Chevy and the Levee

Where I grew up we didn’t have a levee where we’d drive to in our Chevy, but that didn’t stop me from singing along to Don McLean every time it came on the radio. I memorized those lyrics along with thousands of others. But some things stick with us as we grow.

Faces of a Father

When Keith Urban sang about the Chevy, levee, rebels in the great wide open and more I felt my childhood come back to me, and I avoided the song. Not because it was country, or religious, or irrelevant. It was because the memories it evoked were salt on a wound that was still far too raw.

Father’s Day 2021 came and went without much fanfare in our house. It didn’t stop my thoughts from drifting to the man that taught me everything worth knowing about rock and roll, American Pie, Led Zeppelin, The Lord of the Rings, and life itself. So it comes as no surprise that a song about those things would hurt to listen to. Now I find myself thinking about those lyrics and remembering the pieces that I’ve fought so hard to hide behind.

Grandpa Heller

As I grow older and grow in my writing I remember the smallest details of the life full of painful moment. The little garden on the side of grandpa’s house that despite the neglect always blossomed with early spring flowers years after grandma passed away. The brown truck with AM radio and a small pocket bible where I first learned the lyrics to every Beatles song I know. The way grandpa’s apartment smelled like old feet and onions, it is a smell that can never be recreated, and despite the smell I loved seeing him. The verse I first recall learning in bible school was not John 3:16 but 1 Corinthians 15:57.

It is these little memories that sneak up on me when I daydream in the summer sun, or water my garden at the end of the day. It is the image of a man sitting at the dinner table singing in his rough voice “crept up and slipped away with her, her, her, yeah.” He could sing, I heard it once but we were alone singing Christmas carols after our house fire and I couldn’t convince anyone how good he was that day. They said I got my singing voice from grandma, but dad could sing.

Grandpa Rutan

I smile as I write this when my heart cracks a little more and my eyes sting with the unshed tears. Its hell wrapped in silk, grief for someone who was such a driving force, and it’s okay to remember those moments with bitter regret, anger, sadness. I’ve read so much writing on grief and I’ve learned that it comes in waves and never goes away. Sometimes my grief laps at the shore in calm little pushes. Other times it is a rouge wave. Sometimes it crashes through and the levee breaks. Sometimes its quite and all at once I’m overwhelmed. But it’s always beautiful heartache because this grief reminds me that he was real, he was alive, they all were.

The friends I’ve lost, the family, the years that pass don’t diminish anything, but instead cause it to grow. I remember them, I loved them, I fit them into my stories as a way to remember them and we come full circle, from the Chevy and the levee to John 3:16 – the promise of everlasting life. As long as we remember them and love them and share all they were with the world they will not fade but have everlasting life. Maybe this is what it means to truly be loved.