Jan 292016
 

Over the years, I’ve found that what counts is not what happens next, but what happens after that.

For example, I remember leaving a place in London, for a “better opportunity” in Toronto – only to end up back in London with an even better job. So, if I hadn’t gone to Toronto in the first place, I wouldn’t have found out about the next career situation back in London.

Another time, my wife and I were devastated when we lost out on buying a farmhouse outside London. But, a few months later, I got a promotion/transfer to Kitchener; and after that, we were able to buy the perfect hobby farm for our excited family. Again, if we’d bought that original farm setup, we’d only have had to sell it anyway… leaving us heartbroken.

With experience comes perspective.But, what do we do with all that knowledge we’ve stored up? It’s no good after we die; why not pass it on? You’ve heard of Generation X, Y, and… is it Z now? Well, for the sake of simplicity, let’s call them Generation ‘Next’. We can find many ways to help them, and in the process make ourselves more useful… to share our love.

“Son, I’ve made a life
Out of readin’ people’s faces…
So if you don’t mind me sayin’
I can see you’re out of aces…
I’ll give you some advice”
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

However, I still remember my dad saying that you can talk to some people ‘til you’re blue in the face, but most have to learn from the ‘school of hard knocks.’ (Put your hand up if that sounds familiar?) Hey, I haven’t earned these lines on my face for nothing.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Mother Teresa, when asked about trying to help our world when there’s so much need said, “I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual… to love the person… to come in contact with him.”

We older ones may know a lot, but we don’t know everything. In fact, it’s a wise person who remembers that difference. Today’s high-tech generation ‘Nexters’ have a lot to offer. Nevertheless, we need to listen and care – just like others did for us – in order for them to reach their full potential.

In the latest Stars Wars movie, a young hero of the next generation offers to ‘pass the torch’ – the new challenge – back to an older Star Wars heroe, hoping for guidance. Will he return, and fully “engage” again, offers what he knows to the young people who are coming next? Or, we he continue to withdraw from life?

Engaging has its risks. My father cautioned me about one of the ironies of life  – if you give advice that works out, you’ll never get credit; however, if you give advice that doesn’t work out, you’ll certainly be criticized. But, standing on the sidelines condemning and complaining won’t make our world any better. As Gandhi said, “Be the change.”

So, depending how you perceive it, ‘May the force be with you!’

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca         The Music In Me
January, 2016

 

 

 

Dec 032015
 

“I didn’t know what day it was
When you walked into the room
I said hello unnoticed
You said goodbye too soon”
You’re In My Heart by Rod Stewart  

Recently, my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful photo of my  wife – smiling sweetly as ever. And, judging by her looks and attire, it was from a few decades ago when we had first fallen madly in love. Being the older (and wiser?) one, I thought I knew a good thing when I saw it.

Holding that photo now, it seems she’s seeing straight through the camera and right into my heart.

You may have noticed people with a dominant eye – one either of happiness; or, the other more serious: each eye telling a different story. The ancient mystics talked about the eyes as being the pathway to the soul… and what darkness if that light is gone! But rarely do you see both eyes full of light, as with hers, positively dancing with life and love.

So, it may come as a surprise to learn that I almost threw it all away.

Kenny Rogers, who performs his last concert this month, has said there’s a fine line between being selfish and being driven. And, earlier in my life, I crossed that line by taking her love for granted.

We’d been spending an evening with friends celebrating our Christmas engagement. But, I became sarcastic towards her – just because I could. I thought I was being funny… even as our friends tried to stop me. She’d given me a warning look to shut up, but I recklessly disregarded her feelings.

As I continued, those same eyes normally filled with love, now turned on me like a cornered tigress – revealing shock, betrayal and sadness, they flashed with anger and hurt – something I hope I never see again. They were saying, “It’s over!”

“I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad,
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby, that I ever had… I made my baby cry.”
River by Joni Mitchell

I had to grow up fast… from being a “cowboy” to a man… figuratively, throwing myself at her feet; literally, begging for forgiveness. I learned two things from that experience: without mutual respect there is no relationship, and that I needed her more than she needed me.

“And she believes in me
I’ll never know just what she sees in me… God her love is true” –
She Believes in Me
by Kenny Rogers

I’ve placed that photo on the bedside table… giving thanks every day. But, the thought occurred to me: when was the last time I really looked into my wife’s eyes? I’m sad to say, not lately.

Fortunately, I don’t have to live in a Kodachrome past, but even if I did… the greatest Christmas gift I have – or will ever have – would still beat within me.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you”
Song for a Winter’s Night by Gordon Lightfoot

Merry Christmas to you… and yours!

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca        The Music In Me
December 2015

Nov 262015
 

I was in the stores early this season, and I’m here to report that you should be ready: the Christmas decor from China has never looked better; or, been more expensive.

Despite November’s balmy weather, when you walk into any store you’ll find your senses are blitzed with everything Christmas. When I heard the Christmas ’50’s classic, ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’, my memories were immediately transported back in time… bringing a smile to my face. Yet, it’s as if 2015 is ancient history… time to move on to Christmas and beyond.

And, this year, it’s particularly poignant for us as we may be celebrating our last Christmas at our family farmhouse: time for others to make new memories.

Across the store, my wife is buying three silver candles and replenishing some other Christmas decorations we gave away. Still, our property has many evergreens whose boughs make for a wonderful Dickensian themed Christmas: it’ll be fine.

As I think about leaving a home, the tragedy of the massive migration to Europe of Syrians and others fleeing their war-ravaged countries haunts my mind and heart.

“They talk about a life of brotherly love, show me someone who knows how to live it”
Slow Train by Bob Dylan

The brain-searing image of an aid worker lifting up a little boy’s lifeless body – three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkey seashore – galvanized the whole world to action, especially Canadians, as the family had tried to reach relatives here. His five-year-old brother, Galip, and mother Rehan also died. Only the father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived when their overcrowded boat capsized. When asked, he proudly described his children as the most beautiful in the world, who would wake him up every morning to play with them.

“Oh, you’re changing your heart
Oh, You know who you are” 
1234 by Feist

This must be what Pope Francis meant when he said not to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of refugees, the oppressed poor, but to look into their faces: faces of people wanting only a better future for their children. Planting seeds of hope, not hate.

“O Siem, we are all family.
O Siem, we’re all the same.” 
O Siem by Susan Aglukark

And, if these deadlocked families, never relate to ‘Christmas’, the compassion of Canadians will be felt in their hearts, if Canada – along with the rest of the world – implements what the Pope calls a culture of caring… giving ‘peace on earth’ a chance.

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If we need assurances, since Paris, our RCMP and security agency CSIS have given it – our rescue project is safe. If we turn our backs, thousands of desperate people face yet another long, cold winter living in tent cities… as Notre Dame bells ring out freedom.

I’m reminded of words I wrote in a poem called ‘Life As I Know It’:

“When you look at all the injustice, it`s like a bullet to the head / And, though some things won’t change, our words must be said. 

To sing from the same hymn book of life, you and me / Although the world’s still beautiful – it’s trying hard not to be.

And, that’s the challenge (Would you not say?) / To try save a world that others would throw away.”

Nothing can prevent us from giving the gift of Christmas early. How can we not?  

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca The Music In Me
November 2015

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sep 182015
 

“There are places I remember, All my life, though some have changed”                                – In My Life by The Beatles

As I write this, I’m also looking at two old photographs that fell from a book I was reading. Reflecting back, I’m reminded how connected, yet fleeting, life is.

The black and white photo shows a young ‘grade-eighter’ (me) posing for a photo in my, over-sized, new graduation suit.

“A white sport coat and a pink carnation
I’m all dressed up for the dance.” –
A White Sport Coat
by Marty Robbins

Standing behind me is a smiling neighbour, Mrs. Harris, who treated me just like another son since I hung around her house, playing with her three boys, so much. 

In my photo, there’s an old VW “Beetle” parked in the background. I remembered my wife’s parents drove them for years. It made me remember that my wife’s mother had given birth to her during the same time Mrs. Harris gave birth to her son, Ronnie. He became my best friend until I initiated a cruel falling out… never to see his family again.

Years later, I get a call from my mother-in-law saying a funeral service for Ronnie was being held that week. I knew I had to go.

As I, apprehensively, walked into the funeral home, Mrs. Harris saw me and immediately rushed over to embrace me – like the return of the ‘prodigal son’ – even as she was saying goodbye to another. So much love lost. Was it worth it? Is it ever worth it?

The second (colour) photo, is of my wife-to-be; just 16 and looking like a model in both demeanor and attire.

Last year, seemingly unrelated, a former band mate and I decided to reunite our old ‘60’s rock group. Of our original four members, bassist Zeke, had unfortunately died, but we felt the drummer, Robert, was still around. Eventually, we found an excellent, temporary, drummer, Sandy (via a mutual friend, Bob) to do a successful “reunion” gig at Pete & Jan’s London’s Music Club.

Turns out, Sandy’s wife (Gayle) happened to know Robert’s sister (Carol) who arranged for him to rejoin us. What are the odds?

Since then, the band, including the wives, have all become close friends; prompting Robert to show us consecutive old school yearbooks… proving that, although we didn’t know each other then, we mostly attended the same secondary school.

I laughed when I saw myself posing, sax in hand, with the school’s dance band… something I hardly remember. My wife’s yearbook photos… what can I say – “crazy”, “lovely”, “crazy in love”… still!

“But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you”
– In My Life
by The Beatles

My father used to say that a person would be lucky to count the number of close friends on one hand. Today, in a world where online “friends” are counted in the 100’s and 1000’s, I can hold up two hands and count myself lucky… lucky in love!

Aug 252015
 

“Don’t rock the jukebox, I wanna hear George Jones                                                  ‘Cause my heart ain’t ready for The Rolling Stones”                                                             – Don’t Rock the Jukebox by Alan Jackson

George Jones could sing the phone directory and still bring a tear to your eye.

But, his much publicized problems with concert ‘no-shows’ due to drunkenness, drugs and poor judgement, along with three divorces, was like constantly being dealt great poker hands only to discard them later. To say the man had hard times – from his own doing or otherwise – is sadly true, but was amazingly matched by his good times… as with his massive comeback hit: ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’

“I went to see him just today                                                                                                   Oh, but I didn’t see no tears.
All dressed up to go away
First time I’d seen him smile in years.”

Released in 1980, it has been repeatedly voted as being the greatest country song of all time – along with ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ by Hank Williams and ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline.

Jones – who Frank Sinatra called, ‘the second best singer in America’ – said, “A four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.”

My youngest daughter and I saw him in concert and – even in his mid 70s – his wide-ranging baritone voice never let him down. Then, with his wife of over 25 years in attendance, he announced that he’d been sober for ten years – to thunderous applause from the audience… knowing it couldn’t have been easy for him. They didn’t just support him because of his stylistic voice; nor, because, of his many hits over the years – the most successful country artist ever – they also knew that, inside, beat the heart of an honourable man.

Recently, I saw an auto repair sign stating, ‘We fix anything… except a broken heart.’ That’s what George did: fix broken hearts with his music – except, maybe, his own.

George Jones died in 2013 at 81, and the song, for me, that speaks to his humility was when he paid tribute to those early country and rockabilly superstars – like Elvis – by asking the musical question: Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

“You know this old world is full of singers
But just a few are chosen…
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you… who’s gonna fill their shoes?”

As he told Billboard in 2006, “It’s never been for love of money. I thank God for it because it makes me a living. But I sing because I love it, not because of the dollar signs.” And, near the end – reflecting back on his lifelong battle with the bottle – he said he thought he knew all about life with the choices he made. The ‘cold hard truth’ being it was no life at all… but that since those times, he’d been happy.

For me, that type of admission – his genuine selflessness – is also what drew people to him… was something you could feel in his songs. As Keith Richards said, “You heard his heart in every note he sang.”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca                The Music In Me
Aug 2015