[A couple of friends encouraged me this week to write something w/some Zeus energy in it. What follows is an excerpt from a fiction piece I've been working on for some time. I'm kinda dropping you in the middle of the story, but I believe you'll be just fine. Thanks, Wes and Wendy, for the prod.]
It’s good exercise trying to remember the first impressions of your life. For some, they’re visual – bright sunshine through oak branches or stained glass windows in a church. For others, they're olfactory – a dog's breath or honeysuckle blooms on a fence. For me, Kevin, they're auditory - life via the ears. Music, to be specific. Country music, to be precise. In the way that Mama loved God, Daddy loved country music. Oh, Jack Tibbs loved God too; in fact, Daddy believed that he and God shared an affection for country music.
Mama'd say, “Jack, do you have any biblical grounds for that belief?”
“I don’t have a verse to prove it, but it’s something I feel deep in my bones.” The deep-boned convictions of Jack Tibbs. I would grow to trust them as scripture itself.
Daddy was the early riser in our house. He’d get up around five-thirty, start a pot of coffee, and then put a stack of country music albums on our Motorola turntable. His modus operandi was to begin with the music so soft you could hardly hear it, then about every ten minutes or so, he’d come back by the console and gently increase the volume. Daddy called it simmering; the only proper way to start the day, to be thankful for the gift. He'd say, “Too many people rush in this world. Rushing folks miss things.”
So, the Tibbs family would stew each morning in the warm juices of voices like Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, the Statler Brothers, Dolly Parton and Tom T. Hall. To this day, if I’m feeling anxious or afraid, Lineman for the County or Sunday Morning Coming Down can lower my blood pressure and reorient me to all that’s good and decent in this world. That music is like a homing device. I believe it indicates we grew up in a home, not a house. I realize that sounds idyllic. The truth is, it was. But it would not always be that way.
I’d usually roll out of bed about the time Dolly Parton started singing. Daddy would place the Dolly albums in the middle of the stack. “You don’t start out with Dolly,” he’d always say. “Her’s is a voice that must be approached, respectfully.” Daddy would then bend at the knee and bow, as if greeting the Queen or something. By that time Mama would be up and she’d roll her eyes at his drama: “Jack Tibbs, I can see through you to your backbone. It’s clear to anyone with one eye and horse sense...” Mama would always fade that sentence to black and Daddy would immediately red in the cheeks. I don't remember a time when that didn't make Mama snort-laugh: “I love a man who can still blush.”
Jack Tibbs believed Coat of Many Colors to be the most beautiful song ever recorded and Dolly Parton sang it best. Mama tolerated the tune due to the biblical parallels. My Daddy didn’t cry very much, but when Dolly sang that song, his eyes’d well up faster than pot holes in a spring shower. I always felt like it was because Daddy missed his mama so much; she was taken way too soon, and it left a hole in his heart, like a murmur. After his parents were killed in that tornado, he didn’t have “time to grieve” like some folks speak about. He told me that the graveside service was presided over by a cousin who happened to be an ex-minister turned contractor; Lewis was his name. Brother Lewis read the 23rd Psalm and then led those gathered in singing “Amazing Grace.” Amen. That was it. Then life demanded saddling up and getting on with the care of his two brothers. It was like Daddy started his song of grief but never got to finish it. Maybe listening to Dolly sing about that coat my mama made for me allowed Jack Tibbs to grieve a little each morning, gradually, finishing his song. Maybe.