Wednesday, October 11, 2006

All Those 'Untold Stories'

I bought my first Hot Rize album, in fact it might have been my first bluegrass album, "Untold Stories," back in 2002. It was a Friday night, the night before my mother died. I remember falling in love with this album, this band, instantly -- of course I had the cellophane off and the disc in my car's player before I was even out of Borders' parking lot -- but getting home too late to call Mom to tell her about it.

It would have been the last time I spoke with her. It would have been a chance for her to hear in my voice real joy, for the first time in a long time.

The fact of falling in love with bluegrass and simultaneously losing my mother might have been a lesson I needed to learn early. In what nearly was one swift action on the continuum of my life, I gained and lost two equally precious things that have given me life, allowed me a voice, encouraged me to dream and follow that dream. Where mother used to sustain me and be my compass, music is now that ally.

Today I had a bit of a revelation about how much like my mother I am. We daughters know something of the rhyme, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all." But I can of late draw deeper similiarities.

She spent a lot of her life in situations and relationships that didn't befit her. It's likely that her marriage was probably on the whole as unhappy as mine was, and it went on so much longer. She loved a man who was not really capable of loving her back. She took on way too much after he died -- after the marriage ended -- and was essentially on her path alone, except for her children who really could not share her burden. Unlike me, she chose to accept an enormous burden for which she was unprepared -- running the family business.

In a moment of moping today it occurred to me how she too lacked a partner, an ally--after my father died. She was a middle-aged single mother of two relatively young children who lived the rest of her life with no other primary relationship to ease the burden. While my children's father is by no means dead, he certainly is not what I would consider an ally by any stretch nor was he much of one during our marriage. So I know something of the aloneness she must have felt trying to navigate running a business and raising her two youngest children. And although she missed her husband terribly, and had to bear all the decisions alone, she also had to learn to rely solely on her own judgement to live out the role of mother and businesswoman. All her mistakes were her own -- a blessing and a curse, or as a friend and I call it, a "blurse." I have the luxury of sharing the responsibility with a former spouse, likewise a blurse.

My mother loved us and took great care to see that in particular my sister and I had every opportunity for an education that would prepare us for nearly anything. She was always there for late night talks, and always reminded us how "everything happens for a reason." She continued to be the mainstay of our growing family as my brothers and their wives all had children of their own. She never gave up the role of motherhood no matter how old we got; she worried after us constantly and never failed to offer up her opinion.

But in later years, we began to see how angry she was. She was unable to share responsibility or decision making with my brother who was then and is today the primary external executive in the business he rescued from disaster. She came to loathe the veil of democracy and in the last election before she died, didn't even vote. There was an undercurrent of deep disappointment in her personality which grew in the months before she died. The secrets of her marriage at one point revealed, she faced the conundrum of accepting her life for what it was, or plowing ahead to get through.

As I set out on a guided exploration of my own life, decisions, and relationships, it's good to be aware of these things. My bond with my mother is both strengthened and serves as an important reminder of the choices I have as I work to fulfill my purpose, whatever it is. As optimistic as I am that I can and will accomplish what I set out to do, I know it might take a little longer without a partner. Although I have friends and family, personal and professional advisors, when it comes down to the choices I make or the people who get in my face, I fight my own battles. I guess I wish I didn't have to do it all alone, but for the time being, that's the right path.

Digging into untold stories is important for all of us to do. When we don't acknowledge those things that give form to our actions, relationships, and decisions, we're deciding to live ignorantly. I refuse to do that and to pretend to be someone I'm not or live a life that doesn't suit me. I tried that.

++++++++

My IBMA experience a few weeks ago brought full circle the journey I started back on that autumn night in 2002. There onstage for the first time for me were Tim O'Brien, Pete Wernick (Dr. Banjo), Nick Forster (of etown fame), and young Bryan Sutton in for the late Charles Sawtelle -- bringing back together the band, Hot Rize.

Hot Rize played together for some 20 years, until in 1998 Sawtelle took ill with an inoperable cancer. After he died, one of the guys found tapes from their last live show at the Boulder Theatre in Boulder, Colorado where the band was headquartered. That live album also became a staple in my collection, but nothing could match the experience of watching and hearing these four gentlemen play together some of the music I loved so dearly because of the way it truly righted my life's direction.

I am grateful for that moment in Nashville last month. I guess some might even say it's a sign, maybe even a sign that I'm still going in the right direction. I never would have dreamed I'd see that bunch live, and there they were. I regret not sticking around to tell them how much it meant; so far I've only been able to track down Pete who responded to my email that the set meant a lot to him, too. So if you're out there Nick, Tim, and Bryan, thank you, from the bottom of an old girl's heart, for a set I'll never forget.

Here's one of my favorite tunes, the title track from "Untold Stories". It's great to sing. I love the vocals. Also check out the first track, their version of that eminently singable and playable old chestnut, "Are You Tired of Me, My Darlin'?" which is probably the first bluegrass song I learned because it reminded me so much of some of the songs my mother sang to me.

How I wish she were here to sing with now. It's just gonna be another untold story.

Untold Stories
(1987)

All those untold stories
All those silent lies
We'll never know each toher
Keeping it deep inside
Let's wash away the troubles
Keepin' us apart
Tell those untold stories
Let the healin' start

It's been so long ago
That we went our separate ways
And now maybe time has changed us
In one or other ways
You look the same as ever
And I'm glad you're here with me
Take a look into my eyes
And tell me what you see, its

All those untold stories
All those silent lies
We'll never know each toher
Keeping it deep inside
Let's wash away the troubles
Keepin' us apart
Tell those untold stories
Let the healin' start


Now I don't want forgiveness
And honey, I don't need you now
But we've built a wall between us
And it's time to tear it down
Let's plant a tree together
Maybe we can make it grow
If not now, then maybe never
We might not ever know

All those untold stories
All those silent lies
We'll never know each toher
Keeping it deep inside
Let's wash away the troubles
Keepin' us apart
Tell those untold stories
Let the healin' start

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