Sunday, October 09, 2011

Just Scratching the Surface

“Today I’m participating in a mass blogging day! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about Special People We Know and Love. Why? We’re celebrating the release of Joanne Lewis’ and Amy Lewis Faircloth’s debut novel. Wicked Good (Telemachus Press, LLC, 2011) is about the unconditional love between a mother and her adopted, special needs son and the adventure that brings them closer together. Visit The Muffin at to read what Joanne and Amy have to share about their special people and view the list of all my blogging buddies. Then be sure to visit to learn more about the authors."

Just Scratching the Surface

“Enjoy him. You won’t have him for very much longer.” The voice was as clear as though someone were standing right by my side, speaking to me quietly. I looked around, expecting to see who might have spoken the words, but there was no one there. Jay (our son), his band members, and a few Melonheads who always showed up for the gigs early were there, but they were busy getting set up for the evening’s performance at Trinity’s in Mobile, Alabama, another lively evening with Velvet Melon, Jay’s band. I shrugged and immediately dismissed the words for the moment.

The stage at Trinity’s was above the bar, a strange location but one that was perfect for bands because they were up high where everyone could see them. Not a bad seat in the house. All evening I had a perfect view of my boy and the other guys in the band. Talent shouted from all of them as they played originals by Jay and Mike and cover tunes by bands such as Crowded House, Human Radio, and Billy Idol. Jay was obviously the leader and had the audience in the palm of his hand. If he told them to sing with him, they sang; if he said for them to dance, they danced; if he motioned for them to clap, their hands couldn’t wait to smack together. They loved him! And the feeling was mutual.

Between sets, he “worked the crowd,” as he called his moving from one group of friends to another, from one group of first attenders to another; this evening to one girl sitting by herself. She wasn’t a pretty girl, not made up like the others, not dressed in provocative clothing, not dancing and flirting. In fact, she was a bit homely and obviously by herself. During the set of originals, she had had eyes only for Jay, and he noticed. Instead of heading to beauties in the crowd—those girls whom he and Mike, the keyboard player, referred to as “swanks”—he made his way to the lone girl, spending several minutes visiting only with her, obviously making her day.

This night at Trinity’s was just one of hundreds at bars all over the Southeast. Frank and I attended all of Jay’s gigs if the band was playing in Pensacola, and we went to gigs in other cities whenever we could. Since bands don’t begin until 9:00 p.m. and since we both had to be up early the next morning for work, we’d usually go for the first set—always the band’s originals—and then leave so that we could get to bed at a halfway decent hour. We had done this for months, maybe even years, and not thought a thing about our schedule. One Monday after a Sunday-night gig, the phone rang in the teacher’s work area in the school where I taught. The call was for me. It was Jay.

“Hey, Mom,” he said. “I’m really put out with you and Dad.” Put out with is Southern for disappointed in.

“Really? Why?” I asked, shocked by his words.

“Because y’all come to the gig, stay for one set, and then leave without telling me ‘good-bye.’”

Now that really was a shocker. What twenty-something boy is insulted because his mom and dad don’t tell him good-bye in front of all his friends? Jay Young, that’s who. You can be assured that we never left a gig without hugs right in the middle of the bar after that revelation. The music that flowed from his sax was beautiful, but his words on the phone that day were even more beautiful. They were music to my ears.

As most people know, the atmosphere in a bar can sometimes be a bit raucous and racy. The bars where Velvet Melon played were no exception, so I’m told. I say “so I’m told” because even though the young people in those places were energetic and the music much too loud for parents’ ears, most of the time we didn’t see too much that we’d object to. Why? We found out when one of Jay’s friends told us that just before we were to arrive, Jay stopped the music and announced, “Hey, guys, my folks are gonna walk through that door any minute, so cool it!” I think there had been some banter back and forth between the Melonheads and the band that Jay didn’t want us to hear. What a boy!

I could write a book about Jay’s friends and his relationship to them. For now, though, I want to write about only one—Gary, a young man who, in his junior year in high school, had been warming up for the 100-yard dash at a track meet, when a policeman had lost control of his motorcycle and literally flown into Gary, leaving him a paraplegic. When Gary returned to school after a lengthy healing period, kids in his own class didn’t know how to react to his new situation and, instead of being friendly and conciliatory toward him, practically ignored him. Sometimes we just don’t know what to say to those who are suffering. Not so with Jay and some of his classmates, young people a year behind Gary in school. Instead, they flocked to Gary, not concentrating on his handicap but endeavoring to make him feel normal . . . like them. Jay was a ringleader in the Let’s Make Gary Feel Good group.

Gary told me that one day Jay was late to band and saw Gary sitting in his wheelchair in the commons area of the school. Jay, in his unabashed way, asked Gary what he missed most in his new life.

“Running fast,” Gary immediately answered. He said that sometimes he’d go to the track and wheel himself around just to feel the fresh air blowing through his hair.

Jay said, “So you miss going fast?”

“Sure do,” answered his friend.

“Hang on, Gary! You’re about to go for the ride of your life!” And away they went all through the halls of Pine Forest High School. As Gary said, “It was so exciting I almost lost my water!”

Jay loved all sorts of people, no matter the person’s physical condition, station in life, intelligence, or talent. People and music were his passion. I don’t think I ever heard him hang up from talking to a friend without saying something like, “I love you, man!” And he never hung up from talking to Frank and me without telling us that he loved us. We even have a tape of one of his songs in which he leaned close to the microphone and said, “I love you, Mom.” What made him do that, I don’t know, but you can bet I love listening to that recording.

My boy was funny, but that’s an understatement. He was hilarious. He and his sister, Wendy, could entertain us for hours just playing off each other. Before I ever saw Saturday Night Live, they used to have us in stitches on Sunday morning, “replaying” the program from the night before. The first time I saw SNL, I didn’t think it was nearly so funny as our children were. He was an entertainer from the core. Just the most insignificant event took on magnitude when Jay told it. He didn’t lie; he just embellished. Something that could have been serious was comedy when he finished telling about it.

Just as with most mothers and sons, Jay and I had a very special relationship. Many mornings I’d be up grading papers before getting ready for school, and he’d be just getting in from an out-of-town gig. We’d sit and drink coffee and chat before he went to bed and I headed to the bathroom to get socially acceptable. He’d tell me about the gig he’d just finished, and I’d tell him about projects that my students were doing. Just chit chat between a mom and her boy . . . times I’ll never forget.

The things that I’ve mentioned about Jay just scratch the surface of his personality and give merely a taste of the reasons that he is so special to me. Every incident that I’ve mentioned taught me, the mother, something . . . compassion being the main thing. His love for people is what endears him the most to me, his love for me being included.

Our son died on July 2, 1992, when he was twenty-four years old, much too young to go. I can tell you, and Jay would agree with me, that God had a reason for his going to be with Him so soon. Someday both of us will understand. In the meantime, I still hear the voice that I heard only four months before he died: “Enjoy him. You won’t have him for very much longer.” The voice told the truth.

Not long after Jay died, I read a book called My Dream of Heaven (Intramuros) by Rebecca Ruter-Springer. At the beginning of each chapter, she inserted a quotation. One of the last quotations grabbed my heart and though I’ve read many books since then about losing children, this quotation has remained my favorite, and I can’t conclude this piece without showing it to all who read because it sums up my feelings for my boy:

There is an endearing tenderness in the love of a mother to a son that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame and exult in his prosperity; and if adversity overtake him, he will be the dearer to her by misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.

—Washington Irving

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Celebrating Masako!

On August 1, 2011, our little Japanese sister-in-law, Masako, died. She was Sam's wife and the first of Frank's siblings and their spouses to go. She and Sam, Frank's older brother, have been two of my favorite people for almost fifty years, and I miss her very much. Masako leaves behind Sam; her son, Tim; his wife, Molly; and their three children -- Mackenzie, Becca, and Harrison. Becca and Harrison can't remember a day when their grandma didn't live in the same house with them. Since Mackenzie is a little older, she may have memories of a time before Sam and Masako were right there with them. I doubt it, though. The whole family has a lot of adjusting to do, so all of us in the family are praying for them.

We drove to Bremerton, WA, to be with the family in order to celebrate Masako's life, and that's just what we did -- celebrate. Don't get me wrong . . . there were tears, but there were also smiles and laughter as we remembered so many things about her. We told lots of stories!

Sam asked Frank to speak at her funeral and the third of the older brothers to sing. It was a delight . . . yes, a delight . . . to hear Frank and Jim honor their sister-in-law. Though I didn't say anything at the funeral (now, that's a surprise, isn't it? The Mouth of the South quiet for once . . .), I wrote a letter to Masako, recalling my special memories of her. Here it is . . .

August 15, 2011

Dear Masako,

I’m writing this letter with a combination heart—part of it is heavy because you’re not here with us; the other part is light because of all the good memories that I have of us for the past almost fifty years. Today, I’m concentrating on the light part.

I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast yesterday; however, I remember vividly the first time we met. The beautiful memory that I’ll always carry with me is of you on December 16 and 17, 1961. Those were the dates of our rehearsal dinner and wedding in Pensacola, and you, Sam, Shurly, and Fred were there. You brought two absolutely gorgeous kimonos, one silver and one gold, to wear to our two events, and you were the loveliest one there.

Almost a year later, I saw you again, this time in Eastern Washington in the middle of the night, when Frank and I went with Grandma and Grandpa to rescue you, Sam, Bob, and Kay because your car broke down when you were coming home from Maine. We were together for a few days before you and Sam left for San Diego. I remember that my tender heart was broken, seeing you and Sam leave. I didn’t know when I’d see you again, and the tears began to flow. Grandma turned to me and quietly said, “We don’t do that in our family.” Well, dear sister-in-law, I did it! And I did it again when you left me this time.

The next real memory I have of being with you was again in Fall City, in that lovely old house that Grandma and Grandpa lived in. It was unlike anything else I’d ever seen, and I loved it. My picture of us is in the bathroom, the two of us bathing a couple of very dirty little boys who had been playing outside all day. I can just see that filthy bath water now. And I also see Timmy doing something that didn’t please you, then you swatting him with your hard little hand, and then Jay screaming in pain for his cousin. And what was Timmy doing? Just looking at you. What a memory! One of my favorites!

Next I see the two of us many years later in Pensacola, where you were living so that Sam could do two things that he’d always wanted to do—work in a retail store and go to college. He did both while you turned that little house on Jackson Street into a lovely home. Tim and Jay attended Bellview Middle School together and got into mischief after school and on weekends. What I remember best is that you and I both received microwaves for Christmas that year and attended cooking classes at Escambia High School one evening a week. All we learned that stayed with us was to put a cup of water in the oven, heat it for three minutes, and use a damp cloth to clean the crud out that had been softened by the steam. Worked fine for years. Now the experts tell us that we can’t do that anymore. The cup of water will explode and give us awful burns. Maybe so, but I still clean my microwave this way and think of you and smile every time I do it.

Through the years, we’ve been to your and Sam’s home so many times, and each time was so much fun, even the Christmas that Frank, Jay, and I were in Fall City and then in Bremerton with you. You may remember that we had to extend our stay for a couple of days because we were snowed in. That extension was no problem because we were with the Youngs!

I guess, though, the visit that will forever stay with me was the last one, the one this spring. You were so ill, but you managed to perk up a bit when we went wig shopping. Sam asked me to go with the two of you, and I agreed, knowing full well that I knew nothing about shopping for a wig for you. But we had a good time going to the vocational school where wigs and “head warmers” were given freely to cancer patients. We had such a good time laughing as we chose from wigs, wigs, and more wigs, some of them not nearly good enough for you, as far as I was concerned.

We walked out with about a dozen warmers and three beautiful wigs. I was so excited for you to have the wigs because I know that a lady always feels better, even when ill, if she looks pretty, and you, my dear sister-in-law looked very pretty with your new hair!

As we left your home in April 2011, I knew that I’d never see you again, and yes, the tears came as we drove away. I will always remember you, and you’ll always have a very special place in my heart. Pictures will always come to mind, but the one that I want to keep in the forefront is our beautiful Masako in her lovely kimono on December 17, 1961 . . . at our wedding almost fifty years ago. I love you, Masako, always have, always will.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Jay Week 2011

Not a day goes by during every year when I don’t think of my boy. Just walking down the hall from the family room to the laundry room brings a rush of memories because the Jay walls are there. Every individual photo, whether a part of the collages that some of you helped Wendy construct right after Jay died or lone photos of him playing at Trinitys or at Cinco de Mayo, brings back a memory. So many good memories!

This year, though, I’m not going to reminisce about personal memories or insert photos to talk about; instead, I’m going to use words of his friends and relatives to recapture Jay. Some of you know that soon after Jay died in 1992 that Angela Hinkley got in touch with lots of his friends and asked them to help her with a project. But let me share Angela’s words with you instead of trying to paraphrase:

Since I met Jay through my writing, it seemed really appropriate to summarize my relationship with him in writing also. As I began writing, I recalled so many memories of Jay. It made me think of how many other people must carry within themselves an almanac of “Jay” memories. If only I could unleash them!

I started the idea for this book by wanting each individual in Jay’s life to write down their own favorite memories. It became apparent, almost immediately, that this was going to be an impossible task. If I excluded those who were not in this area, I would probably have created quite a simple publication. I realized that the phone would be a helpful tool in compiling all the information necessary. I knew that people would need a little help and a little prodding to begin their personal thoughts about Jay with me. I hope I succeeded.

For the past month, I have totally immersed myself in the life of Jay Young. I have laughed with, cried with, listened to, comforted, and assured these people who would be so kind as to share private times of their lives with me. I’ve never before been so involved in the investigation of a human life, other than my own. During this time, I haven’t even been able to converse with Frank and Sandy for fear of “spilling the beans”! I’ve learned so much I wanted to share with them. I’ve had to hold everything in, except for sharing with Wendy, who I know has probably heard every account in this book five times each!

I really thought I knew a lot about Jay. I probably did, but there was so much more to learn and to appreciate about this profound human being. The people he touched through his life and music were far beyond anything I’d imagined, even after witnessing the lines at the funeral home. People genuinely love him. I’m so pleased to have been able to compile these recollections. I want Jay’s memory to live on, not in mourning but in the wonderful celebration of a life—his life.
Angela Hinkley
Christmas 1992

What a beautiful “giff” (to use Jay’s pronunciation) Angela gave Frank and me! Wendy helped her by designing the cover of what we have titled The Jay Book.
It is one of our most prized possessions, and I can assure you that if we ever had to evacuate, it would be one of the treasures that I’d take with me.

Choosing which of your memories to include was a task that almost wiped me out, I’m afraid. Why? Just the choosing itself was very difficult because I wanted to quote each of you. The main wiping out came, though, in the reading. Such beautiful memories! But my “rememberer” is attached to my tear ducts, I’m afraid, so the mama shed lots of tears during the choosing. But that’s okay. They were happy tears. The ones that I’ve chosen will give all of you, both those who knew Jay and those who didn’t, a glimpse of my boy.

• Suzy Ward: Jay had a wonderful love-hate relationship with New York. He worked so hard to make a got of it there. In spite of his irritation at life in the City, financial problems, Winnebago problems, his eyes lit up whenever he saw the night lights or walked down Bleeker Street. He loved the music scene. He loved the weirdness. Jay always loved the crowds. He gave money to homeless sax players, turned cartwheels in the subway, drove through Harlem at 2:00 a.m. so Wendy could shoot photos, and spoke to every celebrity and pseudo-celebrity he would recognize on the street. Living in New York is a thoroughly exhausting endeavor. Jay made it energizing for me.

• Patrick O’Donovan: The night I decided to leave Velvet Melon was perhaps the most difficult decision of my life. I was so afraid of what everyone, but especially Jay, was going to think of me. We had rehearsed and then I told Jay I needed to talk to him. We went for a drive. I was so scared to tell Jay I was leaving. I was afraid he would be upset with me. Most of all, I was afraid of Jay being disappointed in me. Jay had grown to become my brother. His opinion and views affected and meant so much to me, both professionally and personally. I slowly told Jay the news, carefully outlining all the reasons I needed to leave Velvet Melon. Expecting disappointment, anger, and even despair from Jay, I was so surprised to hear what he had to say. He told me he understood. He said he was disappointed I was leaving the band, but he was proud of my desire to return to school. He told me I had to follow my dreams. I’d been with Jay Young every day for the previous many months. However, I’d never felt closer to him in my life.

• Jimmy Mills: My memory starts with picking on Jay in middle school, through the good times in high school, where we both developed our skills as musicians and best friends. Later, in 1984, we bonded even more on our trips every other weekend to Tampa to further develop our skills in Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps. We never quit looking for ways to be better as musicians. All my memories of Jay seem to always center around music, but there are a few occasions where we were just buddies having fun. I’m pretty sure we all know which nights those were! (When I woke up on the floor of Sandy’s bathroom one morning in my underwear! Ha! Ha!)

• Nathan Tracy: My best memory of Jay . . . so many. Jay did a perfect imitation of Pete Payton. He would talk and gesture just like him. It was so funny! Jay used to say there was nothing like going to Mariner Mall and licking the telephone receivers. He was so crazy!

When we played soccer together, we always ragged Jay because he would leave early for piano lessons. We called him a “girlie” and just gave him a general hard time. Jay always took the heat. He turned out to be the best musician any one of us ever knew.

• John Buck: To remember Jay is to know how spontaneous a person he was. He was so tremendously talented and such a positive person. I think Jay may have been the most talented kid I ever taught in all my 22 years of teaching. There is not enough I could say about him.

• Lisa “Farmer” Hall: In 1989, Velvet Melon was playing at Apple Annie’s in Seville Quarter. Jay and I had had a disagreement, and Jay really hurt my feelings. I knew, however, that all my friends were going to be there listening to Velvet Melon. I decided to go to Seville anyhow and worry later about the deal with Jay. I arrived and the guys had already started playing. I went over to the bar for a drink. About halfway there, I heard Jay announce, “This next song is for Lisa Farmer. I did something really stupid and hurt her feelings. I’m really sorry.” The next song the band played was for me. I couldn’t believe Jay had humbled himself to me in front of hundreds of people . . . and on stage. It showed me just what kind of person he really was.

• Tim Weekley: The first time Jay came to Bible Study was so memorable. We had been holding Bible Study for a few weeks. Jay showed up and listened intently. I didn’t know Jay spiritually at all at that time. I knew he was raised a Christian. However, not knowing exactly where Jay stood, I did not want to direct any questions of comments directly to him. During Bible Study, we would always ask people to read a passage from Scripture to exemplify our discussion for the evening. I asked who would like to read this rather obscure Old Testament passage. To my surprise, Jay immediately volunteered, located the passage without hesitation, and began to rread. I was amazed. After that first Bible Study, Jay expressed a great appreciation for the group. He came as often as possible and we enjoyed his presence and participation so much.

Right before Velvet Melon left for New York, they were scheduled to play at Trader Jon’s. Jay asked me to come down after the gig and pray with the band before they left for New York. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and went to Trader’s to pray with them. I really appreciated that opportunity. Once the guys moved to New York, I would call regularly on Monday nights to get their prayer requests for the week. I’d always remind everyone at Bible Study to pray for the band and their success.

• Kevin Totowian (Tall Stories band): Jay was such a profound and outgoing person. He was really positive and sincere and that came out in his music. In New York, there is a great competitiveness between bands which is almost vicious. There was never any of that with Jay and Velvet Melon. There was a real professional respect and friendship present there. Jay was so extremely talented. He stood out to us all as such a brilliant musician.

• Lisa Lassiter: Before I knew Jay, I was at Trinity’s one night when Velvet Melon was playing a gig. We all noticed this kind of unattractive girl who was just really taken with Jay. She was staring at him the entire first set. After that set, at least six girls came at Jay, most of whom were really attractive. However, Jay excused himself and went over to this girl, sat down, and began talking with her. Everyone could see that this girl was just beside herself. Jay was making her day! There were several beautiful girls around, but Jay chose to notice someone who probably wouldn’t be noticed by anyone else. I was so amazed at what a down to earth person he was.

• Andi Olsen: Velvet Melon played at my beach house in the summer of 1987. While the guys were playing, the balcony attached to the house collapsed. When the police came to investigate, their report states that the vibrations from the band’s music made the balcony fall off the house. From then on, we knew Jay and Velvet Melon as the “Band That Rocked the House Down”!

• Gary Powell (d. 2009[?]): Back at the time of my accident, all my friends kind of dumped me. (Gary was paralyzed after his accident.) My sister’s friends kind of picked me up. Jay was one of those friends. Jay always, no matter where he was or how busy he was, would take the time to sit down and talk with me. Not everybody did that. Even if Jay was running late and supposed to be someplace else, he would make time for me. It was enough to know that he cared that much for me.

One time in high school, Jay was late for band practice. I was in the commons and Jay sat down to talk. We were discussing running before my accident. I was telling Jay that although I could not run any longer, I would often push my wheelchair on the driving range for exercise. I would go fast, then pop the brake to spin around. I told Jay I couldn’t really go very fast, though. Jay got up and told me to get ready because I was going to come as close to flying as I would ever get! Jay took off, driving my chair at top speed through the hallways. We flew so fast I thought we were going to crash! I was so scared I almost lost my water. My heart was in my britches!

I really appreciated that no matter how large the crowd around him was, Jay always made time for me. He wanted to get personal with people.

• Phyllis Anderson: My fondest memories of Jay were when we played at Seville. He would come and sit in with us. Just when I thought I couldn’t go on another song, Jay would fly through those swinging doors and totally light up the room. He would blow that horn and remind me of why I do what I do. Jay would play that saxophone and the entire room filled with his energy, his power.

Jay and I talked many times about the Lord. In our business, it is so difficult to express and share your feelings about much without the use of music. I knew Jay was a Christian, and he was so refreshing! It was like Jay knew I needed to converse and share my words and feelings about the Lord. We talked one night until 3 a.m. about being able to feel close to God and carry on a personal relationship with Him, despite our occupation.

Jay Young was a refreshing, wonderful human and a tremendous musician. I know that the Lord is caring for Jay and that Jay is with Him.

• Todd Vannoy: Jay was always an individual. He went to church with long hair and an earring. I’m sure a lot of people stereotyped him for that reason. Jay showed everyone that you could love God and be a Christian just as you are.

• Doug Stiers: My most memorable time with Jay was the moment I met him — until the day he died.

• Scott Miller: Jay and I were in ninth grade and we were entered in the school talent contest. We dressed up in Long Johns and sang “satisfaction” with some guys from jazz band. This was before we had ever thought of bands or singing or Velvet Melon. We were just a couple of crazy freshmen with enough nerve to get up in front of the entire student body and sing our hearts out. There we stood in our pj’s doing our Mick Jagger imitation. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life. And we won the contest!

When I entered public school in third grade, Jay was the first person to walk up to me and say, “Hi! My name’s Jay.” The rest is history. It is a history of which I am so proud to be a part.

• Andy Waltrip: Jay was a true friend to me and he made me laugh so much. I enjoyed our friendship immensely and still do, when I look back on those times. One of the things about him was that he always made me feel like I was supposed to be there, that he always had time for me. Jay made everyone feel that way. Out of all the people I’ve ever met, I have never met anyone else who had such a magnetic, energetic, charismatic personality. I, just like so many other people, miss having that personality around to make the day more enjoyable. I looked up the word charisma in Webster’s Dictionary. It’s incorrect. It should have a picture of Jay next to the word. Jay Young defines charisma. I can’t wait to see him again.

• Ted Berquist: Frank and Jay came into All-Pro to buy Jay a drum set. It seems that Jay was going to learn go play drums. I sold them the set and they were on their way. A short time later, Jay came in to buy a keyboard. This kind of confused me, but, hey, a sale’s a sale. Even later on, Jay returned again to buy a bass guitar. Jay told me he was learning to play bass for his band, Velvet Melon. He invited me out to hear him play. When I finally went out to hear the band, I looked to see Jay playing not one of the three instruments he’d bought. The guy was playing a saxophone!

• Wendy Young: Let’s see, a memory of Jay . . . a memory of Jay . . . a memory of Jay. Well, I guess my first was the night Mom went to the hospital to give birth to my new baby. I hoped and hoped it would be a boy. I remember receiving the phone call at the neighbor’s house where I was staying. Nothing could have made me happier. This new entity in the house brought me great comfort. If I got scared in the night, which I was often, I could go to his room and sleep on the bed next to his crib and be okay.

As he grew, I took great delight in dressing him up in totally outrageous costumes and parading him in front of company. Maybe that’s why he had absolutely no inhibitions in gront of a crowd. We also used to stand on our toy box and lip-synch to Mom’s old 45’s from the fifties, like Elvis’s “My Baby Left Me” and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.” Jay’s favorite was “Mostly Martha” by some group I can’t remember and “Ape Call” by Nervous Norvus.

Music was a big part of our childhood, so it came as no surprise that he became an accomplished musician. I can remember him sitting at the piano practicing. His back was always so straight and his fingers always in perfect position. Being his older sister, I could not resist coming up behind him and grabbing him by the shoulders, and giving him a good big sister shaking. He never missed a beat and never told me to stop. I think he enjoyed the challenge.

It seems funny to me that I don’t remember any of the arguments or fights we had. There weren’t very many. All I remember when I think of Jay is fun. Whether we were eating supper, hiking in canyons, or listening to Led Zeppelin albums backwards to hear Satanic messages, we had a blast!

• Angela Hinkley: Jay was such a clown. Clowns enjoy life, seeking only to bring happiness to others through the life they lead. Jay was like that.

I remember that in October 1987 I traveled to Gainesville to sing at a frat party with the guys. We arrived and located our accommodations. Of course, the guys were staying in the dorms. I remember how funny the frat social chairman looked at Jay when Jay asked him where I was going to sleep. It was obvious that they had not planned for me. Jay told the guy I was his little sister and that we were orphans. He explained that I was still a minor and that he had to take me every place he played. Jay went on and on about how we were only in the music business to save enough money to get our granny the operation she needed. Mike and Wes were straining to keep straight faces, while Darin had to turn and walk away. I couldn’t stand it another second and broke out in laughter. As I was doubled over, Jay, who never cracked a smile, told the guy I was manic-depressive as well! Sometime much later, Jay let the poor guy off the hook. However, I can only imagine what stories went around about that band and its manic-depressive, orphaned, granny-saving sister!

Wendy asked me a few minutes if I had decided to copy the whole book here. Sometimes it seemed that I was; however, I assure you that there are lots more memories in The Jay Book. Maybe I’ll retype the whole book sometime so that we’ll have it on my computer, but not right now. Today is the nineteenth anniversary of Jay’s death, so I want to post this piece somewhere so that anyone who wants to can read it.

All of you know how much I love my boy and how much I want to preserve his memory. I think all of us — you included — are doing a good job of memory saving. Some of you have joined me this week in posting photos of Jay, Scott Miller (Mullah) in particular, and I’m very much grateful. Even more of you have written notes to Frank and me today, telling us that you’re thinking of us, and we love all of the messages. Thank you so much. As I copied what some of you said in The Jay Book, some of the dominant themes were that Jay was happy, smiling, funny, caring, exuberant, charismatic. Thanks for impressing these traits indelibly for all to read and remember. These are the things about Jay that I want to remember and that I want others to remember. Because of you and of the memories that you’ve written about my boy, today is a day of celebration . . . celebration of a life that will always be remembered.

Frank and I love all of you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy 43rd, Jay!

Give me a topic, and I can usually write about it. My approach and details may not be what others would write, but I can come up with something. Tell me to think of a topic, and many times I sit here with my nose against a brick wall—all I see is either a wall with nothing written on it or so many scribbles of ideas that I can’t make out anything because of the position of my nose on that wall.

I find myself in the latter fix today. I want to write about Jay because it’s his birthday week, and I always write about him on his birthday. But how do I narrow my topic so that I don’t just roam around in his 43 years, never really alighting on anything? Won’t someone help me? Let me sit here for a while to see if I hear anything. (Picture about two hours going by with Sandy just sitting before the woodstove on a beautiful New Mexico Saturday afternoon, waiting for some kind of inspiration.)

Eureka! I heard you! It’s the voices of former students groaning and complaining about yet another quotation that I want them to write about, to identify with. “Mizhung (that’s Southern for Mrs. Young, you know), you ought to do what you had us do . . . react to quotations. Find other people’s words that remind you of Jay and write to your heart’s content.” Good idea, my dear former students. Once more, you’ve come to my rescue.

So, as my mother-in-law used to say, there you have it. I’ll find quotations that remind me of Jay and put the long, skinny fingers to the computer keypad write away.

Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart.
—Author Unknown
I have a picture in my mind right now. It’s of Jay and me sitting in the rocking chair in the living room in Pensacola, his long legs dangling at age six and his head splitting from a migraine. He and I spent many an afternoon in this position, lights off and not a sound in the room except an occasional squeak from the rocker. We’d sit there for an hour or so, just mother and son. We both might snooze a bit, and soon his headache would abate, and he’d be off and running, probably out to play with Walter Glenn. Later, after he discovered that music was in his soul and after he had outgrown his rocking place, he’d still have headaches, but can you guess what he substituted for my lap? Rock ‘n’ roll. That’s right. Loud music. Don’t ask me to explain. That was just my boy. Out of my lap but not out of my heart . . . ever.

He who can be a good son will be a good father.
—Author Unknown
This quotation is a daydream. Jay didn’t live long enough to be a father, though back in the early days after he died, I often wished that a young woman would show up at our door to tell us that the little child with her was Jay’s. I’d have welcomed that young woman and that child with open arms; however, that visit never materialized. But . . . if you’re out there . . . . I still wonder sometimes what it would have been like for Jay to be married and to have children, children that we’d love so very much, just the way we love our Corey and Jackson. I like to think that he would have been a good father, putting his wife and children above everything else, even above his music. In my heart of hearts, I think he would still be a musician, but maybe by this time, he might not be on the road all the time. After all, rock stars (you know that’s just about all he ever wanted to be, and I believe he would have achieved his dreams) can choose how often they want to travel. Perhaps his wife and children would have traveled with him, his children being home schooled. But maybe not. I know he would have been a good provider and that he’d spend quality time with his family. He and his wife would have set examples for their children as far as their relationship to God is concerned. Those who read this may remember a line from one of Jay’s songs “I don’t mix drugs with rock and roll./ I’ve got Jesus in my heart to save my soul.” He’d want his children to have Jesus in their hearts, too. Also, Jay loved traveling with Wendy, Frank, and me when he was a little boy, and he’d want his children to have the same kinds of experiences that he and Wendy had. Family was important to Jay, and he’d want family to be important to his children. Jay was a good son; he’d have been a good father. Of this I’m sure.

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
—Mark Twain
After a child dies, it’s difficult for the parents not to remember him as perfect. Most mothers and dads don’t want to dwell on trouble that the kid got into, near misses that he had with the law . . . unless those parents are Sandy and Frank Young, whose son could “’fess up” after the fact and bring tears of laughter to their eyes or whose son’s escapades even at the moment that they happened were just hilarious. I must confess on our parts that we laughed about a lot of things in our family that other families would consider just terrible and probably mete out punishments that the kids would never forget. In retrospect, I don’t think we were very good disciplinarians. Anyway . . . on with the trouble.

(1) When Jay and Walter were in seventh or eighth grade, there was a rash of fights at Bellview Middle School. Those two little bad boys decided to stage a fight before school in the hall right outside their first period class. They were really going at it with fake punches and lots of “Oohs!” and “Ouches” and such, with their teacher looking on, enjoying every minute of the “fight” and laughing with the kids. Out of nowhere came Pete Payton, the assistant principal, who had just about had it with fighting middle schoolers. “You two boys . . . come with me!” I wish I were an artist. I’d draw a picture of his mouth, turned down at both corners . . . and you’d see Jay’s impersonation of him. I imagine those two little boys were pretty much worried as they followed Mr. Payton to his office. I don’t remember who went in first, and I don’t remember Walter’s story, but I know that when Jay went in, Pete said, “Do you want ten licks or ten days’ suspension?” (That evening when Jay related the story hilariously to us at dinner, he said that he was tempted to say, “Please, Mr. Payton, may I have both?” but he didn’t want to push his luck.) Needless to say, he took the licks; however, just before he bent over, he remembered that he had a Visine bottle in his back pocket and that he’d really get what for if Mr. Payton found that. You see, the administration had put the word out that kids having “squirt” bottles would be suspended, and that’s exactly what that Visine bottle was. Jay managed to remove it before he bent over, probably by giving a Jay twirl as he bent. I know. I know. Back in my day, kids were more afraid of what their parents would do to them when they got home, the parents having been notified by the school authorities of their precious children’s bad behavior. In Jay’s day, there were lots of parents who would have paddled their children even harder after finding out about the punishment at school. My true confession is that Wendy, Frank, and I just doubled over as Jay told his story. If you knew Jay, you know that he could embellish a story and entertain as no one else could. Enough said about this adventure.

(2) We took Jay to Europe with us the summer of 1985. It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that he went kicking and screaming, but it’s not far off. He’d much rather have stayed at home playing music, Velvet Melon being in its infant stages at that time and Jay wanting to spend every waking hour with the guys in the band. As it turned out, he had a great time, but you can believe that he and his closest friends managed to get in some amount of trouble while we were there. The only thing that we found out about while we were traveling was the piercing of his ear, something that we had laid down the law about at home. He would NOT have his ear pierced. We had some really strange beliefs about ear piercing back in those days, and when he and two friends came back to the hotel with earrings, I cried. Yes, I cried. I was so embarrassed. Through the years, I changed my mind about my boy and his ears, though, and when Jay died, he had three “holes in his head,” and I sent my very much macho brother-in-law to buy new jewelry for my boy so that he’d be all dressed up for his funeral. What we found out when we got home, though, was really scary. He confessed: The afternoon that we arrived in Madrid, he and two other boys got in a car with a stranger and went to his home. Can you imagine what might have happened to those inexperienced teenagers? Nothing did. I’ve always thought there was a quotation about the Lord taking care of fools and babies, but I can’t find it. Even so, I think it applies here. He also told us that one of his friends brought rappelling equipment with him. One night, three Florida boys went out the window of their room and out on the town in Rome, Italy. Remember by quotation about babies and fools? Applies here, too. The third confession was that on the night before we left London, headed home, he and these same rapscallions rolled the Tower Bridge. You heard me right. They took rolls of toilet paper from the Tower Hotel and rolled the bridge in the dark of night. After all the shenanigans were over and we were safely home when the confession poured out, what could we do but laugh and say, “Thank you, Lord” that those children . . . yes, children . . . didn’t wind up in jail.

(3) I’m not going to give lots of details on this trouble, but here’s the gist of it. Just before Jay turned 21, he and the guys in Velvet Melon went to New York City to make their fortune. I could write a book about their nine months there and how, instead of making a fortune, they almost starved, but the NYC adventure is not the topic of this remembrance. The guys planned to be back in Pensacola for Jay’s birthday to play some gigs on the Gulf Coast so that they’d have a little money. On the evening of February 10, after they had set up at Coconut Bay for their gig, Frank and I took Jay out to eat at Darryl’s. We had just placed our order, when Jay leaned back in his chair and announced to us, “Well, folks, now that I’m 21 and legal, I probably should tell you about some things that have happened in the past.” Then he entertained us for the whole meal about things that he and Jimmy Mills had done that truly almost got them in trouble with the law. Jay could have gone to jail! I don’t know that I could ever reconstruct those stories, but I might try some time. Just know that one of them involved going before a judge.

(4) The last trouble that I’ll talk about for now (and I know you’re happy about that) happened at least once a week at our house. Mark Twain said that his mother enjoyed the trouble he caused, and I loved this particular trouble that Jay brought into my life. Periodically, Jay would come into the kitchen, where I was preparing dinner, come up really close to me, and sometimes plant a kiss on my cheek; then he’d say, “It’s time, Mom!” I’d say, “Please, Jay . . . not right now!” At that time, he’d laugh as only Jay could laugh, enjoying himself completely. He’d put his arms around me and lift me off the floor, delightedly announcing, “Yep, Mom, it’s time to put your head in the fan.” I’d laugh and squeal, just what he wanted me to do, as he walked toward the ceiling fan. Then he’d raise me up to about two inches below the fan, having the time of his life. I don’t know how putting his mom’s head in the fan originated, but it was so funny to both of us and to anyone else who happened to be in the room at the time, especially if he or she was witnessing the event for the first time. It’s a memory that I wouldn’t take anything for!

There is an endearing tenderness in the love of a mother to a son that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame and exult in his prosperity; and if adversity overtake him, he will be the dearer to her by misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.
—Washington Irving
If you’ve read other pieces that I’ve written about Jay, maybe you’re familiar with this quotation because I’ve used it before. Shortly after Jay died, I discovered it in a little book that meant so much to me at the time—My Dream of Heaven (Intramuros) by Rebecca Ruter-Springer. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but I know I’ll read it again and again now because I’ve just purchased it for my NOOK e-reader. It brought comfort to me when my heart was broken, but the part of the book that meant the most to me was the quotation by Washington Irving. Every part of it applies to Jay and me, every single part. Recently, a friend told me that she was offended by the quotation because it sounded as though I love Jay more than I love Wendy. This is not true. I love both of our children with the same amount of mother love. I could change “son” to “daughter” and make the masculine pronouns feminine and have this quotation be about Wendy. But this piece is about Jay. I love this quotation!

If you made it through to the end of my recollections, thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing about my boy. I still miss him every day, but I love thinking back over the exciting times that we had with him. God gave him to us for a short while, but all of us who knew and loved him were richly blessed by his enthusiasm for life. To all of you who continue to remember him and to let Frank, Wendy, and me know that you are thinking about him . . . thank you!