Reparations and Love Songs

27 years ago
27 years ago

When Nanci and I first got married I remember getting all doe-eyed and telling her how I couldn’t wait to grow old together. It was a lovely sentiment to be sure, but “old” was still a fairly remote concept and therefore a rather safe longing.  Last week, we celebrated our 27th anniversary of unrelenting wedded bliss (right dear? 🙂 )and although I would hardly classify us as being old, it is no longer remote. We now have one grandson and another on the way, all three of our children are adults and these days Nance and I can sometimes be found watching my youngest son’s band play in nightclubs I played in 30 years ag0.  30 YEARS AGO!

There are other indicators: I now need glasses to read what I’m typing into my computer,  and last spring I suffered a bout of shingles. “Shingles?!” I protested to my doctor, “isn’t that something that grandparents get?” He just smiled patiently and waited for me to process what I had just said.

Judy, Max and the new chair.
Judy, Max and the new chair.

This past weekend offered up another reality check. Our friend Judy has spent the last 21 years of her life in a wheelchair after a bell tower at a summer camp collapsed on her leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.  Nanci and I have known Judy since before the accident but in recent years moved into her neighborhood and so we get to see her more often than we would  otherwise.  Judy’s house is along the path of my daily walk with Daisy (our Jack-Russel fondly referred to by our neighbors as Crazy Daisy.)  I noticed Judy’s house was in desperate need for a fresh coat of paint and mentioned to her that I used to paint for a living and would happily take care of that for her.  The conversation led to a longer conversation about several mounting needs including new shingles for her garage roof, repairs to her modified van, and a new wheelchair that would cost about 5 grand.  Ugh.

Judy's shingles - not like mine.
Judy's shingles - not like mine.

Well, silver and gold have I none, but I can paint, and I can sing. So we put on a fundraising concert at a nearby church. My staff all got behind it, the church donated the space – we advertised it on Facebook and on April 18/09 about 400 folks showed up to hear a few songs and we raised 7 thousand dollars which covers the cost of the chair, the paint, and the shingles.  (a local roofer has donated his labor to do the work.)


So last weekend I finally got around to starting to paint Judy’s house.  I decided to start by scraping the many windows which were in terrible shape. It’s the part of painting I never did like so I thought I’d get the worst over with right off the start.  I got out my ladders, sharpened my scrapers (it’s been awhile) and tackled the worst with gusto. Four hours later…. four hours!!… and I was totally spent. I could hardly put enough muscle behind to scrape off a cornflake.  What’s with that? I used to be able to do this for 12 hours no sweat. I must admit, I was a little shocked. I packed up my gear and dragged myself home to soak my aching muscles and bandage my blisters.  Sigh…

Window scraping.
Window scraping.

So, there’s no denying it – bodies age and change. But as I reflect on my marriage, our family and our history, I realize that love changes as well.  Over time we (hopefully) begin to shed sentiment and live into the reality of shared life and all that love requires of us. Like physical work, it takes a certain muscle to accomplish, but unlike physical work, its capacity grows over time rather than diminishes.

My favorite poem says it best:

Still, there’s a certain scope in that long love
Which constant spirits are the keepers of,
And which, though taken to be tame and staid,
Is a wild sostenuto of the heart,
A passion joined to courtesy and art
Which has the quality of something made,
Like a good fiddle, like the rose’s scent,
Like a rose window or the firmament.

excerpt from ‘For C’  by Richard Wilbur

Actually, I have a good start at a new song using this poem. I really had hoped to have finished it but alas, couldn’t make it happen. Later – I think it’ll be a good ‘un.

But I do want to leave a couple of songs to mark our anniversary.  The first is one I wrote years ago, at the beginning of our journey.

The second is one I discovered on-line literally on the morning of our anniversary. It is written and recorded by one of my favourite songwriters Pierce Pettis and speaks rather eloquently of that “long love” that Richard Wilbur wrote about. I was able to contact Pierce to ask permission to post the song and he graciously consented.

Here’s where it gets mushy: I love you Nance – thanks for the many great years and the great kids.  If I could do it over – I would.

Song: Alone Tonight by Steve Bell.  Click Here for lyrics.

Song: That Kind of Love by Pierce Pettis | from the album That Kind of Love  | Available at or on itunes.

That Kind of Love | Pierce Pettis

Can’t be bought or sold or faked
That kind of love
It always gives itself away
That kind of love

It’s wiser that the wisest sage
It’s innocence makes me ashamed
till I’m not sure that I can take
That kind of love

Pride and hatred cannot stand
That kind of Love
Greater love hath no man
Than that kind of love

It won’t be kept unto itself
It spreads it’s charm it casts it’ spell
till no one’s safe this side of hell
from that kind of love

Love rejected love ignored
Held in chains behind closed doors
Stuff of legend and of song
And deep down everybody longs
For that kind of love

Some people never know
that kind of love
Though it only takes a child to show
That kind of love
Widows smile and strong men weep
And little ones play at its feet
The deaf can hear the blind can see
That kind of love

Love triumphant love on fire
Love that humbles and inspires
Love that does not hesitate
With no conditions no restrains
That kind of love

So how can anyone deny
that kind of love
knowing every heart is measured by
that kind of love
Even stars fall from the sky
everything will fall in time
Except those things that cannot die
That kind of love
Oh may you be remembered by
that kind of love.