For better or worse, when I think of life, I think of two country songs. “For My Broken Heart” by Reba McEntire (1991) and “Time Marches On” (1996) by Tracy Lawrence.
It was a dark time for me in the months that followed my mother’s death in November 1990. Not only was I dealing with losing one of my best friends, I was living with my grandmother Helen, whose health was failing, I was adjusting to being single after my first four-year relationship from college ended, and I was waiting for a television weather job offer to come my way (living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the summer and fall of 1990, I had turned down my first job offer that fall in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, to move back to Kentucky, two weeks before my mother died.)
Although I was aware of Reba McEntire in the 1980s when she was becoming the “Queen of Country Music”, I was very much a teenager and young adult in that decade with the new “English Invasion” and new wave, freestyle, and dance music. It was all about Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Erasure, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Taylor Dayne, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Corey Hart, and New Kids on the Block!
In the summer of 1990, while visiting “Sidetrack”, one of the most awesome bars in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood with my friend, Paul, I heard this voice that stopped me dead in my tracks. The song was “Rumor Has It” by Reba. I rushed out and bought the CD. It was the first country CD that I purchased and I fell in love with that woman. I loved her voice, her warmth, and her style. And, when I met her almost 15 years later, everything that I felt about her was true to heart — she was a genuine, warm, and caring woman.
So, when Reba released her new album in the fall of 1991, about eleven months after my mother’s death, the lead single was the title track, “For My Broken Heart”, I felt that Reba was singing that song just for me.
Even today, when I hear the song’s lyrics, “Last night I prayed the Lord my soul to keep/Then I cried myself to sleep /So sure life wouldn’t go on without you /But oh this sun is blinding me/As it wakes me from the dark /I guess the world didn’t stop/For my broken heart”, I know that as hard as life can, unless I die, I’ll pull myself up or out of a funk and move on and smile again. I’m one of the living.
That song play heavily in my life and in my heart again about six months ago.
After being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in late March 2011 and only given two to three months to live, Miss ABBA wasn’t ready to go play in the eternal gardens of “puppy heaven”. Spring turned into summer and summer progressed into fall and fall transitioned into winter and Miss ABBA just got more gray and stayed energetic and lively. She never got visibly sick or defeated until February 2nd of this year, the day before she crossed the “rainbow bridge”.
In the spring of 2011, I cried many tears knowing I had only two to three months with my little girl. We made the most of it. I didn’t care about the treadmill and working out. I took every opportunity I had to go on walks with her, sit out in the yard and read magazines with her, play ball or whatever. I wasn’t going to miss out on anything.
And, I didn’t. ABBA loved to travel and she was game for a R-I-D-E at any time. It didn’t matter to her if it was just to the store or halfway across the country. Most of the vacations that I took in her life were ones that she went on and her cancer wasn’t going to stop her.
Last summer, we traveled to Fort Dodge, Iowa, for the weekend in July to celebrate Ray’s parents 50th anniversary,
and to Ohio to visit Granny Betty and to swim in her pool.
We also drove to Kentucky to move Tammy, my sister, to the Quad Cities,
and then to Spirit Lake, Iowa, for Labor Day weekend. ABBA spent that time running, playing, swimming, and boating.
Miss ABBA was a survivor and she wasn’t ready to give up! She still had places to see.
On February 3, 2012, Miss ABBA decided that she was ready travel to a place without me. It’s been six months now and I think of my silly, goofy, golden a thousand times a day. I miss her and cherish the almost 12 years we had together and I know one day I’ll see her again.
It’s been some time since I shed tears over Miss ABBA, but I’m doing it now thinking of her and writing this about her. Usually, when I think of her, I smile and laugh. She had such a wonderful life and she brightened the lives of those around her with a smile and a wag of the tail.
Now, as I get ready to travel this fall and winter to Houston, Texas, Las Vegas, Nevada, New Orleans, Louisiana, and the western Caribbean, Miss ABBA won’t be in the backseat or on the plane with me physically, but she’ll be in my heart.
It’s been six months now without her and it feels like six years. But, as Tracy Lawrence sings, “The South moves North/The North moves South/A star is born/A star burns out/The only thing that stays the same is everything changes/Everything changes”