Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
March 4 in Kent, OH Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard. A performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 11 in Joliet, IL Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
Dec 10 in Ottumwa Iowa Keillor & Company: A PRAIRIE HOME HOLIDAY. Let’s come together for a Christmas sing-along, some Poetry, the News from Lake Wobegon and some holiday cheer with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard.
The world is turning wondrous again, maples and ash and goldenrod turning golden Van Gogh colors and I got into a weepy mood on Tuesday, which is unusual for me, a man with dry eyes, but I was overwhelmed by everything happening at once, thinking of an old friend and sweet singer who’d died, and on Tuesday a reunion of my Anoka high school class (1960), feeling kinship to old rivals and antagonists but now we’re all in the same boat, a sinking ship. The names of some of our dead were mentioned, including Henry Hill Jr., a star athlete and a good guy who enlisted in the Army and made first lieutenant and was killed in action in Quang Ngai province in 1968, leading his unit of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division.
The woman who spoke of Henry remembered a few lines of a song I wrote about him, “His picture’s on the piano in a silver frame and his family weeps if you speak his name. In ’68 he went off to the war and now he’s forever 24.”
And then that evening I opened my phone to find a picture of twin baby girls born the night before in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, to my nephew Jon and his wife, Hieu, two sleeping infants tightly wrapped with little skullcaps, arrived by C-section. Each of them has two names, a Vietnamese and an American, and the plan is that they’ll have a Vietnamese childhood and then come to America to start school. Vietnam is in lockdown to control COVID and so their American grandma can’t go see them but she can study them on FaceTime all she likes.
It was too much for one day, so I sat and wept, remembering that I was not a good father — I never wanted to be one — I only wanted to go down to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I asked was a tall ship and a star to steer her by. But Suzanne took me down to her place by the river and the sight of her turned my brain matter to Jell-O and I touched her perfect body with my mind and instead of the white sail’s shaking and a grey dawn breaking suddenly I was eating breakfast with a lady with a basketball under her nightgown who was nauseous and held me responsible.
A lot for one day, to see up close the ravages of old age and remember the tragedy of Henry Hill and then to see these beautiful sleeping infants in Saigon, the center of one of our country’s two disastrous wars of my era, children of parents born after that war ended, and all this coming at a time when I, along with most people I know, am fearing for the future of our beloved country for which Lieutenant Hill’s life was taken: the heart breaks, it simply does.
Henry is remembered not for his athleticism so much as his openhearted friendship with everyone he knew. He was a Black kid in a very white school and kindness was in his nature. He would’ve been an excellent daddy, but he put on the uniform and followed orders and was killed soon after arrival. And now these two infants lie sleeping who someday will come to America and pledge allegiance and learn to play basketball, maybe ice hockey, and maybe they’ll come to love jokes and cheeseburgers and one day sit beside the Mississippi and if I’m still around, I’d sing “Shall we gather at the river where bright angels’ feet have trod” and then maybe “I got a feeling called the blues, oh Lord, since my baby said goodbye. Lord, I don’t know what I’ll do, all I do is sat and sigh” so they get to hear both sides.
I looked up the song I wrote long ago; the last verse is:
I’m older now and bitter today
At how our country has lost its way
But the young ones coming, I hope they will
Redeem the faith of Henry Hill.
It’s a large responsibility to put on two infant girls and their parents but I do. My classmates and I are united by our mortality and the young are united by possibility. We have learned nothing from history; the little girls will grow up free of our history and I pray they find their way to the shining river that flows by the throne of God.