Biff America: Love out of tune |

Biff America: Love out of tune

At one time, he could have been described as a master of the universe, a trope that was used to define the titans of industry, finance, and energy.

His credentials were impressive: Ivy League undergraduate, followed by Harvard Law and an internship for a Senator and future presidential candidate. Over time, he climbed the ranks of the corporate ladder until he was only a few rungs beneath the pinnacle of a worldwide corporation. He flew around the world in corporate jets and first-class commercial, making deals, doing business. 

Some have said his greatest professional hindrance was an unflinching integrity, lack of bravado, and refusal to divert, even a degree, from the true north of his moral compass. His success and wealth gave him pleasure, but certainly did not define him.

Retirement found him on boards both exalted and pedestrian. His passions were studying the works of our founding fathers and spending time with his family. He loved his wife and was proud of his children, but there was residual guilt from the time he was away on business, leaving the care of his children and the managing of their home to his wife.

Some might consider the grand gesture he made at his youngest daughter’s wedding ill-timed and slightly inappropriate. But those at the table where I sat thought it brave and beautiful.

The wedding was so classy I had to borrow clothing to attend. Even then, many mistook me for a waiter. 

I can’t remember the actual ceremony; I’m assuming it was simple and tasteful. I do remember the events pre- and post-vows. It was a three-day festival much like Woodstock, but with less mud. The reception was held in a large tent with a view of the water. The band had set up but had yet to play. Pre-meal, there were toasts and salutations from the best man and bridesmaid. 

It was then that the father of the bride climbed onto the stage. He greeted all the guests. He then welcomed the groom into the family, as well he should. The groom is and was a good man: brilliant, patient, and — considering his new in-laws confuse the internet with something to take fishing —  computer-literate.  

Then the bride’s dad thanked his wife for raising their four children well. He said one of his biggest regrets was the fact that his job had required him to be away from home for so much of their marriage and their children’s lives. He mentioned feeling a sense of dread whenever he had to fly to far flung nations and leave his family behind.

He looked into the crowd, searching for his wife of over 50 years. Then he started to sing in a voice not used to being heard in public, 

         “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breaking, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waiting, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome I could die, so kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you’ll wait for me, hold me like you’ll never let me go, ’cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again, oh babe I hate to go.”

If it were any other song, sung by any other person, at any other time and place, it might have seemed odd or out of place. But coming from that guy, at that time, it was a courageous tribute to a woman he has loved since high school.

Aside from the stiffness, wrinkles, and finite inevitability of years lived, it can also add perspective and an awareness of the fallacy of pride. 

That old guy wasn’t seeking our approval. He was offering matter-of-fact appreciation to a woman he loves, knowing that he might not have another chance to do so in such a public setting. I also can’t help but think he was setting an example for his daughter and her new husband. 

         “Now the time has come to leave you, one more time let me kiss you, then close your eyes and I’ll be on my way, dream about the days to come when I won’t have to leave alone, about the times I won’t have to say… I’m leaving on a jet plane…”

I guess if you live enough years, you worry less about how you appear to others, or in a mirror, than you do about missing a moment.

And sometimes that beautiful moment can be made all the more special when it is sung off-key.

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