Dear Partner Letter #19: One Love Two Lives

Songs & Stories From Home Episode 79

ONE LOVE AND TWO LIVES

 

On the first page are two pictures look at them and you’ll see
One’s a young girl one’s a young boy waiting there to meet
Turn the page and they’re together turn again a groom and bride
The pictures tell the story of One Love and Two Lives

 

That’s the first verse of a song called One Love and Two Lives. I wrote it for my parents in the Winter of 1997, dedicated it to them at a concert in Spokane that Spring, and then sadly nine weeks later sang it at my dad’s memorial.

 

Dear Partner,

For reasons from mundane to profound I will forever remember the Spring of 1997 as my Season of the Heart. The first day happened to be my 50th birthday. One of my family’s stories has been that my birth half a century earlier was the reason my dad regained his health and came home after months in a mental institution. And while it can beautiful and a point of pride believing I saved my dad’s life on the day I was born, it has at times felt like a bit of a burden and a hard act to follow as well as robbing my mom of much needed credit. 

In 1997 the first two Spring Saturdays included concerts that added to the feeling of celebration. There was one in Seattle featuring friends I’d sung with in high school, college, and professionally. The next weekend a Brothers Four concert in my hometown of Spokane, that evening made more special because I also opened that show with a set of original songs. You were part of both nights. A big part in the reunion show and a guest artist in the 1st half in Spokane.

Standing on stage with you in that sold-out hometown hall I flashed on a tough day from the previous winter. I had sprained my ankle that morning playing squash with our friend, Reed. I limped back home to work on songs that at the time weren’t working. My mom, who was taking the success and failure of the Spokane concert personally, had called the night before, discouraged by a lack of ticket sales. I remember sitting glumly in a chair between the living room and the dining room when Pat came through the door. I looked so pathetic she couldn’t help but laugh. And now here we were a few months later the world alive with music and a different kind of laughter. Introducing songs that night we sing to this day.

Songs like One Love and Two Lives. Or like the song Nineteen Sixty-Eight.

 

It was a year like other years the worst and best of times
Twelve months that tried our souls that tried our hearts and minds
That brought us to the future we are living to this day
The peril and the promise that is 1968

 

Or When I Was Young and This Old Guitar Was New

 

I never thought that I could know such joy or such delight
Or that I could find such depth or passion in my life
I didn't think that I could love someone like I love you 
When I Was Young and This Old Guitar Was New

 

Because of all that happened that spring the weekend of the Spokane concert hangs in my memory like a bright colored shirt abandoned in the back of a closet. You, Connie, Pat and I all stayed with my folks. Connie and my mom hit it off and would develop a special relationship. Connie also met the guys in The Brothers Four for the first time. Who could guess a few years later you both would become part of the Brothers Four family.

There was a festive atmosphere after the concert. In the theater lobby my mom acted as hostess, making sure any of the seven hundred who attended were welcome to the champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. 

It was Easter Weekend. The next morning the four of us went to church with my folks, my mom greeted by many in the congregation who told her how special the night before had been. 

There was a particularly poignant moment during the sermon. My parents’ friend and minister, Don Gilmore, shared a story by Loren Eiseley about a chicken hawk that Eiseley captured then released the following morning. He described how she appeared to disappear into the sky. Then there came a cry. Not from the hawk who had been freed but from her mate, who had continued to circle overhead since her capture. A cry “of such unutterable ecstatic joy” Eiseley explains that, “it sounds down across the years and tingles among the cups of my quiet breakfast table.” When Don finished reading Pat’s eyes met my Dad’s. His eyes were filled with tears. Nine weeks later sitting in those same pews for my dad’s memorial I wondered if my dad knew something that Easter morning. I do know that years later I would read the quote from Eisley at my mom’s memorial, think of all the years my father had been circling overhead, and imagine them reunited. 

All of this was far away as friends and family gathered at my folk’s house after church for Easter brunch. I would discover later that two friends were wrestling separately that morning with issues involving alcohol. For one that Sunday would be the day they took their last drink. And for the other that day simply one more day closer to an untimely death fueled by alcohol and denial. 

Before Pat and I headed back to Seattle my dad and I played our usual quick games of cribbage and gin. Unexpectedly he won the cribbage and I the gin. We promised each other rematches when we met for The Brothers Four cruise to Alaska scheduled for the first full week of June.

The week after Spokane the Brothers Four performed in North Seattle a few miles from where Pat and I were living. That show completing what felt like a seasonal trifecta of homecomings and reunions. 

A few weeks later I asked my two brothers if we could get together for a few days. They readily accepted. It was the first time as adults we’d gathered, just the three of us. I’d hope to talk about what it meant or could mean to be brothers. We had a nice time but not the in-depth conversation. I would end up writing a song about that weekend. The chorus goes:

 

We grew up together in a house now long ago 
We know things about each other we don’t even know we know
We surely are not strangers and we are not simply friends
However we define it we are brothers till the end

 

The world as I knew it would end a few days later when our dad had a heart attack, dying two weeks later in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit in Spokane. You and I talked every night during that vigil. You and Connie creating a circle of prayer every day. You, who had once was afraid of flying, flew through a thunderstorm to be in Spokane for the memorial. You took a taxi to the church. In my heart and mind’s eye I can still see you sitting on the steps when we arrive. I ask you to join the rest of family as we wait in the basement for the service to begin. When it is time you joined the procession behind my mom in her bright blue dress to the front of the church. You take a seat with Jodie, Lindsey, Pat, and me.  

It would take some time for the blur of that day and all that surrounded it to become more clear. How your sitting with the family that day helped make you even more a part of the family. How Don Gilmore’s unexpected reading of my dad’s writings about his stay in a mental institution would end up feeling like a gift to me from my dad, my dad’s last gift. The gift to finally be able to shine a light into what had for so long been darkness and to fill what had felt like a forever silence with song and story. And to realize you would be a witness to that gift and would be there for the twenty years it would take to discover all the songs and all the stories that would light a way forward and give it meaning. 

All of that would come later. Not before Jodie and Lindsey joined Pat and me on the Brothers Four cruise we had planned to share with my folks. Then back to Spokane to help my mom to go through some of my dad’s things before getting on a plane the last day of that Season of the Heart to begin another Brothers Four tour of Japan. There was a photo in my carry on bag of my parents smiling, looking into the camera.

 

On the last page is one picture of a white haired man and wife 
Who found each other years ago and married then for live
The years and have been exposed to the unblinking camera’s eye
The pictures tell the story of One Love and Two Lives

   

      

 

     

 

Songs & Stories From Home | Mark Pearson Music

One of Those Times in a Life | Mark Pearson Music

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