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We Take Care Of Our Own

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Song removed at artist's request. Thanks, Bruce, for picking on a 39 year fan who has invested thousands of dollars into your career.

How do men love?

Simple answer: they don't.
Women's answer: not the way you want them to.
Manly answer: by doing.
Realistic answer: D) all of the above.

There's a not-great Blake Edwards movie from the 80's, I can't remember the name of it or who was in it and I haven't tried that hard to find out, but the essence of the movie is that three guys whose friend has recently died decide to give him a Viking burial. You know, flaming funeral pyre on a boat as it drifts out to sea. The movie is set in southern California. In the present day 80's.

Of course, it's played for comic effect, but there is something about that idea that has always haunted me. It's the way a group of fully-grown responsible men ignore risk and law and common sense to fulfill the wishes of one of their ranks. Not that the men that I know spend their days taking on all three of those cosmic forces at once all the time, but certainly, over and over again, in singletons or pairs.

It can be pretty amazing what men will do when they get past feeling stupid, maybe because of something they drank, maybe because stupidity loves company.

Last night, we had a send-off. It only happened through the sheer force of will of one of our friends. At a school where if you retire at the end of a career you get a big to-do, but if you decide to leave willingly, unwillingly, or switch careers, you get a single handclap, my friend said, "No. That's not enough. Not for one of us."

So he orchestrated a night where a) he got a critical mass of people together to celebrate the departing at a time of year when so many have already gone their separate ways, b) he found a location for them to gather and convince them to bring enough food and drink to keep everyone happy, c) he honored the departing with decorations and photographs, d) he put together a video of of our friend's time with us, e) he created a trivia contest based on what people did or didn't know about our friend leaving, and e) he convinced those of us who loosely play in a band to put enough time into practicing some Springsteen songs that our friend leaving loves and then to perform those songs in front of a group of peers who probably didn't even know that we played. And much of it as a surprise.

And so, a ragtag fleet of semi-musicians pulled off acceptable versions of "We Take Care Of Our Own," "Rockaway The Days," "The River," "Cynthia," "No Surrender," and "Glory Days" (as well as a much-later coda of "Cadillac Ranch" for one ukelele and three voices) to a group of awe-struck partygoers. The reasons for their awe may be best left to posterity. And, for you Springsteen aficionados, some "deep cuts," eh?

The older you get, the more you will realize how difficult it is to move masses of people in one direction, let along a variety of directions, some out of their comfort zones, all at once. As another friend of mine commented this morning, "I don't know how he does it."

I know how it was done. It was done out of love. Aw.

My wife and I got into it a bit this week. She is a vegetarian who had backslided recently and then vowed she would never eat meat again. And so, at a start of the week Monday night supper, she eschewed much of the apple-bleu cheese-candied pecan spinach salad I had made her in favor of a desire to eat some of the tuna pasta salad I had made for the rest of us. I tried to hold her to her vow; she didn't see what the big deal was. I suggested that had I known she was back to eating flesh, I might have cooked a different meal. Trouble, hurt feelings, much ado about nothing ensued.

As we tried to process it later, my daughter, the future counselor headed to grad school, offered this analysis: my wife had ignored my "love language," which is to show love through cooking/providing for my wife and family (my wife, the alternative counselor, opined that I was acting like my father...). Anyway, for the purposes of this post, I'm going with my daughter, because I think that her analysis captured an essence.

Men show love by doing. That's not a novel idea, and it certainly didn't originate with me or her. But I think it's pretty true. And after this week, it feels very true. I saw supreme acts of love from men this week (I'm not including me--that would be a tough sell) and, you can mock sentimentality all you like, they were a beautiful thing to see. And no flaming ship sent out into the harbor was even necessary.

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