Later that year there was a new couple moved into Joyce & Cary’s neighborhood, just across the street…. It wasn’t long before Jim & I were invited over to meet them. Their names were Harry & Mary…. Mary was a gorgeous dark haired gal, they were about 10 years older than us, but, had kids, our kids ages. Four little precious girls, stair step, starting at about age seven…going down to a four year old.
Mary was outgoing, loud, never met a stranger, had an addictive laugh, and loved to entertain. Mary played the guitar and sang…. She and Harry had met while each of them played in a band. They married and had the kids, then Harry decided it was time to get a real job, settle down and take care of his family…
The first time I remember meeting them, Joyce called one evening and ask us over for hamburgers. When Jim got home we went, had a fast supper with them and they suggested we walk over and meet the new neighbors. They were just finishing supper, introductions were made, we helped clear the table and here came Mary with her guitar….
Right away she begin to sing and encouraged all the rest of us to join in. Joyce had an old guitar so she went home to get it….soon there was a small jam session going…..Having been born and raised with music, I was enjoying every moment of it, and Mary kept telling Harry to go get his guitar….
I figured Harry would be just another “picker”, but to my surprise, when he started in it was one of the most special sounds I’ve ever heard…. This guy was good! He played in a Merle Travis style that not many can match… He had a special way of doubling the melody and when he kicked in to “I’ll see you in my dreams” you couldn’t tell the difference between he & Merle… He wasn’t just another picker, he was talented and very much a professional. He made Mary sound great and you could see and hear the years of experience between them….. Harry was good friends with a couple of big name stars in Nashville, and had been invited many times to play in recording sessions with them…
However; Harry was just Harry, said he had seen what their careers had done to their family lives and wanted no part of it…. His family meant more to him than that.
Joyce, Mary and I became close friends, as was our kids….. We spent a lot of time together… we all had metal detectors in those days and would spend hours at the park or out in the country trying to find treasures….of course there was always a party in the planning, coffee klatch’s were more mornings than not…..
The parties were awesome, now we had real entertainment! Harry and Mary were good together, Mary even got me into writing songs….nothing great but I was able to finish a few they enjoyed doing….. It was a fun time in our lives…. The guys all got along great and the six of us spent a lot time together.
Often times I would get a call to come to Joyce or Mary’s house for coffee and when I got there, maybe around 9 in the morning, they had already opened the bar and both were drinking. Never really caring for liquor, and having seen it destroy a lot of families, it was not fun any more to sit over there and watch the two of them get drunk. We stayed friends but I did not go over as many mornings out of the week as I had before…
We did continue to get together with them as couples, or if any one of us needed anything the other was there for them. I remember a particular Sunday afternoon, Jim was home and we got a phone call from Mary…. Harry had to go out on a job and wasn’t home, so she had gotten another neighbor to babysit and she was down at one of the local bars.. Mary did not like to be alone, she ask if we would come down for a while….. We did, and soon it was obvious she was very drunk but was entertaining all the old boys lined up and down the bar stools…. Jim and I were finally able to get her out of there about an hour later – drove her home and made sure she and the kids were ok……..
It’s hard to remember dates and times this many years later, but I know it was during the late summer, we were all getting ready for the kids to go back to school and Mary & Harry’s oldest was probably 9. Their youngest was going to start kindergarten that year.
Mary called and said she was coming over…. I put a pot of coffee on and she showed up within minutes, all the little girls in tow. She seemed agitated and nervous when she arrived and told all the kids to go out and play then dropped the bomb. She told me she had written Harry a note and she was leaving, and had brought the kids to me to take care of until he got home. It all came out in one long breathless sentence…
I was more than stunned…. No Mary, I told her…. You cannot do this! She told me that she wanted to pursue her career and she would not be able to keep the kids with her…. She knew they would be safe with me until Harry could find someone full time to watch after them. She already had a train ticket that would take her to Chicago, then she could call her sister to pick her up and drive to their old home. She would make her plans from there, but she would never have contact with Harry or the girls again…
I begged her not to do this…. I cried, I yelled, I cussed her out, I pleaded with her, I told her everything I could think of…. That she would regret it, what beautiful children she was leaving, and that she could never replace them with an entertainment career…. I told her how I knew how much Harry loved her and that’s why he worked so hard…. I begged some more, but nothing would change her mind. She went outside and kissed each of the girls, got in the car and drove herself to the train station….. I sat and cried. I called Jim and ask him to come home early if possible… He got there shortly after 5:00. I had fixed supper so I could feed all the kids and us before it got too late. I knew Harry usually got home around 5:30. Sure enough it wasn’t long before the phone ring and it was him…. Mary had told him in “the note” where the kids were and where the car was. He came over, stayed and talked and cried for a while with Jim and I, thanked us for being there for him & the girls, had Jim drive him to get the car then came back for his car and the girls. Then he asked if he could bring them back at 6:00 in the morning until he could figure out a plan….For the time being we were a family of nine instead of five….. I was never able to understand how she did what she did…..
I kept them every day for about six weeks until he found a full time lady to watch them in the mornings before school and every day after school, and help him with shopping and preparing meals…. Eventually he did find someone, an older lady about 60 who was widowed, needed extra income, and lived a long distance from her own family. She arrived every morning to help get the girls ready for school…clean house, cook an evening meal and stay with the girls until Harry got home at night.
Mary took nothing with her except her clothes & her guitar…. In the years to come she never ask Harry for anything… she simply disappeared from their lives for at least another 15 years…..
We took care of Harry and the girls, had them over for meals, took the girls shopping, and though no one could ever replace their mother, I tried to fill that gap she left. Harry just continued to work hard and be there for them as much as he could. For sure, it was never the same.
After a couple of years Harry got transferred through his job, and he and the girls moved to St. Louis MO. They came back to visit us and we went to visit them many times…. He raised them with all the love any Dad would have for his daughters and if he ever thought about it, he never once said anything about turning away from his responsibilities. His girls grew up to be fine decent women with lives of their own, never wanting anything to do with their Mother….. During those years I received many calls from Harry and each of the girls asking for help in many situations from “I hate my Dad and all my sisters and I’m running away”….to “Teri started her period today, what am I supposed to do”! Thank goodness most of the problems were easily solved by the end of the phone call, be it from one of the girls or their Dad. The girls remain close friends with Jim and I, and our kids to this day, and still call me “Mom”…..
Mary did surface a couple of times…. Once when the girls were in high school, and again after they had all left home. I encouraged them to try and forgive but they would not out of loyalty to their Dad. Mary never tried to get in contact with me again and I never spoke to her again.
Harry would often call when he got lonely after the girls had left home. Or he would call to discuss a new song he had heard, or a trip to visit one the of girls, or some funny thing he had read or heard.…… The phone rang one evening and he said you’ve got to hear this song! He told me he had heard a remake on the radio the other day, and had went shopping and found the original on a CD that day, and that it had been so many years he had forgotten about it. It was an old Bob Wills tune, "Goin Away Party” He had the CD blaring in the back ground and when it got to the line “Dreams don’t make noise when they die”, he stopped it and played it over again…. He said that’s got to the be the best line ever written in music….. Dreams don’t make noise when they die. He said “boy that says it all don’t it”.…. As it turned out I also had the disc set “Bob Will's Encore,” disc 3. Harry knew his music and I was his number one fan….
A couple of weeks later one of his daughters called to tell me he died….. Jim and I immediately got a plane and flew to the funeral…. Of course he had also shared the song with the girls so they played it that day. I am proud to say we remained close to Harry until his death in 2002. The world lost a talented man that day, but it also lost a wonderful human being.
The oldest daughter called to tell me she had gotten word from a family member that Mary had died just two weeks after Harry died….
They were indeed a special couple and I always felt they belonged together…. Starry dreams in the eyes of one and reality in the eyes of the other kept them apart. There are other stories relating to Harry and/or Mary or the girls that I’m sure will come up later…
My relationship with Harry and Mary taught me much about the uncertainty in life and human nature and the pain associated with love.