MJ …

Question 3: Can I keep going if it doesn’t get better?

April 27, 2012

 

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity.

(1,497) 

I met her quite by accident.

I had finally manipulated my way into getting a guest spot on the Teddy Bart Show in Nashville, Tennessee. It was one of those regional talk shows common in the 1970′s and had quite a following in a three or four state area. At least, that’s my memory. The show had never invited a gospel group onto perform before, so it was quite a victory to be appearing on the venue.

It was great. After the performance, I received a phone call from some unknown gentleman who told me that he was a representative for Marijohn Wilkin. I knew the name because she was a fairly well-known songwriter at the time, having just penned, performed and promoted the songs, One Day at a Time (Sweet Jesus) and I Have Returned.The man on the other end of the line said that he had set up a meeting for me with Ms. Wilkin for that very afternoon. He gave me directions and informed me that I needed to be there promptly at 1:30 P.M.

Well, you can imagine–I was thrilled. I had gone from being a Central Ohio boy whom nobody liked because I wouldn’t “work a job” and persisted in pursuing music, to being a fellow who had a group that won some contests, transforming into a bit older guy who had one of his songs signed by a group called The Rambos–a popular gospel group at the time. And now, having just appeared on the Teddy Bart Show, I was being pursued by a successful artist and writer for further consideration.

So as requested, promptly at 1:30 P.M., I, along with my group, arrived at Buckhorn Publishers on Music Row in Nashville, walking in the door like I kind of owned the place and announcing myself to the secretary. She stared down at her appointment book in bewilderment, disappeared into a nearby office and I realized there must be some problem. After what seemed to be an interminable delay, a slight woman finally appeared from the inner office, wearing a scarf on her head, dangling earrings and greatly resembling a gypsy princess. Her voice was husky–like she had been up for two or three nights straight, screaming at a parcel of kids. She was a bit gruff, so she kind of scared me, but through the hoarse voice and gruff mannerisms, I received an invitation to come into her office with my group.

She proceeded to explain that no appointment had been made for us and that the gentleman who called on the phone was an old alcoholic buddy of hers who occasionally pranked innocent boys and girls from Ohio who came to Nashville looking for fame and success, throwing her name around to make himself look important. I was humiliated–devastated. I was in a strange lady’s office who had the entire garb and persona to cast a spell on me.

She didn’t. Instead, she asked to hear our music. We stayed there for the next four hours and talked, laughed and cried. She became my friend. She was my producer. I spent hours and hours at her lovely home on the outskirts of Nashville, talking about music, playing music, meeting famous people and swimming in her pool–warmed to a perfect 98.6 degrees.

I remember many things about that experience, but one of the things I will always take with me is that Marijohn would occasionally fall apart. She wouldn’t show up at work and they would tell me that she was at home, trying to get over “a spell.” When I inquired further, I was given no information, and the attitude was that I should keep my nose to myself. I don’t do that very well, so I decided to drive out one time during one of those spells, to find out what was actually going on. During the drive, I had all sorts of imaginations–drug addiction, alcoholism, and … well, I was young. My brain went kind of nutzoid.

When I arrived, she was alone in her living room with her legs propped up–reading. She welcomed me in and I knelt down next to her, took her hand and asked, “Marijohn, what’s wrong with you?”

She quietly set her book aside and removed her reading classes, looked me in the eye and said, “Son, I have cardiovascular disease. Every once in a while it just hurts to move, think and breathe, and if I just shut down for a season, I appear to get better.”

I asked her if there was anything they could do. She said they were doing that–and more–but still, there were times where nothing worked as well as general “stoppage.” She also said she used those times to write, think and pray–and to look deeply into her soul. She jokingly told me that without the cardiovascular disease she might avoid all of those things.

I felt like I had stepped on holy ground. The room was so quiet, so preciously charged with spiritual energy, that I was unworthy to be there and was an interruption instead of a blessed presence of visitation. She sensed my awkwardness and said, “I’m glad you came. But you must understand–if it weren’t for this problem I have, I would never have written One Day at a Time (Sweet Jesus). I may have never have written anything at all. I would not call this condition my friend, but it is an enemy that fools me from time to time by providing me with unexpected gifts.”

I excused myself, went out and got into my beat-up Volkswagen Beetle with the dent in the nose and headed back to Nashville. I learned something that day. Here was a woman who had no particular prospects of her situation ever getting better, who ignored bitterness, rejected complacency and eschewed self-pity–to continue to produce the gift that life had provided for her.

Since that day, my youthful frame has gained miles of carriage usage. I, too, have developed pains. I, too, have acquired “spells.” And every time I am accosted with my own mortal aching, I remember that morning in that living room, where I knelt by the side of a brave woman who looked on her affliction as an affection that lured her towards beauty.

I try to do it myself. I try to be brave. I try to put my feet up and let life go by for a few minutes, so that God can come in for just a little while.

Marijohn lived for many years. I suppose the cardiovascular disease finally caught up with her and took her for one eternal “spell”–to a place where she could perpetually be creative. I suppose that will happen to all of us eventually.

Until then, our only job remains to keep going–even if it doesn’t get better.

 

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://jonathots.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/mj-april-27-2012/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: