by Johnny High Ground

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Small-town girl of seventeen, you know she must have seemed a dream to that eighteen-year-old from the city. She could paint and she could sing; he gave her his mother’s ring, and the rest, they say, is history. I gotta wonder if she knew what she was getting herself into when she caught my father’s eye. But looking back, I don’t expect that she’s got any regrets; that just wouldn’t be her style. ‘Cause when the nightmares come calling or there’s trouble at the door, and you run to her just like you’ve run a thousand times before, and you ask her for advice, she will reply, “All you gotta do is smile.”* Now, Jim was born in ’54, so she had almost a year before her life was turned inside out. It was forty years before I left and they had the place to themselves, and that’s really all I care to know. Yet from the tiniest of scrapes to the heaviest of heartbreaks she’s been there to heal the pain with the hands of a sculptor, and the voice of an angel, and the patience of a saint. Now seven decades out the door, and we all hope for seven more (though we’d settle for three or four). Things may be getting hard these days, but you’ve lost none of your grace, none of your beauty, and none of your strength. I will remember until I die: you said, “I can see the fire in your eyes. I pray you warm the world, not burn it down.” Well, the best way that I know how is to live my life the way you live yours now and pass your simple message on. So when my own kids come calling ’cause there’s trouble at the door, and they run to me just like I ran to you a hundred thousand times before, and they ask me for advice, I will reply, “All you gotta do is smile.”
What can I say that hasn’t been said? Take a look around and see where your footsteps have led: this room is a testament to you, though these words are the best that I can do— not to try to repay the gifts of your heart, ’cause we all know there’s no way; I wouldn’t know where to start except to say “thank you.” Looking back now, I wish that I could take those shouts back somehow, and let you know that I understood that this room is a testament to you, though these words are the best that I can do. The epic wars, the angry roars— but I’m not angry anymore, so thank you for every time a job’s done right— for every time I bite down on my pride— for heavy plates and brimming cups— for every word you made me look up— for forcing us to make our stands, but always standing close with those helping hands— for strength of will and clear eyes— for every time my mother smiles— for our very lives— thank you.


These are songs written for the occasions of my mother's and father's seventieth birthdays. I am a good son.


released January 20, 2002

written and performed by Joe Rybicki


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Johnny High Ground Cleveland, Ohio

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