Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Rob popped in another video to dub. Christmas, 1991. Jim and his brother Billy began to sing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in their close harmony. My heart stopped to hear his voice, see him on the somewhat grainy film—standing straight, playing his classic Fender guitar.

Watching our home videos made me laugh and made me cry. Jim narrated as he filmed everything around him for “posterity.” No event was too small or insignificant. He chose who he was making the video for and encouraged everyone to say “hi” to that person. One tape was for his brother Bob, “and Barbara, too,” he added when he remembered he hadn’t mentioned her. A Thanksgiving tape at my mom’s house was specifically for my brother Jimmy who was in the Navy in California.

“Did Dad ever send these videos to the people he made them for?” Rob asked me.

“No. That’s why we still have them,” I said. One time after he became confused, Jim made an audiotape for his cousin Leroy. His mom saw him walk out to the mailbox and raise the flag. Curious, she went out to see what he was mailing. Inside the mailbox was a cassette tape with “for Leroy” written on it. No postage. No wrapping. No address.

Jim’s personality and humor uplifted the videos to an experience. Most of Jim’s family loved the camera. His uncles and cousins would ham it up in standup comedian mode. Uncle Jewel described his many personalities and mashed his face flat in one video. Jim interviewed his cousin Buddy about the lady ranger bawling him out over not coming to a complete stop at the campground’s exit. “Don’t they have stop signs in Missouri?” Jim asked.

The highlights of the old home videos are family gatherings. Houses and yards overflowed with family. Guitars, fiddles, microphones, and amplifiers were dragged out for impromptu family concerts. Everyone had their “special” songs to sing and requests rang out from the audience for their favorites.

I loved being able to see and hear Jim tell his corny jokes, tall tales, but most of all, I loved to hear him sing. I watched the tapes of him singing through blurred eyes. He and his brother Billy sang several songs, and the song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” was almost prophetic. It told of comfort, friends, dreams, and having that person to hold you up when times are rough. More important it told the kind of man Jim was. He was always on my side. He was my husband, my friend, my bridge. He encouraged me to shine.

In addition to stealing Jim’s musical talent, dementia stole his voice. It seems like a small miracle to hear his voice after all the years of silence. When the darkness of dementia fell he was no longer able to dry my tears, or be my bridge. I had to find my own way back into the light.

It was almost twenty years ago when we learned the hard truth of dementia. We made the most of the time we had until the journey ended April 18, 2005 when Jim was 59 years old. Thursday, August 27, would have been Jim’s 70th birthday. It would have been a day of celebration, but now it is a time of remembrance. And gratitude for the adventures we shared.

Jim is gone from our world, but his essence lives on the videotapes and in his children and grandchildren. Last week when Whitney pulled out her ukulele, her mother said, “Your Grandpa Jim could have taught you so much.” Just like her grandpa, she is collecting different instruments to play. When I see Whitney’s short videos online, it makes me think that her Grandpa Jim would have been capturing every moment he could for “posterity.”

Music and family were the great loves of Jim’s life. We are fortunate to have those magical memories stored in our hearts and on the old videotapes.

Copyright © August 2015 by L.S. Fisher

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