Monday, July 27, 2009

Melody of Heart

Melody of Heart
Melodic sounds of Mississippi delta river blues pierced the chilly night air. Perched upon stumps we sat next to a roaring open fire fueled from broken tree limbs on the banks of a murky river bottom canal in the backwoods of a small east Texas town. Gene wailed out rhythmic lyrics while plucking strings on his worn black acoustic guitar he lovingly called Hank.
Raised a simple unpretentious country boy with a limited education in the Mississippi bottom lands, he found a bit of heaven each time he and Hank got in beat with one another. A short stocky man with a rugged ruddy complexion, engaging dimpled smile, wavy white hair and time-worn hands belied the gentle nature of his soulful longing for escaping time with Hank. There would be many Hanks in his life.
Hank was more than a musical instrument of cat gut and fine wood; it was a marriage of sound and soul molded together between man and desire to visit the longings of heart. Hank embodied all that welled up within Gene’s life, heartaches, losses and joys. Gene found himself through an instrument tuned to notes and his timing of thoughts of life.
Meandering through booths of vendors at the local flea markets, Gene would indulge his second passion of deal making. A Mississippi country boy brought up during the Great Depression, he was well endowed with the tactical skills of a hardened general on the battleground and was well prepared to engage in the art of bartering and negotiating for almost anything. His watchful eye scanned the flea market tables looking for everything from pocket knives to maybe a new “Hank”. Once he locked in what most interested him, the deal making playbook would unravel with ease. His downward look, cocked eyebrow and matter-of-fact charm would indulge him to make a low ball offer to the wary vendor who was of equal cunningness. A game of cat and mouse would ensue until one of the other would either give in or walk away from the deal. The pursuit of the deal was more important than its’ object. Often using his patented walk away tactic, he would let the deal cool down only to come back later and finalize much to his advantage.
His eyes would light up like the sun over darkness when the object was another potential Hank. To him there were other Hanks waiting to be discovered. Perhaps, he thought another Hank could bring him a different tune or melody. Trading Hanks was like a kid in a pet store leaving with a new puppy that captures the emotions.
His last deal was not with flea market vendors, but a covenant with God. At the age of 69 a cancerous tumor was discovered near his spine that would eventually prove fatal. Confined for 2 months in a veteran’s hospital, he would go through what we would all go through, denial, anger, withdrawal and finally, acceptance. I visited with him often and we discussed many things, life, and family and getting right with God; we would laugh and reminisce as if all was well. Gene was my father-in-law, but more than that simply a friend and country boy like me finding a kindred spirit in our journey.
Not wanting to depart this world in a sterile cold hospital He asked to go home. Within two days of coming home, and as the breath of life ebbed away, we found him in his room staring at the ceiling whispering to the angels sent to bring him home, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” I’m sure as the angels embraced him and lifted his soul away from his earthly tent, the sweet melodies of the symphony of Hank’s in his heart brought peace to him as he did to us.

1 comment: