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'You...tied a string around my heart, Darling please tell me, How can I...forget you my dear,...Each time we kiss, I know that this is...Always..."
(This Is always - lyrics by Mack Gordon & Harry Warren)
It was explained to me that I would need to find safe places in my mind for the memory of DJ and our life together if I were to move forward, on into this different life with any chance of peace and contentment. This was being told to me early on in this journey, at a time when I was really not interested in hearing anything except the sound of DJ's voice once again. To say I was listening but not hearing at that time would be an accurate assessment. The line at the opening of this piece is from what I called our song; DJ had her own, our song, and her's is a very good song also, it's just that the lyrics from this one really says it all for me. The version I like is by a little known scat or rift jazz singer named King Pleasure (Clarence Beeks). When I first heard that line many years ago, I claimed it for my own in regards to the way DJ had affected me. The popular notion of tying strings around fingers to not forget is well known, and the twist placed on it by Gordon and Warren really nailed my feelings about her, Pleasure's extraordinary voice and unique style gives an exotic quality to the finished piece and I listen to it often. At our 25th Wedding Anniversary, when it was played, we danced; I remember trying to sing the words into DJ's ear, and her quietly whispering back ''...Bay, let him sing it alone...this time...''. Finding the memories of DJ easier to deal with, I am able to recall more and more about our life together while having less and less pain and that was the goal at the outset as I came to understand the journey; acceptance of it all is really a byproduct for me, or maybe that's a description for acceptance...I don't know. anyway, as I listened to this song the other day, without tears, I reflected a bit more on what DJ and I shared...
In the early summer of the year she graduated from high school, DJ took a job as an electronics supply warehouse. Curiously enough, I had started working at the same place the previous year, these were our first 'real' jobs and we were starting our adventure. They were fairly basic entry level jobs, DJ handling inventory and me working in the shipping department, but we were excited; we were making plans to save and be married. The next year was spent working, saving, and discussing what we needed to do to prepare for that joining. We decided to buy a new car; later after we had been married, we would get another, a good used one as we anticipated there would be a need for two, but now we wanted one, brand new. We sat aside a car fund in addition to the other money we were saving, and tried to pump all our resources in those two directions. Our needs at that time were modest; we both live at our respective parent's homes and other than the essentials, we didn't have many expenses. Our largest expense may have been our practice of getting some take-out on our paydays or maybe go to a movie, many times we would simply go to the converted 2nd floor back porch which served as my living quarters. There we would enjoy the meal, discuss our future, as we refined plans about the car and other things.
This entire sequence of memories was triggered by my hearing that song the other day, it's one of a few thousand I carry around on my phone, playing them randomly when I want to listen; maybe I'll get around to hearing them all again...I've always carried my soundtrack with me. The tune reminded me of those early fresh days when we knew we had the world by the throat, and could not be denied. Even then I was more than enamored with DJ, she had become my everything, and my desire to please her had no end. That we were only guessing about how to go forward, was of no matter to us, we knew, we were sure we understood how to make our lives together, work. That certainty tho infectious between us, was unsettling to others, especially our parents, who often reminded us about best laid plans, mice, and men. But we forged ahead; with over $700.00 in small bills, we headed to a local car dealership, at the time, that was a decent down payment on a new car and would have bought two good, used ones; we browsed the various models and styles and made a selection...of course I was only 19 and could not really sign a legal document but after some serious talking with the salesman, a few more added dollars to help cover correcting that and to make up for the lack of a credit history, we were told we could pick up the car in a few days...naturally we were ecstatic. Throughout our lives, many things happened like that for DJ and I, situations which others normally found fraught with frustration, we could negotiate with success; not knowing any better, we didn't realize or accept notions that there were things we couldn't do. I'm not sure she realized it, but DJ brought that out in me. Her ability to layout an idea and generate enthusiasm about it, over time, was slowly transferred to me and my own, hard edged, reality based brain would many times be overridden by her simple gusto for the potential resolution of a given situation.
It is a great relief to me to be able to recall some of this now, to remember that period of our lives and actually physically feel the excitement again as I think of those times; the pain is diminishing. Having been admonished to beware of creating some ideal image of our partners as we attempt to process the memories of them, I am trying to recall this and other memories with the wide angle lens of my mind, remembering not only this but also that at times DJ would be unreasonable, obstinate, and slow to forgive; between she and I, sometimes, if I didn't show the same amount of disdain for something she didn't like, the chill might be felt in the Sahara; she would be, human. It is one of the things I'm trying to stay aware of, to keep the memory of DJ evenhanded, not only because I might relay some portion about her to others here and elsewhere, but also so that the image I create and carry in my own heart is not also skewed...too much. I will readily admit I am not sure as to how successful all this is turning out to be, but I am aware of the dilemma. We all have the thoughts of why our partners were special, so special just to us, they are as many and as varied as we are.
One of the more personal things I am truly grateful for is that during those last years, many times, I was able to let her know how much I appreciated and loved her for trusting me; that, despite my worst behavior at times, she somehow displayed the ability to trust me when it counted. Of course during the common everyday crisis, when we were facing the blows of general living, when neither one of us were to blame, this was not so hard to do, we could pull together against a common foe. It's those times when I may have given her more that enough reason to waver, or doubt that I speak of now. It is a fact that sometimes even her family might question her as to why she remained so steadfast and loyal and I remember talking about this, later after our lives had taken on some semblance of normalcy and she would simply say ''..because I love you and believe in you...'' . For sure, anyone hearing this from their partner would be filled with the full emotion such a statement demands, for me, knowing the facts of our lives and my part in it, it was truly amazing. There's no need to detail the transgressions I might have committed, to say I was less than stellar for a period of time, will suffice. But, I can say that I recognized this about DJ, and not just so recently either; years ago, when things would come up, and we would be faced with something, DJ often trusted me to say or do the next right thing. Perhaps I was fortunate that many of those things turned out to our benefit, thus reinforcing the notion that she could trust me. Along with many other of her qualities, I will miss that.
Our enjoyment of that new car only lasted for the rest of that year, it was cut short; I had been drafted, and as the summer ended and I toiled in a training camp, I returned to my bunk one day to find mail from DJ. Inside was a letter and some Polaroids; an errant driver had slammed into our new car and turned what had once been a beautiful, full sized automobile into something of a mangled sub-compact. Fortunately the car had been parked and no one on our side had been injured. I won't lie, I spill a few tears, and agonized over being away and unable to be with her. She had written asking what should she do, I remember writing back, that I trusted her to make the best decision...
Much like the episode with the car, now when I think about this journey and I look at our life together, the contrasting images of the bright shiny new car's beginning, and it's unflattering end comes to mind...it's lifecycle almost paralleling the life DJ and I shared...and I think about plans, mice, and men...and a woman.
Still, This, Is Always...