Wednesday, February 12, 2014

And so it goes

So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

'And So it Goes'
Billy Joel

Wow. Another Valentines Day is here. Doesn't time just zip right by, though?

My dad was born on Valentines Day, which, around our house, didn't make his birthday all that special. See, my mother was born on New Year's Eve and I was born on Easter Sunday. My sister Moira was born on St. George's Day, the English equivalent of St. Patrick's Day, only much quieter. My sister Betty was born on Cinco de Maio, but that didn't mean as much when we were growing up in Scotland in the 1950s.

Interesting side note: Moira and Betty were seven and six years older than me and Betty pretty much established the nature of our lifelong relationship when, the Easter after I was born, she asked my mother, “Ye aren't going to have another one of them, are ye?” Yeah. The stories I could tell.

Maybe it's because the annual salute to love named for a saint, who may actually have been two saints, and about whom his Feb. 14th date of death is the only reliable information we have, is so close, or maybe it was because I was actually out of the house, driving...driving! for the first time in two weeks, listening to an old cassette... but I was really struck with some to the overwrought things we say in the name of love.

I was listening to the Canadian band Honeymoon Suite (told you it was an old cassette) singing 'What Does it Take:' “If I could fly high, I would give you the sky.” Obviously it's a wonderful lyric, well sung, but really? As a declaration of love, it's pretty easy to say isn't?

“And when the masquerade is played and undecipherable mumble, mumble, what? to play today.” Yeah. I see that. I've been trying to figure out the lyrics to 'Along Comes Mary,' by The Association, for going on 48 years. Still, I bet if we knew what it was, it would fit my premise!

And take any song, ever, and I do mean ever, by The Carpenters and you'll find pointless observations about love on top of silly things to say about the object of your affection: “Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near, just like me they long to be, close to you.” No they don't. And the bit about the angels getting together to “sprinkle moon(something) in your hair and golden starlight in your eyes of blue.” No they didn't.

I know what you're thinking, “OK Mr. Smarty Pants. We danced to 'Close to You' at our wedding and still love the song. What would you think is a great love song? In fact, what did you and Sheri dance to at your wedding? “Send in the Clowns?”

Ha Ha. I don't really know what makes a love song for you. For me, the lyrics have to tell a story I recognize and have usually lived through, in one form or another. Or maybe it just had to be playing on a jukebox or radio when I was falling in love, mostly unrequited, for the umpteenth time.

It's also hard for a song to talk about the things that people do to show how much they love someone, rather than just talk and/or write poetry about it. Most of those things, on the surface at least, just don't seem romantic: holding someone's hand as they are being sick, rather than closing the bathroom door and turning up the TV; someone saying, “It's only a car,” after you have stupidly backed into their car while it was sitting in the driveway; someone you can get into a horrible argument with and know they will still be there when the smoke clears; someone who actually loves you despite of, not because of.

Sheri and I, for example, knew we loved each other long before the Friday night in September when I had to tell her I had cancer, changing our lives forever. It was difficult to tell her because I knew she would be hurt and worried for me, not because I was afraid she was liable to say, “That's it for you then!” as she packed her stuff and left.

True, by that time we had already done a lot of hard work on setting boundaries, letting the other person be, letting them make on their own mistakes.

The biggest thing we had to do, and maybe it was for you too, is actually in the answer to the question of what song we danced to at our wedding: “And So it Goes,” by Billy Joel. We had both been married before and I was coming off an ultimately unsuccessful long-term relationship, and Sheri and I each had our shields up, fazers on stun. We talked and talked about getting involved, we both went back into counseling over it, and yet, when all was said and done, our relationship truly began when we were each able to say, “You can have this heart to break.”

I was talking to Sheri's sister a while ago about my cancer and bringing her up to date on my treatment, when the following words came out of my mouth: “If you had told me when Sheri and I started going together that the next 20 years would have been as (mostly) wonderful as they have, but as part of the deal I was going to get really sick with multiple myeloma at the end of the 20 years, I would have taken that deal... no regrets, then or now.”

And so it goes.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”