I’ve mentioned it before: something is bothering Jack. These days he’s more withdrawn, for one thing; more introspective too, although he hasn’t let me in on the subject of his disquiet; he doesn’t respond to even the gentlest probing question. In our chats, it’s as if he’s floating around what’s bothering him, but never taking a straight stab at it. Take lunch today:
Jack asked “when did the phrase ‘making love’ change meaning from ‘courting’ to ‘thrashing around in bed’? I’ve been watching some old movies, and substituting the new meaning for the old one is contextually quite shocking.”
“Even for you?” I asked.
“It felt out of place somehow in the old movie. The meaning must have changed sometime in the fifties or sixties.”
‘I can’t help you,’ I said “For me the fifties and sixties were the time when the two meanings started overlapping. And a good thing too, as I was getting tired of sticking to the old meaning. Anyhow, what brought up that subject?”
“Is there any subject more important than sex? Whether its presence or its absence?”
“Suffering from nostalgia, Jack?”
“Well, in a way, I guess. Lately after every encounter of the best kind, I find myself thinking ‘is this the last time I’ll get to heaven on earth?’ It’s a sobering thought, my friend.”
“No doubt about it, that day will come for you sooner or later … if it hasn’t already passed into history. Not much you can do about it.”
We both ruminated on that topic for a few minutes while we poked at our plates.
I said “You know, I had a conversation once with a good friend – you don’t know him – and the topic of love and music came up. We were both well into our sixties by then. He and I both devote a lot of time to music. He posed the question ‘if you had to choose between living the rest of your life without your wife or without music, which would you pick?’ The fact that neither of us could indicate his preference immediately came as a bit of a surprise.”
Jack said “that would have been easy for me as I don’t have a wife. If he’d rephrased the question in terms of sex or music, you know damn well what I’d have picked. But music may be a good fallback choice if I run out of steam with the other.”
“I know that music has been a salve, an ointment for me during those times when marital bliss had flown out the window. It’s during those periods that what I think of as my best songs were written. ‘Every cloud …” as it were. Heartaches are wonderful creative motivators.”
“I’ve been married only once,” said Jack, “and that relationship ran aground fairly quickly, without much grief on my part. You, on the other hand, have had several wives, and judging by some of your songs, had a hard time of it.”
“I did indeed. And it took a long time before I got over the split-ups. One of the things that helped from time to time – not always, and not very effectively, but every little bit helped -- was, not surprisingly perhaps, a song, something on the hit parade: ‘Got Along Without You Before I Met You, Gonna Get Along Without You Now.”
“I remember,” said Jack, “sung by Patience and Prudence.”
“And even the girls’ names were inspirational: I’d have to be prudent about picking the next mate, and have patience in the interval. As you can see, I never gave up hope.”
“You mean, you never came to your senses?”
“More grist for my musical mill, Jack!”
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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