When I made my flight reservations for the trip, I booked in and out of Raleigh, NC, even though I knew we'd be driving up to Virginia and back. With the current TSA regulations and restrictions, it just made everything easier to come and go from the same location. Our obligations ended early Saturday evening, so Leah and I decided to go ahead and drive back to Raleigh that night instead of waiting to leave early Sunday. The drive would take over three hours, but we weren't too tired, the weather was good and getting back on Saturday would give Leah all day Sunday to get ready to return to work on Monday. Off we went. The first half of the drive, at least, was on smaller country highways; we didn't hit the interstate until almost into North Carolina. It was quiet, not much traffic and an easy drive. We fell into talking about all that had happened over the last few days and how good it had been to spend time together and with our mutual friend, Vicki. Our conversation was relaxed and flowing, typical of long-time friends who drift from subject to subject, back and forth. We agreed ahead of time to keep talking so whoever was driving wouldn't get sleepy, since we both have turned into chickens in our old age -- we go to sleep when it's dark and wake up with the sun. We talked of previous road trips and I told her how my niece, Carrie, and I passed the time when we were driving together by singing. We'd say, "Sound of Music," and proceed to sing all the songs from that show we could remember, laughing and making up lyrics when we didn't know the right words. Then we'd go on to "Mary Poppins," or "John Denver." When I said those last words, that did it for Leah and me and we launched into "Take Me Home Country Roads," substituting "North Carolina" for "West Virginia," even though the syllables don't match.
I didn't realize how many John Denver songs I remembered. You know how it is when you start singing, words flow from your mouth without thinking, words I haven't sung in years and years, words that, if you asked me, I couldn't tell you. But when you sing them, another part of your brain takes over and they flow out, as if you just sang them yesterday. I told Leah that I remembered how much I loved John Denver's music when I was young. I had several albums, but my favorite was a live, double album, "An Evening With John Denver." I would lie on my bed at night, giant headphones on so I could turn the volume up high, listen to those songs and sing along. I was really great on harmonies and imagined that one day, John or someone like him would discover that and ask me to sing backup. Leah and I laughed about that.
We talked about John Denver and what a nice, sweet guy he always seemed to be. We were both fans of his television show and just loved his persona. I know he had some sort of substance abuse problems in his life, and it is sad to think that his marriage to Annie -- she who inspired "Annie's Song" ended in divorce -- but overall I remember his laughter and seemingly wide-eyed fascination with life. It still hurts to think about him tragically dying while piloting a new aircraft, one of his passions. I'll never forget this really sweet man who wasn't ashamed to be sweet.
I returned home and, almost immediately, downloaded "An Evening With John Denver" from iTunes. Each night this week I've plugged my earbuds into my iPad and listened to those songs as I fall asleep, somewhere around the fourth or fifth one. Today I'm sharing with you the song that I think best expresses the sweetness of John Denver, "The Boy From The Country," (not to be confused with "Thank God I'm A Country Boy.) I hope you enjoy it and take a minute to remember the spirit of this truly nice man.
Thanks for stopping by. It's good to be back; I'll see you tomorrow.