“On the single strand of wire strung to bring our house electricity,
grackles and starlings neatly punctuated an invisible sentence.”
(grackles on the line / Julie Cook / 2014)
I imagine it happens to all of us at some point or other…
and it’s always out of the blue…
It catches us totally off guard— when we least expect it.
Suddenly a lump is forming in our throat as we find the words catching, cracking and breaking as we can barely whisper along.
And just when we frustratingly focus on the fact that no sound seems to be
coming from a voice attempting to speak, stinging tears now form in our
eyes, rendering us both mute and almost blind…
Mute and blind with raw emotion.
We blink hard and swallow hard…as we hear our brain pleading “not here, not now….”
Maybe we’re just sitting on the couch…
Maybe we’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store pushing a cart full of
paper towels and cat food…
Maybe we’re sitting in the middle of traffic, stuck…
Maybe we’re sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting….
It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing…it happens…
and it happens when it wants to…never mind what we want.
And there is always some sort of trigger…
as the ordinariness of life is punctured like an over inflated tire…
our breath begins to release as we are helpless to hold it in….
It comes suddenly out of the blue..
Out of nowhere…and there it is…
A familiar sound, a familiar tune, a familiar voice…more oldie then goldie…
For me this time, it was Wichita Lineman and it wasn’t even Glen Campbell
singing the song but rather someone else…
Yet it mattered not—it was still that same melodious memory drifting in on
the passage of time… swirling down on the currents until settling sweetly, yet
painfully, in the recall of memory.
My mother loved Glen Campbell.
What woman in those heady days of the late 60’s didn’t?
Dashing boyish good looks…dimples, perfect hair, sculpted nose,
laced with a velvety voice.
He wasn’t Country, he wasn’t Gospel, he wasn’t Pop…
he was simply the complete package.
I can remember sitting with mother in 1969 on that old tweed couch
watching the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour—
This was a time when children could actually watch television without fear of hearing
or seeing things that children shouldn’t really see or hear emanating
from a television….
The line is iconic…
“and I need you more than want you….
and I want you for all time….
for the Wichita lineman is still on the line…”
…as heart tugging violins finish out the notes….
About two years ago, give or take,
Glen Campbell and his current wife (I say current because he had had four marriages
with one in particular making for tabloid drama) gave what was to be Glen’s
last public interview.
Glen Campbell was suffering from Alzheimers.
A disease that actually claimed his life earlier this year.
The selfish disease was robbing his family of the husband and father they loved
while robbing a man of the one person he’d known best his entire life…
that being himself.
He was asked about singing and his songs— what song had he loved the most….
A question I would think somewhat difficult for any musician / singer,
who had had such long careers, to answer—
As songs and melodies ebb and flow with the times—
Because it’s hard to compare what was a career starter with what came about
during one’s peak moment throughout such a lengthy career…
But he answered quickly and at first very effortlessly…
“it’s really the best line of all time in a song you know…. isn’t it???”
as he then turned to his wife with that lost look of one battling with a
memory-robbing illness, when he sadly and poignantly realized he didn’t
remember now what line he was talking about.
His wife offered a small airy couple of notes with the first word, which allowed
Glen’s mind to grab hold as he finished the stanza himself in beautiful A cappella
And it is an iconic line.
A beautiful line.
A line that has for me, over time, changed it’s meaning.
Songs, lyrics and melodies all have that effect on us.
So much so that I think I’ve written about this before—and about this very same
song for most likely the very same reason—
It simply caught me off guard.
It reached out through the abyss of time grabbing hold of my arm while pulling
me to a bittersweet place I don’t often like to go.
The hot tears formed as I attempted to utter those familiar words….but I couldn’t.
I couldn’t even speak the words because they had stuck in my throat…
as they achingly cracked coming from my mouth without sound…
And then slowly…the recesses of a memory came into focus,
I was seeing the one who had first loved that song long before I had.
She had her own personal reasons, her own personal recollections…
Things that, at the time, were unbeknownst to me.
Something that caused an overwhelming sense of melancholy…
Something that had left her with words which had no sound,
something that had left her eyes wet with warm tears…
I had no way of knowing then…no way of understanding…
for I had not lived yet what she had lived…
Yet sweetly and even oddly in that bittersweet moment of hearing that single song
with that most iconic simple lyric, I actually understood what she had known
all those many years ago…as warm tears filled my eyes and the words coming
from my mouth had no sound…I was transported one day closer to understanding
the woman I had lost so long ago…
Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.