I guess all people hold certain music so dear that, over time, it becomes a fundamental part of who they are: to the point that--when they feel in danger of losing themselves--they reach for the music that grounds them and carries them home to themselves.
I can find something to appreciate about most any kind of music, and I especially like songs from my 1951 Church Hymnal; Billy Joel; and the 80's pop scene. But, by far, my favorite kind of music is 70's and 80's country, and--of all the amazing country artists from those years--Merle Haggard has my heart.
Merle sings the music that reminds me who I am.
Last week, Jim said: "I'd like to celebrate your birthday next Thursday. Will you let me surprise you? And can we stay out all night?" As it turned out, my parents were available to watch the kids, so off Jim and I went, and my birthday surprise was Merle Haggard.
The venue was smallish, and our excellent seats were in wheelchair row (smack-dab in the middle). It was primarily a silver-haired crowd, which didn't bother me a bit. I love older people, and--so long as they're not after me, personally--the more crotchety, the better. The guy sitting next to me looked exactly like Jeff Dunham's Walter.
So the opening act (bless his heart) really wasn't much, and the crowd did a whole lot of grumbling and a little bit of yelling. Still, no one threw anything, and--given their ages and experiences with the U.S. Armed Forces--I decided they'd put up with enough b.s. in their lifetimes and forgave them right away. I leaned over and whispered into Jim's ear: "I'm not going to become more patient as I get older, am I?" Jim, solemn and wide-eyed, just shook his head.
Finally, Merle appeared, and he looked fabulous. He played the hound dog out of his guitar and fiddle, and he sang as well as he ever has. He was just wholly himself, and I knew he meant and felt every word he offered.
I cried the whole way through "If We Make It Through December."
Merle didn't sing my favorite song, but we can all listen to it here, and I'll keep on singing it to my crying babies in the middle of the night. I love you, Merle.
I love you, too, Jim. Thank you.