By John Thomas Tuft

I am sitting on the kitchen floor.  My parents loom above me. I am nine years old. Tomorrow is my birthday. In the paper grocery bags before me is my birthday feast. And they are asking me if I’m willing to give it all up.  Why? Because there is a family in town who have nothing to eat. But it’s my birthday and you asked me what I wanted special, I whine. (Hey, I was 9!) My mother says,

“But it’s Thanksgiving in a couple of days and we’ll celebrate then.” (Full disclosure, I was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1954.) My mother adds, “And I’ll still make your cake. With chocolate fudge icing?” Of course. I’m easily bribed. So off I go with my father to deliver the food. A young couple with little kids. I’m embarrassed when my father tells them I’m giving up my birthday meal and they make a fuss. Suddenly it doesn’t seem all that important.

*When the cold nights of winter weigh heavy on my mind

I walk down to the river to ease my worried mind

I can see her reflection from the moon on every ice flow in the bay

And I know that soon you’ll be on your way…

I’m sitting in a dim hallway on a hard chair.  My nose wrinkles at the harsh smells of urine, antiseptic cleaner, and the musky scent of miasmic resignation.  The corridor is littered with the wheelchairs and walkers of those with wandering minds, frail bodies and supplicant souls. I’m around 11 years old.  My father is doing his “calling” duties as a pastor and brought me along.  I’m waiting for him, feeling afraid and alone.  A wispy figure sidles up to me. It’s the first time I’ve seen the catastrophic calamity that is rheumatoid arthritis.  Her awkwardly bent fingers caress my cheek.  “What’s a good boy like you doing here?  You don’t belong in a place like this.”  To this very day I regret that I cringed.  Because now I know that yes, I do.  We all do.  Or else, why is anyone in a place like this?

Come back home to the ones who love you true

Come back home to the ones who miss you so

Seems like you were gone forever but for you I’ll wait forever and a day.

I’m walking in the back door to the house I grew up in.  Oh man, I am filled with dread.  I’m 18 years old.  Home from my first year in college.  I have to talk to my father.  About money.  About money that I spent that wasn’t mine to spend.  Because he was counting on it to help pay the next semester’s tuition. But the school refunded it to me.  So… I spent it on a new stereo system.  Because music matters.  A lot.  Sigh.  My mother knows.  Oh man, does she know.  “I made a cake.  With chocolate fudge icing. It can wait.”  Yeah, it’s going to have to wait.  (Don’t let my kids read this.)  I walk down the hallway with fear and trembling.  Knock on the door to the bedroom.  And go in.  And that’s how I became the dishwasher in the boarding house where I was living.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  All day, every day.  Because music matters.

When the first rays of sunshine come melt the night away

On the day you return I will walk down to the bay

And I will wait by the water till the ship pulls in that took you far away…

And the waiting would be easy If we could only know

Have you’ve reached your destination on some far off shore,

Wherever it may lay

And to know that soon you would be on your way  

I’m sitting in a waiting room of an intensive care unit.  My father sits near by looking infinitely weary and afraid.  I’m 56 years old, he is 93.  My mother is inside, fading fast from congestive heart failure.  Neither of us knows at the time that he has 6 more years and she has 6 more days.  He looks at me, softly pleading.  “We just want more time together at home. We sit in our chairs.  She misses being able to read. You know how she loves to read. I want to take her home.”  We’re not two Reverends.  We’re two men. Father and son.  He uses my family nickname.  “Jack Goo, can’t I have that? Just more time with her?”  I take him back to her cubicle.  She opens her eyes.  Smiles.  “When I get out of here, I’ll make a cake for you boys. With chocolate fudge icing.”

Come back home to the ones who love you true

Come back home to the ones who miss you so

Seems like you were gone forever but for you I’ll wait forever and a day.

Because music matters…right up there with love. For forever and a day…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.

*Forever and a Day, The Kruger Brothers, 2010   ��”

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