“When Did You Leave Heaven?” by Big Bill Broonzy: a chance to connect in the dark

“When Did You Leave Heaven?” the Big Bill Broonzy song played from my iPhone speaker as I held it to my wife’s ear.  It was the end of a long day.

With Mother’s Day, our son’s fifth birthday and busy work schedules, May was a long month. Every weekend was booked. Each time we turned around something else required our attention. But not at this moment.

The day was over. The lights were out, and we were guests at my parents’ house. Our son, Owen, was on a mattress on the floor next to us – actually, he had just rolled off the mattress and he was under our bed as the song continued.

“I am only human

But you are so divine

When did you leave heaven?

Angel mine”

I was playing it to Sarah to make a point. And the point was driven home better than the attempts I made on Mother’s Day. Sarah enjoyed Mother’s Day. I didn’t botch the gifts, or the food, or the celebration. But busyness is ultimately just that, busyness – no matter how well it’s planned.

There was a lot more potential in a couple of minutes spent in the dark listening to a song. The lyrics conveyed sentiments like, “I’m lucky to be with you” and “You make my life heavenly.”

But more than that, there was my core intention. Holding my iPhone to her ear said, at the end of the day, when all else is said and done, I am happy to be with you and I want to make you happy.

What led up to this moment? No custom cake, no Hallmark card, no party guests or wrapping paper—all we shared were a couple of free minutes.

Those free minutes came to us courtesy of a mini vacation over Memorial Day weekend. Staying a couple of nights somewhere else — not at home where we would have had to worry about chores like vacuuming and doing the dishes — made this connection possible.

Our summer kickoff trip and — now that I am thinking about it — all of our good vacations in the past provided not just a break to recharge, but also helped us reconnect.

Forgiveness for the past, looking to the future–the past and future boil down to nothing more than hopes and regrets. Although we think these thoughts are needed to improve our lives, they end up proving to be a kind of conjuration that keeps reality at bay.

Sometimes, it only takes something simple, like an extra day added to the weekend, to expose the shadows on the wall. In my parents’ guest room I wasn’t caught up in the narrative of my life. I wasn’t planning anything or reacting to anything.

This now was just Sarah and a song in the dark.

“When did you leave heaven?

Angel mine”

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