My life in music.

That’s probably what my blog should be called, because it’s almost always a song that puts me in the mood to write! Songs were the first form of poetry I fell in love with. Dad was a musician, as were some of his nephews. My maternal grandfather (Edgar “Pat” Dimsdale) played a mean honky-tonk piano. He taught my cousins to play (and sing) but we lived half a country away from them all. He died when I was 4, so I never got to learn from him. My life as a musician suffered for that. I was never able to overcome that feeling of missing something, and of never being good enough.

It’s just no good anymore since you went away
Now I spend my time just making rhymes of yesterday – One (Three Dog Night)

I know I write a lot about old times. There’s a reason for that. Something for me to hold close. But I really have had a pretty special life. If any one of you were to look at your own life, you would see the same thing. We’re a collection of our experiences, both good and bad, and our choices. If we don’t examine where we’ve been, will we know where we’re going?

The first song that spurred me on this morning was Let It Be (Beatles). The first time I heard that song was when I lived on Libby Lane in Houston. We had next-door neighbors who had several teen and tween sons. One of them, whose bedroom was closest to our driveway, used to blast his music on the weekends. My parents hated it, but I loved it. Some of the music they played was not allowed in my house. Hearing “Let It Be” was like a spiritual experience for me. It was then that I realized how much I wanted peace in the world, and certainly in my life. It might have been the first time I felt a strong curiosity about Mother Mary (though McCartney was not really talking about the Blessed Virgin). I had several friends who were Catholic, and I was always curious. My family were all Baptist, though, and they had a deep and abiding suspicion of Catholics. So what did I do? I grew up and married a Catholic. In 1994, we finally got our kids confirmed, and I was initiated into the Church. Paul fell away from the Church and his faith, but some part of me hung on. And I’m still Catholic today, whether they want me or not. (In fact my second marriage was to a Catholic, as well.)

Faith can be a difficult thing to hang onto when life beats you down. It’s hard to believe there is a God, Goddess, or other Divine Entity watching over you when everywhere you turn there is adversity, hatred, discrimination, or worse. But I figure if I could get through my childhood with some faith intact, I can certainly muster it now. What can I say? There are no atheists in the chemo chair.

The next song that came on after Let It Be was Mother’s Little Helper (Rolling Stones). Whenever my stress gets so high that I think about taking something for it, I remember my mother and her bottle of little blue pills. She kept them handy, and sometimes when life got to be too much, she took too many. How many times did she have her stomach pumped? I will never know, because it was happening throughout my childhood. But couldn’t she learn from that? As I wrote in my last post, she had severe depression. But I was just a kid and didn’t need to see my mom trying to die all the time.

I was so tired of it by the time I was 15 that one day she was threatening to kill herself again, and I said, “Go on, Mom. Do it. Leave us with Dad. You know what our lives will be like then! So if you’re going to do it, get on with it and do it right this time.”

Sound harsh? Well, it worked. She never threatened it or did it again, as far as I know. She was in the middle of menopause and was just nuts. I never knew what would set her off, so living alone with her was as bad as living with her and Dad together. At age 16, I went back to Houston and lived with my sister until I graduated from high school. So many times I’ve looked back on that and wished with everything in me that I could have stayed there to graduate with my class. The counselors and teachers there were encouraging me to think about college. They would have helped me get on that track. I had the grades, but my family didn’t have the resources or the imagination to see that it was possible. Instead, I ended up in a huge school in Humble, TX, with people who had money and parents that belonged to the country club. I was a newcomer in the middle of 11th grade, so no one was interested. That’s okay. I got an education for myself later.

Parents, think about what you do to your children! You imprint your own hopes, dreams, and fears onto them. You try not to make the same mistakes your parents made, but you end up screwing up in other ways. It’s the human condition. We are all flawed. We might learn some new tricks, but so much of what we are is ingrained in us. Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better.” And yet I find myself in situations that repeat a pattern in my life. I have to figure out how to break those patterns that no longer work for me.

Good luck with your patterns, and drop me a note if you feel so led. Drop me a song.

Oh, and thanks, Mr. & Mrs Millican, for letting your boys blast their music. It changed me.

Peace, Jude

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