By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette — Patty Page, the 85-year old Oklahoman whose most popular song was “The Tennessee Waltz,” died on New Year’s Day.
So now, I do something that I know my mother always did whenever she heard the beautiful, sweet, flowering voice of Page waft from the old AM radio. My Kentucky-born, West Virginian-raised young mother would pause, ask us children to hush, and then still herself as she listened and smiled.
My mom died when I was 7, and I learned to love the song, the Tennessee Waltz. It was because I loved my mom, and she loved that song. And although the song, “In the Garden” played at my mother’s funeral, I think of mom and feel as though I’m in a beautiful garden with her, whenever I hear Page’s signature song.
Randy Lewis, of the Los Angeles Times, wrote of the death of the legendary Patti Page by saying that she, “…offered a soothing counterpart to the revolutionary new sound of rock 'n' roll …”
But Page offered me much, much more than just that; and she always will. Here’s why.
Community liaison Allen Booker asked me why I write and do community service. I had always thought that I looked into my soul to understand why I did specific things, but I had never really given too much thought to that broader question. The answer came quickly; and mutedly, somewhat reluctantly, I told him, “I guess it is just that I have always been trying to find my mother.”
In all likelihood, had mom lived, the things that I do she would have been doing too; but much more and much better.
In late September of 2010, I wrote about why I liked country music in a story about the road to Peterborough, Ont. That was before Booker asked me why I did the things that I do. Well, soon after my mom died, my country-born, Alabama-raised dad would spend even more time with us by taking us on long fishing trips. To be on the river by sunrise, we had to rise early in the morning and follow the truckers up those long, dark and lonely stretches of highway. As we passed near the isolated AM radio antenna towers, the only music that faded in and out from the radio was that of country music.
I think that I have done a lot in life and have helped an awful lot of people along the way. People will forget those things; I forget many of them, myself. One day, along with countless other names, someone will etch mine into the stone face of a monument somewhere, where thereafter people will forget it. Also forgotten will be the yellow and fading newspapers whereupon my words are written. What of those echoes of my soul that are now on Google searches? Those successive waves of data terabytes that herald others who have recently done much more than I could ever dream to do will drown them all.
And it is only fitting that those things happen; because in this life that we share with each other, most others will forget those things that nearly all of us have done. However, what they will remember best, as Randy Lewis implied in his words about Patty Page, is how we soothingly made them and others feel – feel about themselves and feel about others; even those people whom we will never meet.
I encounter many experiences in life, hailing from the country roots of my soul and the amplifying echoes of the music of the coal mines and of cane fields from where my parents came. We all do. But I will cherish most those soothing feelings of how Patty Page, and others, made me feel in life, and what she made me feel about others. When I enter that granite garden for the last time, when I am placed beneath that small monument, near where my parents now rest – that monument where just my name appears - my soul will carry those feelings with me. It is only there that I will finally and fully understand the answer to Booker’s question: why I did what I did in life. There, when I am with my parents again, hushed and still, and sharing, among other things, the soothing echoes of Patti Page.
We should all find ourselves honestly making someone’s heart sing today, making them feel good about themselves; like Patty Page once did.Contact Ken Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.