Have You Seen Her

Every once in a while a song gets stuck inside my head. Being way too susceptible to the power of suggestion, the theme from "Dora the Explorer" ran over and over after Nat posted on repetition. He mentioned his kid singing over and over "D D D D D Dora".

This morning it's Al Green's "Love and Happiness". No particular reason. I hear his distinctive voice interlaced with the organ and guitar and it takes me back. In the seventies it seemed that his songs were sensual and about the kind of love that we weren't encouraged to think about. But then Green became a reverend and began singing songs to Jesus. He separated the soul from the gospel and yet they seemed intertwined.

When the Reverend Al Green returned to secular music a few years back he told NPR that the same higher power created both spiritual things and carnal things. Ashley Kahn reports that Green says "his music has always been about love. Not the one night kind, but the love the brings and keeps two people together."

The best songs are about more than one thing. You might think they're about a simple night time encounter but there's more going on behind the lyrics. Maybe even Green's most sensual songs of the seventies can be identified with a higher love.

I know that many of the songs of love lost have taken on new meaning for me in the past few months. A song about a romance that ended, once the sexual overtones are removed, can sometimes strike a deep chord in my thoughts about Elena. I'm not talking about "Me and Mrs. Jones" or "She used to be my girl" but if you'll sway back and forth a bit in time to a slow one, maybe you'll see what I mean.

Take a step then another to the right and then a step and then another to the left. As the Chi-Lites start their harmonies singing "ooooh" and "ahhh" continue to sway back and forth. There's the guitar in the opening moments of their hit "Have you seen her". On top of the harmony the narration starts.

He begins "One month ago today" where tomorrow it will be three months since "I was happy as a lark". Close enough.

I see the next few stanzas through Kim's eyes as she sits at the playground watching the children play. Thinking about their future, talking to the various kids, sharing a story and a laugh, "but it still doesn't ease my pain."

That song has been running through my head since Mother's Day. I heard it all the way to California and back. Maggie and Elena and I used to make up words to familiar tunes and sing them. In my head the Chi Lites sang

"Oh, I see her face every where I go
On the street in San Francisco
Have you seen her?
Tell me, have you seen her?"

I drove home from the airport listening to the first half of the Cavaliers Pistons game. I'm trying to get involved in the game but I know I'm heading home to an empty house. This is my first time away from home since Elena died and as hard as it was to leave the house, it's even harder to go back. I try to tune in to the game. It's exciting. The lead changes several times on my ride home.

I pull into our driveway and pause as the garage door raises the rest of the way. My internal jukebox rewinds to the last part of the spoken intro.

"I know I can't hide from a memory
'Though day after day I've tried
I keep sayin' she'll be back
But today again I lied."

I bring in my bags and there's no one there to greet me. Maggie and Kim are at a girl scout camping weekend so Maggie can't rush in to see how the trip went. I suppose I could pretend for the moment that Elena was there with them – but she isn't. That's not the reason she doesn't yell "Daddy" when I walk in the door and jump into my arms.

I seldom gave the girls gifts when I returned from trips and they seemed to get it. They were always glad to see me and not what I might have brought them. That's really the only thing I ever wanted when I returned. Just to see them again.

The music swells in my head as I look around the dimly lit upstairs. You are still swaying back and forth to the music aren't you? We're coming to the chorus.

The lead singer for the Chi-Lites reaches deep down into his soul and wails in a way that now touches my soul deeply and differently than it did decades ago.

"Why, oh, why did she have to leave and go away?" he asks. The anguish is clear in his voice as he explains "I've been used to havin' someone to lean on, and I'm lost. Baby, I'm lost."

Me too.

I know they aren't singing about my sort of loss. And yet they are. I throw my dirty clothes down the clothes chute and put the suitcase near my closet. I glance into her bedroom, not sure why. She's still not there. I stand looking into the darkness and sigh.

Published in: on May 21, 2006 at 11:18 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am touched and moved by your tribute to your dear Elena. Like you, our family celebrates both Catholic and Jewish traditions, and we have a son adopted from Vietnam. I am holding you and your family close in my heart.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about love songs and how they acquire new meaning. There’s one in particular that comes to mind once in a while when I’m thinking about my dad. I used to think it was maudlin, but now I hear it in a different context.

    One More Day (Diamond Rio, 2001)

    Last night I had a crazy dream.
    A wish was granted just for me,
    It could be for anything.
    I didn’t ask for money,
    Or a mansion in Malibu,
    I simply wished for one more day with you.


    One more day,
    One more time,
    One more sunset, maybe I’d be satisfied.
    But then again,
    I know what it would do,
    Leave me wishing still for one more day with you.

    First thing I’d do is pray for time to crawl.
    Then I’d unplug the telephone
    And keep the TV off.
    I’d hold you every second,
    Say a million I love you’s,
    That’s what I’d do with one more day with you.

  3. Daniel,

    There’s a song on a John Farrell children’s CD that makes me think of Elena whenever I hear it. It’s written about the experience of a first-time grandfather, but now it reminds me of all the lives touched by Elena.

    Dear Child

    Dear child, I never knew
    Clouds were so beautiful, the sky was so blue
    Dear sweet child, you taught me to fly
    I found my wings when I looked in your eyes

    How is this possible? How can it be?
    That such a small child has done this to me
    Bird songs are sweeter now
    Each note rings clear
    The moon’s light is brighter now
    All because of you

    Dear child, you taught me to see
    The stars in the sky, the leaves on the trees
    Dear sweet child, you made time stand still
    I loved you that moment and I always will

  4. It’s not: D D D D D D Dora! it’s: Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh Dora!

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