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!


Anonymous said...

I love to hear stories about Jay. I think of him often, but especially this time of year. Having a b-day so close to Valentines Day could not be more fitting for a boy who was filled with so much love and who was loved by so many others!
Donna Doyle-McCutchen

Karen said...

I sure hope there's an operating room in Heaven...cause I'm sure we are all going to need it from all the stomach pains we will all have from laughing so hard when we reunite with Jay! I can just imagine him "calling us out" and making a funny story about what we did down here!!! And learning more about his antics! We will all be in stitches!

Thanks for continuing to share Jay with us!!! Love ya!