We were at the farm, piddling, the sun shining and as I walked into the barn I saw the speakers. Black, heavy, cumbersome with huge, round diaphragms dusty from movement and storage, I had been trying to find a place for them. I considered once more on giving them up. Spiders had spun sloppy webs around their black carpet sides. Dirt dobbers had muddied the insides, creeping through the large round holes near the base of each, depositing their muddy spit. The knowledge of whether they were even functional rattled around in my head, making me wonder how far I would allow sentimentality to trump common sense.
The speakers had been my oldest son’s, the one in Heaven now.
If you knew Jake, you knew they were something he would purchase. He was one for quantity, willing to sacrifice quality for big, flashy, and loud, which I assumed these things were when working.
The story I have cobbled together was that Jake bought them sometime as a young Corp of Cadet chaplain at A&M.
Although I suppose he showed them off to me in a door room a decade ago, I have no recollection. When he graduated in 2001, he moved back to Houston, they moved too. I may have a very vague memory of them in the house he shared then, Friends-like, only blocks from his childhood home. But I could have made this up, a product of desperate memory or fear of memories that were fading. Between the years of college and his death, I have no real accounting of those black speakers. My first certain notice of them was in my garage when he left the final time.
In 2007, I dragged them out of my garage and into his younger brother’s at Fort Hood, figuring that upon that one’s return from Iraq he would like a set of speakers that might provide block party value. Five years worth of dry storage in hill country Texas, and they came back to humid Houston and my garage in 2011. Before Christmas I carted them to the farm and moved them from one corner of the barn to another, their drivers and electrical components most likely suffering the interim and they an eyesore, one I could not let go of.
Each time I brought the speakers to their attention, Jake’s younger brothers provided a bit more information on the history of them in their brother’s life.
The story that was emerging was that Jake had seen the need for public announcement capacity in the halls of the cadet dorm and he’d seen to it in spades. I can imagine him manhandling the heavy, awkward Peaveys, generally intended for stationary use, to the most acoustically responsive locations he could find. Once there, whatever message he intended to provide audio transmission for, be it fish wake up calls or blues suitable to a chaplain’s message, the waves went out across, below and through. I can only imagine what he paid for them and what he pawned to do so.
Looking again at them, though I had never seen the campus activity, I could see Jake using music through those speakers to communicate to those who would listen. He’d certainly shared it with me. During those college years, as often as he was blaring music through his dancehall speakers, I’m thinking he called me and had me listen to a song he’d come across. I was linked to the speakers because Jake was consistent in his desire to share music. No wonder I was carting and storing the dadblasted things with no idea if they were usable.
With a last look towards the speakers, having moved them yet again over near the veterinary operating table that housed the memories of friend who had kept care of my dogs before he too went to Heaven, I wondering briefly if I could hang them from the rafters of the barn. I was not about to ask any of my family to do such a thing and fairly certain I couldn’t do it myself, I just shook my head and thought, another day.
I heard a horn honk. A and HRC had arrived.
A and HRC are newlyweds, HRC and my youngest having one of those kinds of friendships. The kind that started when they weren’t old enough to choose friends other than through local geography and then find that if they’d been born a world apart, they would have still hoped they’d have become friends.
HRC, a bit overworked from his downtown Houston job, had a sack in his hands. I could see Radio shack in red letters on the side.
“He’s going to see if he can get music to come out of Jake’s speakers.” A told me, like it was as likely a statement for her to issue as how nice the weather was today.
As they walked in front of me, I choked, struggling just a bit to stifle a sob that issued from a healed, broken heart. How did they knew they were Jake’s? How did they know I hoped those stupid speakers could still transmit waves of sounds? Why had HRC chosen this day to investigate whether electrical components remained functional from Jake’s days of use?
Everyone scattering to their own task or interest, I raised my chin, watched the clouds drift across the sky above me and considered Heaven. Soaking the in peace of the farm, bounded by spring green all around, I did what I have come to do as I have gotten older, rested in the Creator who did all this. It’s a place beyond where life never overwhelms.
It wasn’t long before I heard a throaty female voice, all bluesy, sliding around the notes in a minor key and I knew HRC had been successful. It was HRC’s choice of song he broadcast across the Peavey speakers but it might as well have been Jakes. Or mine.
I am not going to lie and say that I had just a smile on my face. It mingled with the tears that flowed freely as I walked towards the barn. Once there, HRC talked to me about keeping something dry and a new driver for this, while he wrote the instructions down.
“You can just plug your iPhone in,” he said. “I’m not sure about the sound board at this point,” he finished.
Jake never experimented with the power of iPhones or iPads. But he had done so with Walkmans and such.
Life moves forward and we adapt to what is new and comes to us. We adapt well or we don’t. Love is the things that makes us do it well. Love for a son. Or love for the Creator. But mostly because love flows the other way, always, from the Father who resides in Heaven and gives good gifts, through the hands of friends, sons and diaphragms of loudspeakers that once echoed, a long time ago and yet a moment, in a Texas college dorm then and now on a farm.