“Contact is All it Takes”

“To change your life to lose your place in time.” – Van Halen

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(L-R) Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Eddie & Alex Van Halen… in a photo from 1985-ish taken by famed rock photographer Chris Walter.  

Where has February gone?  It was just January wasn’t it?  It feels good to be back on the keyboard and banging out this appropriate post for February featuring my all-time favorite band.

It was Richard Gere’s character Edward Lewis in the movie “Pretty Woman” who said, “Impossible relationships.  My special gift is impossible relationships.”  Well, Edward Lewis doesn’t have the market cornered in impossible relationships.  Most of us, at one time or another, have been in an impossible relationship.  Hell, there’s probably a relationship right now that you have in your life that seems impossible whether it be your significant other, a family member, friend, or co-worker.

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An all-time great movie.  A movie I saw with a college girlfriend in Shawnee, OK, back in the spring of 1990.

Maybe relationships aren’t impossible, but relationships are difficult at best.  The ones worth fighting for that is.  They’re hard work.  They’re complex.  The highs and lows can be agonizingly frustrating and stunningly beautiful at the same time.  Whether 17 or 77, relationships can be satisfying and unsatisfying on multiple levels and at different stages along the journey.  I’m reminded of this constantly, not only in my own relationships with my spouse, family, and friends, but as the father of a 17-year-old young woman struggling to find her place in this crazy, beautiful, sometimes lonely world.

 

“Another world, some other time.  You lay your sanity on the line”

I still remember being a teenager.  Always searching.  Searching for friends.  Searching for a place to belong.  Tepidly stretching my horizons with one foot out the door and the other firmly planted within the four walls of my parents’ house.   Searching for direction and for life in general… “laying my sanity on the line.”  Searching for love.

Oh love!  How I thought you would never walk in and find me.  Day after day, week after week, you denied yourself from me within my peer group.  Oh there were glimpses and flickers of it throughout junior high and high school.  I still remember my youthful lusts and desires that only a high school teenage boy possesses.  I remember the names of all the pretty girls I was friends with.  But, oh the daily agony of walking around the halls and campus of high school as the only person without a love of his own!  That’s what it felt like sometimes.  Lonely.  Where was my girl?  Where was my cheerleader?  What was I missing out on that everyone else seemed to have?  Discouragement and disappointment popped up along the way eroding away my confidence and self-esteem.

“Nothing feels the same.  All your dreams are strange”

There’s very little of a “long view” when it comes to being a teenager unfortunately.  I’m not saying there are no teenagers that think very far into the future.  There are, and I’ve met some, but they are in the minority.  Most don’t think past tomorrow or this week or maybe past their next English test or their next birthday.  Just think about birthdays for a moment, and the milestones they represent – 13 (you’re a teenager! or the Bar Mitzvah celebration in Jewish traditions), 15 (most can get a driver’s permit!), 16 (you can get your driver’s license – freedom!), 18 (you are of legal age for many things like joining the military, voting, and smoking – smoke up Johnny!).

It’s just hard when you’re a teenager.  It’s hard to think about all the potential for that special love and those fulfilling relationships when you’re older and in your 20’s or 30’s or even later (gasp)!  It’s almost an un-comprehensible thought when you’re young to have to wait that long.  But now being in my 40’s, I’ve long realized that those trying teenage years were just a speck of dust in my life.  There were fun and sad and beautiful moments during those growing years, but they didn’t define me all these years later.

My wife is currently teaching a life group at our church all on relationships.  It’s based on author Danny Silk’s book “Keep Your Love On.”  It’s four weeks of soul-searching, pride-crushing, set-your-ego-aside boot camp for strengthening relationships.  All kinds of relationships – spouses, friends, family, co-workers.  It’s applicable for anyone.  She’s been teaching these works for years.  I even wrote about it briefly in a 2016 post dedicated to my wife.

My wife is totally crushing it by the way.  She knows that book forward and backwards.  Does it mean she has relationships mastered?  Hardly.  She’ll be the first to tell you that knowing this information might make it even more difficult, because you know what you’re supposed to be doing, but still sometimes you still mess up.  Like I said before – relationships can be agonizingly frustrating, and let’s add messy to that as well.

Point in case – the picture at the beginning of this post.  You have the always complex brotherly relationship of the two Van Halen brothers.  Virtuoso musical talents are handed out to very few people in this world, but they were handed to the brothers (more so to young Edward, who is considered to be one of the greatest guitar players ever).  Then there’s the new lead singer that had to come in and develop relationships with these brothers and the bass player, Michael Anthony.  Anthony survived both lead singers only to find himself on the outs years ago when Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen was old enough to be in the band and he took over bass duties.  These guys had their share of joy and happiness and unbelievable success, but they’ve also had bitterness and jealousy and destructiveness through the years.  Bands are a lot like families.  There are good times and bad times and sometimes relationships that just don’t work out.

“Familiar faces, familiar sights.  Reach back remember with all your might.”

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These familiar faces are from March of 1986 or thereabouts and they were at the beginnings of new relationship dynamics within the band.  The Van Halen album “5150” was released just before my 15th birthday that year, and it was magical.  I might be unceremoniously ripped of my Van Halen card for spewing such blasphemy, but at one time I considered it my favorite and the best Van Halen album ever.  As I’ve aged though (and grown wiser) I still consider it a top 3 album along with “Van Halen,” and “1984.”

It was the first (and best) Van Halen album with then new lead singer Sammy Hagar.  However, you will find that some Van Halen fans refuse to even recognize this time during Van Halen’s existence.  It’s as if they stopped being Van Halen once original lead singer David Lee Roth exited the picture as Van Halen’s original frontman, and they transformed into a softer, poppier “Van Hagar” instead.

But in 1986, the keyboard was playing a bigger and bigger role in pop music in general and with Eddie experimenting on keys and Sammy stepping in to sing lead and also providing some solid guitar playing himself Van Halen was further transformed into a pop powerhouse in the mid 80’s.

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Who didn’t have a sweet keyboard in the 80’s I ask!

“Love Walks In” was released as a single in July 1986.  I vividly remember the hot, humid, July heat of Oklahoma – mowing the lawn, sweat pouring down the face of a six-foot, barely 140 pound sophomore listening to my Sony Walkman blast the sweet sounds of the reinvented Van Halen into my eardrums.  Listening.  Searching.  Secretly wishing and waiting for love to walk in –  baby, pull the string…

May all of your relationships be built on a solid foundation of unconditional love and if you need it, may the right love come walkin’ in for you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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