This week, Mary and I celebrated thirty eight years of marriage. The “old saw” Rodney Dangerfield joke is to pause, and add: we been married for 45 but seven of them were not so hot. Rim shot from the drummer….I’ll be playing here all weekend.
Kidding aside, we have had a pretty good ride for the thirty eight years, with the normal peaks and valleys. Mary surprised me and brought out a crumpled, yellowed scroll where I had written a song for her, a song about the love my granddad, who was my real-life personal hero, had for my grandmother. I sang it for Mary the day I asked her to marry me. Yeah, I know, high-handed, manipulative, even cheesy. But it was from the heart….and it worked!
I played my Martin D-35 rosewood dreadnought guitar that my mother had given to me, which had all kinds of meaning to me, given her life story. It was a much better guitar than I deserved or warranted with my skills, but she knew I wanted to be a songwriter. She had forbidden me from playing a guitar when I was a kid, religating me to a tenor saxophone or the 88s. But I bought a cheap Yamaha the moment I got beyond her locus parentis. This classic Martin guitar was her attempt to atone for the prior prohibition period. And that guitar, she was sweet. I thought it was in my genes. I got sidetracked by the whole God thing, but I am thrilled that my son, Thomas, is carrying on that dream in the Mother Country of Nashville.
I thought it might be good to share the song with you, which gives you a sense of the tradition of love I carry from my McBrayer/Pollard roots. As I anticipate the work of the American master, Ken Burns, on the heritage of country music, this song reminds me of the deep headwaters of Spirit that came from Scots who immigrated to the hills of Appalachia, some even lucky enough to make it to Texas.
I hope you find a smile, in this tough time, tight space of being in this country these days. A smile, and maybe a tear or two, for a vision of love that might connect us across divides of time.
‘The Rock” by David Galloway
Granddad said he loved his gal, as he bit off another chew, Spent his whole life loving her like there was nothing else to do
Ain’t that much to spare when you’re working as a cop, Just enough to live on, sometimes, and not enough to stop..
He said, ‘Gal, we ain’t had that much as we rolled down through the years, Shady Lane, two good girls, and a cop’s wife fill of fears. So Dave, ‘ole man’, I’ve decided to give her this here ring, This rock and gold will have to say the words I can not sing’
So he spent his stash of money that he saved up for a boat, and with that Ring he gave her, a loose-leaf piece of note. It said:
“My love, you have given me the best years of your life. I thank the Lord for my lucky day when you became my wife, Your faith in me, your love for me has shown me a true light, And I’m thankful you’ll be by my side, at least for one more night.”
She took the ring with a smile that told him of her love, She wondered were he got the cash, or was it from Above, She hugged him in her own weird way, and protested, “Oh Glen!”, I thought how nice it’d be to have a lover and a friend.
Before she woke one morning, he left her sleeping good, He whispered that he loved her, and always knew he would. I found him in the afternoon, asleep to wake no more, His tired old heart and robbed us of a friend we’s see no more.
Now, she sits and rocks on the front porch in the Spring, Her knobby hands keep fumbling with the feel of that ring. She tells me of the good times and sometimes calls his name, The love that grew between them that bastard Death can’t claim.
And now and then, she asks me to read again that note, While she looks into the diamond, and recites the words by rote:
“My love, you’ve given me the best years of your life, I thank the Lord for my lucky day that you became my wife. Your faith in me, your love for me has shown me a true light, And I’m thankful you’ll be by my side, at least for one more night.”
And in that crystal rock, she sees him once again, a kaleidoscope of memories now swirling in the wind, A young man’s love, a father’s care, and grandpa’s spoiling ways, That rock contained the treasures of a thousand golden days.
Now and as her life seems to fade into the Night, She called me up to ask me, “Will you carry on the fight? The fight is for a song that we’ve forgotten how to sing, forgot to sing about the love that’s written in this ring.”
She said, “When you find that love that’s worthy of your heart, Give this ring, and your love, until you too must part. And don’t forget that song that your Granddad taught you, Son, Live your life by it’s tune throughout the course you run!”
Then she sang: “My love you’ve given me the best years of your life, I thank the Lord for that lucky day that I became your wife, Your faith in me, your love for me has shown me a true light, I’m thankful that you’re by my side, even on this night.”
This song now rings in my mind and in the life I live, I learned that before you can receive, at first you have to give. I sit here in the morning, just thankful for my life, and how I hope to share with you my lover, friend, and wife.
And so, my Mary, now this ring I give to you, I’m hoping that this song, together, we can sing it too. There’s a treasure here within this stone that jewelers can’t unlock, A song of love that’s buried here deep within the Rock. And on this Rock we’ll build our love and life to be, a song to teach to others, a song we’ll teach for free.
I hope that you will give me the best years of your life, I pray the Lord will bless me and let you be my wife. Your faith in me, your love for me, it points me toward a life. I’m hoping you’ll be by my side in just a few more nights…..
David Galloway 2-23-81