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Terry's defining moment

  • Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I was asked recently what I would do for love, and my reply was something of a sad one: “Not enough.”

When I think about what a man will do for love, I remember Terry, a kid who lived on my street growing up.

Back in third grade, Terry asked to borrow my guitar because he wanted to use it to serenade Tammy, the girl who lived at the end of the street. Terry loved her. He didn’t care who knew, either.

I admired him for that.

We all thought Terry was a little dense for wanting to do this, but he didn’t care. He was single-minded in his resolve.

So I gave him my guitar.

All of the neighborhood guys were there: Me, Jeff, Skeeter, Moose, Tommy, Roger, Greg and Rick, and we followed Terry down the hill to Tammy’s house because none of us had ever seen anything like this before.

“I love her, and I want to sing her a song.”

You have to admire a man with that kind of conviction.

Terry stopped in front of Tammy’s house, positioned the guitar and strummed like Elvis.

‘Oh Tammy ...’

Terry didn’t know the first thing about playing the guitar. Didn’t matter none to him. He just started singing: “Oh Tammy … won’t you be my baby? Please say yes, don’t say no … not even maybe.”

Terry hadn’t yet grasped the whole concept of shoe tying, and his torn and mud-grimed Chuck Taylors dangled loose laces like floppy bassett hound’s ears.

So for Terry to have successfully completed a grammatically correct quatrain, with words that rhymed no less, was a major Darwinian moment for him.

We watched in train-wrecked silence.

We were witnessing a man going down in a blaze of glory in the name of Love for the first time in our lives.

We also realized Terry hadn’t thought this whole thing out beyond the first four lines of his song.

He was in third grade. He lacked the capacity to plan, and Terry never was one mistaken for a great thinker.

Jeff asked, “Shouldn’t we help him out?”

Oh no. Terry was flying and crashing solo on this one.

As Terry continued to strum the guitar segueing into a continuous chorus of, “Oh Tammy’s,” the front door opened and out stepped Tammy’s dad.

Run Terry.

Forget the guitar, just run.

I had already taken a few retreating steps toward home.

I stopped when I saw Tammy step outside with him.

Life-defining moment

You couldn’t help but stop. I knew why Terry loved her. I think at that moment I did too.

Each of us knew, one day, we too would be presented with this Life Defining Moment.

Do you let the moment define you?

Or do you define the moment?

Terry defined the moment. He simply set the guitar at his side and stood there to accept his fate. He was a man in love.

“Terry, that was a really nice song you played,” Tammy’s dad said, and he gave Tammy a nudge.

Tammy, who stood at her dad’s hip, was now forced to speak.

“Yes Terry, I appreciate your song,” and then she said it, those magic words. “It was really sweet. Thank you.”

Tammy’s dad said it was time to go home since Tammy had homework to do.

“Yes sir,” Terry replied and we marveled at the grace and dignity of Terry’s moment as he took a step backward and extended an arm in a single, all-encompassing sweep.

“I love you Tammy,” he said and bowed.

Terry walked back up the street to where we waited. He handed me the guitar. He just stood there and smiled, big dopey grin and all.

Like a ground-in grass stain, it took a week for that smile to wear off.

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