A love story

The best part of journalism is the paycheck the extra attention the chance to learn.

Not one time since I stopped working for a newspaper have I gained so much knowledge in a week that I’ve had to step back, reflect, and say,”Wow – I’ve learned a lot of stuff.”

(Okay, so I’ve never actually done that.)

THE TIDBITS OF INFORMATION one acquires as a journalist are astonishing. There was once a time in my life when I believed I could perform surgery if every doctor in the world were suddenly unavailable. At another point, I believed I’d have a shot at being elected to a school board (I actually still believe this). Shortly after meeting with some wood turners, I thought for sure I could practice their craft … and I respond like a magician from a little-known country in Europe if anyone wonders out loud how stained glass windows are made. Don’t get me started on the legal knowledge I gained as a crime reporter.

I once told a state representative in an interview I try to know as little as possible about politics.

“Just enough to be dangerous, huh?” he said without smiling.

While the state rep was an asshole, what he said was true. A journalist immerses him or herself in a story for hours, days, weeks or months at a time and returns to real life with a treasure chest full o’ understanding of that topic – and forgets it three days later.

I think it’s particularly awesome to gain knowledge I can apply to my life.

THAT WAS THE CASE this weekend as I sifted through my notes and recordings for a feature story on an old man who was once a professional singer. I’ll save most of the details so not to give the story away, but he said his group performed at the Apollo once during the eight-year stint recording albums and putting on shows across the country. He was that successful.

I’d like to say what he does for a living today, but that would give away too much. Let’s just say it’s a job many folks would deem menial.

The biggest accomplishment of his life?

“Marrying the woman of my dreams,” he told me.

There was no doubt in my mind – as I sat in his tiny, well-kept home in a neighborhood curtain twitchers would call “rough” – that he had no doubt in his about this. His heart had been hers for decades.

They are from the same town. High school sweethearts. He asked her mother to marry the girl, but her mom said she had to graduate first.

He left town for the military before that happened. He moved to one town states away from South Carolina, then another, then another. His music career took off. It ended. Then he opened his own business, still states away from South Carolina.

It wasn’t until nearly 40 years after he left town that he spoke to his sweetheart again. He was in town for a funeral, he said, when someone gave him the idea to pay her a visit at home. He did – and the spark grew into a fire, followed by phone calls, visits on the weekends. Then marriage.

It turned out she had feelings similar to his all those years. It turned out he didn’t have to do much swooning before she caved in.

It turned out his success as a musician meant little to him in the broader scheme of things.

“SO WHAT DOES IT feel like,” I asked abruptly for my own personal information, “to be in love and loved in return?”

He obviously knew. I didn’t.

“Well, I’ll tell ya,” he said in his old black man dialect, leaning forward and closer to me on his couch. “If you ain’t never tried it, I suggest you start.

“It’s worth any trouble you might have to go through.”

I realized my story was less about his time as a professional vocalist and more about his love.

He fought for his love. He waited for it. He knew it was his destiny – that the worlds had conspired to make it happen.

He’d responded to the conspiring with action.

And now that he has the woman of his dreams, he has all that he needs.

SO I LEFT THAT DAY with a trifecta of information:

  • Love is worth pursuing.
  • It’s not what we do with our time on Earth that matters, but how we truly spend it.
  • Love is worth pursuing.

I have fallen in love somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,487 times. I blame this on my tendency to think not with my head, but with my heart – which has caused it to break somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,487 times.

However, I’ve never seriously pursued a love – that’s always seemed like too much trouble.

I have now learned otherwise.

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7 Responses to A love story

  1. Sharon E. Rixford Barber says:

    Justin….you have looked passed the man and his accomplishments and seen what’s actually the most important accomplishment in the man’s life. Excellent piece of writing. Impressed. Also, I’m pleased that your Mom and Dad raised you to be “color blind”…..my Dad did, too.

    • Thanks, Sharon. I don’t know how I could survive life if I limited my interactions, compassion and respect to white people. There’s a lot of value in learning about someone new.

  2. amya says:

    If you ever finish – or read more pages of – my book, you’ll come to a place where a character says, “Love is the most important thing there is. Everything else is just stuff we do to fill the time before we find it.’ When I wrote that 5.5 years ago, it was the character speaking; I didn’t actually subscribe to that belief myself. But I have grown to realize that I’ve never written anything more true than that line, just as you have never written anything more true than the last half of this post. I, too, have probably fallen in love 1,487 in my life. But I’ve never given in precedence over other things – career, etc – I was trying to accomplish. Now I know better than to think those things are more important. The woman in this story you’re writing was this man’s ‘Fatima’ – simply meant to be part of his life. I love it, and can’t wait to read the rest!

    • I am commenting so you don’t get jealous that I responded to Ginn and not you. I don’t know what to say, though. I DO need to read your book.

      • amya says:

        Don’t know what to say? Dork! How about ‘thanks for reading’ or ‘nice obsevation’? 🙂 And if I can dedicate immense time to reading your 9,972 blogs, you can force yourself to read my 300 page book. Heh heh!

  3. Nice post. Love takes a lot of courage or perhaps it is that it demands that we ignore our ego and be immune to fears and pain and move forward. In my experience, the good thing about broken hearts is that sometimes those big cracks and fissures in the facade let in the light…and often allow some of the fear and anger and bitterness to seep out …so instead of being trapped inide in the dark, becoming more toxic, they can disapate. Then one can be truley open, geniune, authentic…and all of this helps one to truely love…That’s my thought on the matter. I like DH awrences take on love…
    “Ginn”

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