farm in Ava to meet our part of the family. It was 1969 and she could not have made a better impression on this young man. Being 13, she was exactly what the doctor ordered for Martin. I had never ever seen him so calm and cool. She was a cinch.

My mother was an alcoholic throughout my life and there were times she was just not there. Aunt Jane always was. She never had kids, which is a shame. But she knew what to say to me. Whether it was telling me I was lazy or slapping me on the back for a job well done. Don't ask Jane a question you couldn't handle the answer to. She told you the truth as she saw it which was usually the way it was.

When I moved away from the Quad Cities in 1979, one of the toughest to leave was Martin and Jane. I'll never forget what she said to me..."what are you crying for? Don't you understand this is what you've been waiting for all your life. Don't let the enormity of the situation cloud your common sense, son. Go. Don't look back. We'll be here when you get back. Let me know how it is."


She was my mother when my mother couldn't handle the job.
When my dear mother died, I was pretty emotional about it and she said, "I hope you're crying for how much you're going to miss her. Don't cry for her, for she is about to be set free from her chains and demons and for the first time know no pain."


As they got older they took pride in working in the ravine behind their house. That ravine was so full of flowers, shrubs, and gardening that the strongest among us couldn't handle, but there was Martin and Jane, every day out in the hot sun, working all day. "Working keeps you young." A  favorite saying of hers.
Of course as the years rolled on, Martin and Jane slowed down and she lost her beloved Martin at the age of 84 in 1998.

Devastation isn't a powerful enough word.

Looking back, her world was over at that time. Being away, I didn't get a chance to see her as much as I'd like. I regret that now. Jane kept treading water, she kept her life together as well as she could, but after having to quit driving at 86, she went downhill slowly but surely. The family entered her into an assisted living facility not long after.

Everytime I got that way, I went to see her, she always knew me, but sometimes it took a bit. Then her eyes would get big and she'd say "Randy" and smile. I'll never forget the look.

One day, about three years ago, I went to see her and she was feeling exceptionally well. "I'd like to go for a ride." she said. "Where to?" I asked. "My youth", she replied. So, we got into my car and went to the neighborhood where she lived as a young girl. It was right on the Moline Rock Island border. She pointed out all of the local landmarks, where she walked to school, where she stood waiting for the bus, etc. "My father built that house...and that garage...and that's the house I grew up in." Her eyes filled with tears as we drove around the neighborhood over and over. "That's the house I grew up in...and my dad built that..." What a blessed afternoon I spent with her. I knew more about her in three hours than I did in the previous 40 years.

She moved to a home in Rockford to be closer to her family and I saw her a couple of times. The first time, about a year ago, she was eating, perked up and said "Randy" with THAT look. We had a nice chat. I went up there about two months ago to see her. She was sitting in a wheel chair in the middle of the hallway, head in hand. My cousin Chuck was with me. We walked up to her and she didn't recognize either one of us. "I'll get the job done, but I'm slow, you know. I'll get it done, but it'll be a while. I don't like mistakes, so I'm real slow and careful. I can do the job, I really can, but it takes me awhile to do it. I like to make sure the job is done right, so I'm slow..." And on and on.

I'm hoping that the end comes quickly and peacefully. She needs to see her Martin. She needs to go home.

I love you so much Lady Jane. You shined a bright light into my life and you've helped save my life on more occasions than you know.

That's two lives saved.

"Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force."

Lady Jane passed this morning, 8/11/11
God has recruited another angel.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dan Peek

I spent part of the morning doing something I don’t think I have ever done before. I paid respect to someone I did not know. Well, I guess I knew part of him. He seemed to know me, anyway, as a 16 year old pimple faced young man whose face was horribly adorned by glasses and braces. He actually seemed to express parts of my awkward adolescent life and the things I was feeling at that time. He expressed it so magnificently through his music.

I am the type of person who isn’t big on dates but if you were to ever do a soundtrack to my life, I could tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing by the song that was playing on the radio at the time. And at the time I was listening to the radio a lot, he caught my ear.

The first time I heard him, it was a song about horses and deserts and such and since I was in a very singer/songwriter stage in my life, I immediately liked the song even though the words were very weird. “…in the desert you can remember your name..”

Ok, then.

But it was the next hit song of theirs that really grabbed my attention. It went like this…”and now you're gone, I guess I'll carry on, and make the best of what you've left to me.” But wait, how did he know that he hit an emotional grand slam home run with a lonely teenager who’s girlfriend just broke up with him in, of all places, East Moline, Illinois? How did he know how I felt?

And thus became my love affair with Dan Peek’s music. I have been in Farmington almost two years and I had no idea he lived here. I don’t know what I would have done if I had known, I don’t think I would have walked up to his house and bothered him to say thanks, but just knowing some one who has affected my life so much lived in the same community just blew my mind.

It seemed that Dan wrote for the disenfranchised, the ones who weren’t the most popular kids in school and his message was always, don’t worry, it’ll all work out. I wonder how he knew that. Because, somehow through the years of this pot marked, scarred life, it did. Like all great composers and songwriters, he had a gift to get below the surface and make a listener feel that Dan knew them and what they were going through.

“This is for all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by. Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup and hide that highway in the sky.” There he goes again.

Dan has a place in the soundtrack of my life when music meant so much to me. His words and music reflect the feelings and emotions of a generation that grew up hanging on every word he and his band mates wrote. His spiritual, uplifting message cleverly hidden in the tapestry of his songs maybe, just maybe, saved a life or two by telling us, hey…”oz didn’t give anything to the tin man, that he didn’t already have.”

His music lives on through youtube and other outlets, but to my generation, we’ll remember him as a man who gave up the rock star life for his faith. We’ll remember him for being a part of our lives because in so many ways, whenever he was in our bedrooms with the headphones on and wherever we heard his music, we thought of him as a friend. And we heard his music a lot.

I got it, Dan, and thanks. It was my pleasure to stand in a room full of strangers and just say thanks. I introduced myself to your family as “just a fan”. I’m sorry I never got the chance to say that to you while you were alive.

If I had only known.

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