In a life where much of my driving is work-related, I always embrace my more relaxing driving moments, especially my Saturday drives to Mercer County to see my Lady Jane. Generally during those drives, I try to focus on the positive, chasing away any thoughts of work or any worldly woes.
However, such positivity has, for many months now, been somewhat harder to find with such dire news about the spread of a virus constantly assaulting my senses. In my life, one which began a half dozen years after World War II, there really has been nothing that has so dominated the daily newscasts and newspaper headlines.
And, while the more recent news about vaccines from companies such as Pfizer and Moderna has been positive, there are still grave concerns, so much so, that on a recent drive to Jane’s, for whatever reason, it was difficult for me to chase away my pandemic thoughts.
So, in an effort to chase those viral thoughts, I snapped on the radio and tuned the Sirius-XM signal to one of my favorite selections, The Bridge, which targets an audience that prefers some easy-listening classics over the years where lyrics are easily understandable.
However, as I dove those Auglaize and Mercer country roads to my favorite country girl, it seemed for the songs I heard, there was something about those lyrics that came out decades ago that reminded me of our viral times.
The first song was Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” and during those lyrics where the singer expresses his love of taking photographs and imploring his mama not to take his Kodachrome away, I glanced at the zippered blue bag on the passenger seat, a bag I loaded when this whole pandemic thing began with photos from all of Jane and my trips over the years. A portion of each of my Saturdays with Jane are spent stoking those pleasant travel moments from here and abroad digging into that blue bag for more prints.
The second song, “Crying,” sung by Roy Orbison in his unmistakable vocally honeyed style, despite being about a jilted lover, also reminded me of COVID. It was the repetition of the only word in the song’s title, a word sung 15 times during nearly three-minute duration of the song, which reminded me of the tears I’ve seen so very often on the evening news when video clips are shown of those whose lives have been tragically changed by losing a loved one to COVID.
The next song was Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” a song I remember once hearing the back story as to why Loggins co-wrote it. Loggins’ father had undergone a series of strokes and was facing a long road to recovery, so a musically inclined son wrote his father a pep talk and then sang it.
And as I listened to the lyric, “You think that maybe it’s over / Only if you want it to be / Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle / Stand up and fight,” I couldn’t help but think of all those who’ve contacted the virus who were told by their loved ones to fight.
The penultimate song before I snapped off the radio was the song that is a lyrically powerful reflection of a generational gap between a father and son, one called “In the Living Years,” sung by Paul Carrack of the group Mike and the Mechanics. I remember the first time I heard the song I cried, thinking of my own father. And, I’m pretty sure I cried the second and the third and the thirty-third time as well when Carrack sings, “I wasn’t there that morning / When my father passed away/ I didn’t get to tell him / All the things I had to say.”
The reason for my emotion is because I wasn’t there that morning when my father was struck and killed by a train while traveling his work roads in his company car, a new 1978 LTD, at a gateless railroad crossing in Oakwood, just outside Paulding. That was on a Monday morning, and he died alone while I stood in a classroom at Allen East High School trying to teach a room full of freshman what the difference was between a gerund and a present participle and why that should matter to them. So I didn’t get to tell my father all the things I had to say.
And as listened on my recent drive to Jane’s, as I again listened to that song, I also thought of all those who’ve died from this virus while alone in nursing homes without those who cared about them the most being able to sit with them and hold their hands and tell them all the things they had to say.
The final song I heard was John Lennon’s “Nobody Told Me.” Listening, of course, as a language guy, I appreciated the paradoxical lyrics, such as “Everybody’s talking and no one says a word” and “There’s always something cooking and nothing in the pot.” However, in the absolute spot-on musical equivalent of what we’ve all thought from time to time these past ten months, it was the last couple of lines at the end of the song that really resonated when Lennon sang the following:
“Nobody told me there’d be days like these/ Strange days indeed-most peculiar, mama.”
In a song that came out in 1984, over 3⅓ decades before the word corona meant anything more than the name of a beer that’s best served with a lime wedge, what song chorus could have possibly summed up our days any better?
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.