Can it really be one full decade to the day since the Statler Brothers’ final concert? Must be. Calendars do not lie but feelings do. Because I’m feeling it was just a few months ago. But then when I stop and look back with a serious eye, I realize ten years ago I had no grandchildren; now I have four. Ten years ago, I used to wake up in one city and go to sleep that night in another that may be thousands of miles apart. Now I sleep in the same bed every night.
Ten years ago I had a schedule to keep that makes me tired just thinking about now. I had to get my voice and body in shape every evening at 8 p.m. to sing and perform and exert energy I wasn’t sure I had saved up for that day. (Harold always said the hardest part of our job was that we had to be at our peak in the evening when it was natural for the body to be winding down for the day.)
Ten years ago I had never written a book. Now I have seven out there.
In Random Memories, the book my brother and I wrote about the Statler career, we talked about the moments before we went on stage and the moments of walking on the stage for the final time. But I don’t think we mentioned walking off the stage for the last time. I remember it as if it were just hours ago. As we stood there after the last note with our arms around one another soaking in that concluding roar of applause, our last bow, I remember what I said to them with a mist in my eyes. It isn’t picked up on the CD or DVD and it’s just as well as I only meant it for their ears. It was such a public, and at the same time, personal moment for each of us.
After the concert, we had a big feast backstage for families and invited friends and we ate and laughed and cried for at least another two hours. So many folks from the music industry and politicians and fans but then it “dwindled down to a precious few”. Phil rode back the 90 miles home in the car with some of his family; Jimmy did the same. And this left only Harold and Brenda and Debbie and me on the bus with our driver, Stuart.
It was quiet. We turned the radio on, pulled the curtains back and watched the night pass out the window. We talked quietly about what had just happened and felt a deep tiredness from nearly 40 years of doing what we cherished and so wanted to do. God had truly been good to us and I think we realized it more spiritually at that moment than we ever had before.
I talked to Phil at the office a few days ago. Jimmy called me from his dressing room Saturday night just before he went on stage. Harold and I had lunch together yesterday. We all wanted to get together today and just spend some time reminiscing, but it was impossible to make it work. But we will soon and I look forward to it.
And about that thing I said just to them that final moment on stage. It was pretty simple and no big secret. I said, “I love you guys”. And I meant it with all my heart and soul – then and now.
–October 26, 2012
We are less than two months away from our next presidential election. The airwaves, newsprint and cyber stories are full of news of the candidates each day; full of their latest quotes and misquotes; full of their claims both true and false; and full of fact checks after every major speech. And I for one have had it up to here. (Can you see where my hand is? It’s right up there where my hairline used to be when I was 19.)
When making speeches or doing interviews, the candidates and all those who speak for them have no interest in simply addressing the facts. They all want to beat, berate and belittle the other side. They all want to slip in their suggested ‘talking points’ of the day. They all want to sidestep what they might have said a month or three years ago and put a new twist on an old subject that just might get them a foothold in Ohio, Virginia or Florida. They all want the big prize at any cost.
Well, here is what I want. I want a statesman instead of a politician. I want someone who will stick to his beliefs no matter what part of the country he happens to be in that day. I want someone who believes today what he said he believed yesterday unless he has had a revelation of wisdom and learning and then I want him to honestly face the camera and tell me he has changed his mind and then tell me why. I want someone who cares more about our country and your and my grandchildren than he does about his personal comfort for the next four years. I want someone who speaks from his heart. Am I asking too much?
Eleven years ago today, we all forgot our partisan politics for a week or so. We forgot how to make light of the other side; how to twist the facts and tenets of those we disagreed with; and how to slight and slander someone because they were of a different political persuasion. For a few (too few) days we were all simply Americans, brought together by a terrible and common enemy. We stood in shock together. We stood in candlelight church services together. We draped ourselves in one flag and in our sadness we found a strength we have not been able to recapture. Nor will we ever until something unimaginable besets us again.
Let’s pray that will never happen. And let’s pray our leaders will find it in themselves to speak and act out of passion and honesty and not out of selfish ambition.
9/11/12 – Don Reid