Strange Brew

Written last night, edited this morning.

i am in a strange place tonight.

i froze on writing my book today, just couldn’t get into it. But hey, i am beyond retired and can do what i want, but quite honestly, doing what i want does not sit well on my shoulders.

Then after my whining about many things created by a new world, i realize i am now a bona fide in-the-flesh curmudgeon, modeled after those two old grumps in the Muppets routine.

So i begin to work on making an outdoor chair, rustic of course, very rustic, and i pick through the collected old scrap wood, which should have been tossed years ago, but i, the old curmudgeon hang on to stuff. Memories, you know. Even scrap wood.

So¬† i wander around the house looking for something that would delight an old man. Give up. Put my clubs in the car and drive to the driving range. Feel better. i mean it’s not quite like lowering your head and shoulders to catch a running back or receiver right in the gut, driving him backward into the ground. Ahh, satisfaction. Nor is it like running at full tilt on a racquetball court for a return and slamming into a corner for a rollout. But at my age, hitting balls on a driving range is close. It’s close.

So i come home and put the trash out. Then, i ask Sarah if i could help her and when she would like to leave. Tomorrow, she goes to Austin to be with our other daughter, son-in-law, and grandson for Halloween. i long to go with her, but it would not be prudent.

So i wander around, and for some inexplicable reason wander into the front room slide the cover back and sit down at the piano. i play the only instrumental i ever created. It is not recorded anywhere and as Don Williams once sang, it’s a “Simple Song.” But it lets me relax, get into it.

Knowing a piece of my heart will be flying to join the other pieces without me is a bit unsettling, but considering these times of uncertainty, it was the right choice — and i continue to be amazed when on the surface the right thing to do can hurt so much. So playing my song helps.

Mrs. Gwaltney had gotten me to a point i was decent on the piano. Could read music and could play both hands pretty well. But what talent or skill that might have been there, perhaps only in my mind, has atrophied over the years of staying away from those 88 keys, and the hands are not so flexible anymore.

My simple song is over. i sit and think about my children not children anymore, and my grandson growing into that time where young men wish to stretch themselves, not with old men at their side. i open the Hoagy Carmichael songbook i bought years ago with the aspiration to learn to play all of the contents. i can peck my way right-handed through “Lazy Bones,” but it’s no fun. The only real playing comes from one song, my most favorite of many from Hoagy’s compositions, “Stardust.” i used to have it almost down, but that too slipped into the pile of untouched piano music. Now, when i open to the worn pages, 30-33, i play slow, very slow. Still the melody haunts my reverie and brings me warmth.

It’s Hoagy’s chords, i think.

i sit on the bench. No World Series tonight. i no longer watch what they call “news” nowadays, which it ain’t like John Cameron Schwaze or Walter Cronkite. We’ll find an old movie tonight. Good.

Then i reach up to the top of the pile and the book with the frayed binding and faded lettering, “Christian Service Songs.” Upon my request, i think my sister Martha may have given it to me, although it might have been my mother who responded with the gift. Except for when i go back home to the Lebanon Methodist church or Signal Mountain where my sister plays the bells and sings in the choir, this is the closest i get to worship nowadays. In a way, sitting with this hymn book is closer worship than the services i rarely attend. They don’t play gospels too much anymore. The music is more grand. But for a “closer walk with thee,” i turn to the gospels we sang at the Sunday night service. i can’t play ’em like Granny or Aunt Barbara. Those two had magic left hands and it was mostly by ear. i have given up on the left hand notes. Too involved. i pick out the keys with my right hand, and if i play it well enough, i sing along.

The book opens up naturally to my favorite. Even now, the book seems to know. i bend over, reading the notes. i do not need to read the words. i know most of them by heart, and if i get lost, i will Ella Fitzgerald my way through the rest. The chording is beautiful, the notes bring calm to me. i am home, away from all else, home more than a half century ago.

Beautiful:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice i hear,
Falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
No other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
No other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go
Thru the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
No other has ever known.

Some things seem right and lasting. E’en in these times of tribulation.

1 thought on “Strange Brew

  1. That is one of my favorites. Our pastor likes the older gospels too and asked for our opinion (the church) on singing the older favorites at least once a month at Sunday night service. We agreed and got to do it once before covid-19 came into our lives. I love the older ones. Some of the newer ones seem to have no melody and are all the same. They seem to have no heart.

    the best one i have heard is Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain”, but it’s not a church song except in my mind.

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