The first thing I ever wanted to do was be on the radio. I decided this when I was seven. I went to see the Grand Ole Opry with my father. The lights. The steel guitars. The cowboy hats.
I didn’t want to sing on the radio. I wanted to introduce the bands, shake hands with folks in rhinestones. I wanted to hug Minnie Pearl’s neck.
My father said it was a good dream, especially the part about Minnie Pearl.
“Anything’s possible,” Daddy once told me.
By fifth grade, I’d expanded career interests, since ANYTHING was possible. I wanted to be a writer. Maybe even a journalist.
But fifth grade was when life fell apart. I flunked school, which did a number on my mind.
Kids who flunked were doomed to live in vans and visit KFC’s just to lick other people’s fingers.
In seventh grade, things got worse. My father died. I dropped out of school altogether. I never attended high school. It’s not something I’m proud of.
I played a lot of music during that period. By fifteen, I was playing weddings, church socials, feed-store openings, and shoe-store clearances. I played a lot of funerals, too.
Once, I played a Pentecostal funeral. A woman spoke in tongues while I picked “Peace in the Valley.”
I’d never heard such.
The preacher told me to nod and shout “Thank you JEE-ZUSSSSS” when I heard the thus-saith-the-Lords.
In my twenties, I worked construction and played music in the evenings. I played in establishments my mother would have preferred I hadn’t.
I also played piano for a Baptist church on Sundays. That didn’t last long. But that’s a long story I don’t have room for. I will, however, simply say that some Baptists object to playing in beer joints.
Which is no surprise. The Baptists I grew up with objected to all sorts of things. Such as:
—Rock and roll
—Certain types of goldfish
Anyway, by twenty-five, I was a bona fide loser. I had no direction. I attended community college at night and worked by day.
I’ve had too many petty jobs to count. I installed gutters, laid floor, painted houses, drywalled, worked on landscaping crews, and at an ice cream shop.
Blah, blah, blah. Woe is me. I’ll cut to the chase here.
I didn’t like my life. And one night, between college classes, I locked myself in a men’s bathroom stall at the school and talked to my late father. With tears.
He didn’t answer.
“Help me,” I asked.
I don’t know what I was even asking. Maybe for a little guidance.
I sat in a stall for forty-five minutes. Finally, a janitor knocked on the door and said, “You alright, son?”
A sign from On High? I don’t know.
So I don’t know why I’m telling you this. After all, you have your own life story. Mine hasn’t been an exceptional one. In fact, it’s been a glorified bus wreck.
But I am grateful for it. Because there are people who have made it almost beautiful.
People like you. Yes, you. I’ve been writing you every day for four years. You’ve brought me back to life, whether you know it or not.
And not that it matters, but a few nights ago, before a rundown, crowded theater, I introduced a bluegrass band on a live broadcast. The lead singer had rhinestones on his collar. I told a few stories over the air.
It was no Opry. No Minnie Pearl, either. But I don’t feel like a loser anymore.
And that counts for something.
Someone once told me that anything is possible.