And I Knew Before I Answered

In this excerpt from Wunnerful, Wunnerful! the Autobiography of Lawrence Welk, © 1971, Welk discusses the grief and disorientation he felt when he lost his mother:

It was in Pittsburgh that I got the telegram. “Come home at once. Mother is dying.” I stood holding the telegram in my hands, sick at heart, remembering a thousand things all at once. How gentle she was, how kind, the way her hair curled around her face when she was flushed from dancing, the way she sat so straight in church holding her prayer book, the soft way she called me “Lawrencell.” I felt so guilty, because I knew she had been ill with diabetes for some time, and even though I had tried to get home and see her as often as I could, I knew I hadn’t gotten there often enough. The last time I had talked to my sister Agatha she had said, “Mama wants to see you, Lawrence. Come home as soon as you can.”

And now it was too late. But I felt I had to try and see her. We were playing on tour at the Kennywood Amusement Park at the time and I went in to the manager and explained the situation to him. He was sympathetic. “Go ahead, Lawrence. You can fly in and see her and probably be back for the show tomorrow night.”

I threw some things in a bag and drove quickly out to the airport. The weather was bad and the fog blowing in from the Ohio River grew progressively heavier as I drove. When I arrived, the man at the ticket desk said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Welk. All the planes have been grounded for a while. There’ll be an indefinite delay.”

I sat down to wait, and in spite of myself my eyes filled with tears. I longed to see my mother one more time and tell her how much she meant to me. None of us in our family had ever been very good at expressing ourselves verbally; instead, we had shown by our actions how felt about each other. My mother had shown us more love than any human being could rightfully expect. I loved her, and I wanted to tell her so.

I paced the floor of the airport for a while, watching the fog grow thicker and thicker, clustering around the dim lights on the runway until they were blacked out entirely. Finally the manager came over to me and said, “There’s no use staying, Mr. Welk. All the planes are grounded for the night. You can’t possibly get out of here now.”

I got into my car and drove slowly back to town, much of the time with the door open so I could see more clearly where I was going. I had just gotten into bed in my hotel room when I heard the phone shrill. And I new before I answered, what it was.

It was my brother John. “Mother just slept away very peacefully,” he told me. “We were all here with her.”

I couldn’t answer him. “Are you there?” he asked me finally.

“Yes. Yes I am, John. I tried to come home, but all the planes are grounded here.”

“Yes, I know,” he said. “We heard about the weather. Don’t try to come home, Lawrence. It’s too dangerous. I’ll keep in touch with you.”

He hung up, and I felt like a small boy again. Both my parents were gone, and even though I hadn’t seen either of them very often in the past few years, I felt as if a whole piece of my life had died with them. My childhood, all the things they had spent so many years teaching me, all the kindness and goodness they had shown me, was all gone now. My mind was full of memories that night and I was very lonely.

I was unable to get home for the funeral services. I knew they would be held at St. Peter and Paul’s Church, which had been such a big part of my mother’s life. I knew that my brothers and sisters and all the grandchildren would be there, and the priest who knew her so well would speak the words of the Faith she loved so much. I could not truly weep for my mother, whose whole life was a living testimony to the faith she believed in, but I did weep– I guess for myself– for the next three days. I stood on the bandstand at the amusement park and smiled and played the accordion while the tears just rolled down my face. I couldn’t seem to stop them. I could not help remembering that if it hadn’t been for my mother I would never have gotten an accordion in the first place. I would never have been able to realize so many of the youthful dreams which had seemed so unattainable to everyone else but her.

I owed so much to her, and I hadn’t been able to tell her at the end how much I loved her. And now I never would.

He lamented several times in his book that his mother wasn’t there to share his successes with him.

I don’t think he ever really got over the loss.

Remove the dark from in me

I need someone to show me
Illumine my consciousness
Remove the dark from in me
And give me that which I have lost…

The melody is so bouncy and playful that the richness of the lyrics sneaks up on you.  It’s one of my favorites of his.

Full lyrics HERE.


Forever In Flux

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground– something predictable to stand on– seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”  ~Pema Chödron

There’s a popular political movement based on recreating the past.  They want to bring back 20th century jobs, 20th century industries, 20th centuries systems and mores.

I understand the appeal.

But it won’t work.

Vulnerable Human Beings

In this excerpt from Wunnerful, Wunnerful! the Autobiography of Lawrence Welk, © 1971,  Welk discusses the lesson he learned when his first band left him to tour on their own:

Some of the bewilderment and pain began to lift the moment I returned (home) to Yankton, and a day or so later when I dropped into church for some quiet reflection I had a sudden flash of insight which helped me very much at the time and has helped greatly all my life. I realized that we are all vulnerable human beings, and whenever we put our love and faith into another human being, we are open to hurts and disappointments. That’s just part of life. We all hurt each other, completely unintentionally at times. The only one to trust completely is God, and once you can understand that, and learn not to bear any malice or bitterness in your heart, your life will be much happier. I never again took anything quite so personally. I realized that the only important thing in life is to live it as well as you can. Everything else is secondary.

It is not he or she or them or it that you belong to…

It really reads better as a poem than as a song.  Full lyrics HERE.

Brushed My Hair Back

In this excerpt from Wunnerful, Wunnerful! the Autobiography of Lawrence Welk, © 1971, he talks about how hard it was for him to express his emotions verbally:

I had always thought my mother was beautiful, but she looked especially so to me as she held (my newborn daughter) Shirley for the first time. She settled down in her old rocking chair, cuddling Shirley close, murmuring soft German phrases to her, singing some old-country lullabies, as Shirley nestled contentedly in her arms. Suddenly the years melted away and I could remember her doing the same thing when I was a small boy. I realized with a pang that my mother was growing old. I didn’t like to think about that. Instead I wanted to tell her how much I loved her. But, as usual, I couldn’t quite get the words out. I sat down beside her, and she stopped rocking and reached out and brushed my hair back in the old way, and then she smiled at me, her eyes warm and tender as always.

I smiled, too. I loved her so much. But I couldn’t seem to tell her.

That wasn’t an uncommon problem for men of that generation.  My own father is the same way.  I don’t think I’ve heard him say the words, “I love you.”

But if you pay attention, he expresses it in other ways.

When the weather’s bad, he calls to make sure I made it home safely.  When I come over in the morning, he offers me a cup of coffee and a cookie.  He cuts out coupons for me if he thinks they’re something I could use.

You just have to know how to read the signs.

Neither Is The Cause of the Other

Excerpted from How To Learn Astrology by Michael Erlewine (via):

One popular misconception about astrology is that the planets out there in the heavens cause events to happen down here on the earth. Professional astrologers that I have known, and I have known many, do not hold with these theories of “celestial influence,” that planets somehow make things happen to us. Instead, modern astrologers see the heavens and the earth as one whole entity, interpenetrating, and sharing the same space and time, which in fact is the case.

They do not see the various planetary configurations as causing events to happen here on earth, but rather see the earth (itself a planet) and all the other planets as interacting in the very same space, and as sharing whatever events are occurring. In other words, whatever events taking place out there in the heavens are also happening down here on earth. Neither is the cause of the other; both are happening simultaneously. The planetary configurations are just grand signatures (like writing in the sky), signs of events happening right here in our own lives. Both are the product of the same moment, one acted out in the heavens above, the other here on the Earth below.

I’ve never seen astrology defined in such holistic terms before.  I’m still not a believer, but I can appreciate the aesthetics of the viewpoint.


Hell Hath No Fury

I made the decision never to date Taylor Swift, because I didn’t want her writing angry songs about me if it ended badly.  (It was never a very likely scenario, anyway.)

But, I could do worse:


What Is

This is a special Islamic prayer called a du’a.  I believe it’s universal enough to be prayed by every faith:

O Allah
Enlighten what is dark in me
Strengthen what is weak in me
Mend what is broken in me
Bind what is bruised in me
Heal what is sick in me
Straighten what is crooked in me
And revive whatever peace and love has died in me.

Saint Abbie Hoffman

In this excerpt from Fates Worse Than Death, copyright 1991, Kurt Vonnegut talks about one of my personal heroes, Abbie Hoffman:

I mentioned Abbie Hoffman in that piece about books as mantras for meditation. I realize that most people nowadays don’t know who he was or what he did. He was a clowning genius, having come into the world that way, like Lenny Bruce and Jack Benny and Ed Wynn and Stan Laurel and W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers and Red Skelton and Fred Allen and Woody Allen and so on. He was a member of my children’s generation. He is high on my list of saints, of exceptionally courageous, unarmed, unsponsored, unpaid souls who have tried to slow down even a little bit state crimes against those Jesus Christ said should inherit the Earth someday.

He did this with truth, anger, and ridicule.

He spent the last years of his short and frantically unfunny life attempting to protect Nature in the Delaware River Valley. He left his family without a cent. He had a criminal record, including flight from prosecution for a drug deal. But his most memorable crime was his violation of a law which has never been written down in so many words: “Monster fuck-ups engineered by your own government are not to be treated with disrespect until the damage done is absolutely unforgivable, incomprehensible, and beyond repair.”

Sinners and

“I can be more prompt than the Roman Catholic Church in announcing who is a saint, since I do not require courtroom-style proofs that so-and-so was on at least three occasions capable of magic with the help of God. It is enough for me if a person (like a good anthropologist) easily finds all races and classes equally respectable and interesting, and doesn’t keep score with money.” ~Kurt Vonnegut, in Fates Worse Than Death ©1991