“Good afternoon, Terry Michaels with you on the AM dial. You’re listening to KDAC, Fort Bragg. Sunshine with occasional high clouds can be expected throughout the day, highs will reach around seventy-two degrees. And now… here’s a blast from the past off the request line… The Fifth Dimension…”
“Billl! I love you so, I always will…”
The song was ‘Wedding Bell Blues’. It would not be the first time I would play this nostalgic sixties hit nor would it be the last. Everyday it was the same caller with the same request. “Hey Tuh… Tuh… Terry. Cuh… cuh… can you puh… play wuh… wuh… Wedding buh-Bell Blues? Puh… puh… please, Terry?” His name was Bill, just like in the song. Lead singer Marilyn McCoo serenades the man of her dreams, pleading for his hand in marriage. “Won’t you marry me, Billll…” she belts out with every ounce of passion she can muster. She woos. She charms. She hopes. Things worked out pretty well for the sultry songstress. She did marry… a guy named Bill! He also sang with the Fifth Dimension.
Bill of KDAC request-line fame wasn’t so fortunate. He never did marry. He did come close once. Bill and Cindy were sweethearts. She wore his ring. They had gotten engaged and the date was set. Yes, Bill was in love… deeply in love. But Cindy left. She promised she would always be there but… she left. True story. Sad story. Cindy left Bill. She left after the accident; the one that left Bill impaired… brain damaged. It was this very accident that slowed Bill down… way, way down. Bill wasn’t the same anymore so Cindy left. Ever since that sorrowful day she said goodbye Bill spent his days calling the request line. As soon as the record ended he would call again. “Cuh… cuh… can you puh-play it one more tuh… tuh… time, tuh-Terry?” he would plead with a stammer, “Puh… puh… please?”
Cindy did what most any other young gal would have done in her situation. After all, things change. Circumstances change. Plans change. People change. Bill changed so Cindy changed her mind. That’s just human nature. It keeps the back door open a crack just in case there’s a need to slip away. Folks need a quick out in the event of some unforeseen change. Even love comes with a brake pedal. It’s there for those sudden stops where turns get risky. We will recite vows openly and publicly but the stipulations remain undisclosed. The strings attached to our promises stay hidden. They only come out should things change. We hope they don’t but there is always a contingency plan for if they do. It’s buried somewhere in the back of our minds… crumpled up so we never have to look at it… unless, of course, something unexpected comes up.
“Cuh… cuh… can you puh… play it again, Tuh… Terry?” Bill would stutter. “Puh… puh… please?” Usually I wouldn’t but sometimes I would. And as soon as the song faded to an end the phone would ring. “Thuh… thanks for puh… playing my song, tuh… tuh… Terry,” he politely would tell me, “Cuh… cuh… can I muh… meet you? Puh… please?” I explained to Bill how I had a policy never to meet with listeners. It was true. I adapted that rule when Bill started calling.
Cindy’s dream changed but poor Bill’s never did. He lived for a song, a memory of what once was, a reminder of what would never be. She left. She left him with dashed hopes and a crushed heart. And everyday Bill would call the request line, at least a dozen times a day, to request the melody that became ‘their’ song… back when they dreamed together… when love was reckless, wild and in full bloom. I wondered if the ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ soothed the pain or added to it. But when the bull horns blasted through the fog filled air I suspected that the melody he lived for only added to his sorrows.
The thunderous bull horns could be heard echoing from the coastal bluffs to the majestic pines and throughout the still city. They sounded off only when there was an emergency to alert the fire and rescue volunteers. After that, it was up to us at KDAC to call and get the news release so we could broadcast the story. If it was a suicide attempt by Bill we didn’t air it. I suppose we could have by leaving his name out but most would have figured it was him anyway. So we just canned it. Then days would pass and Bill would be calling again, “Cuh… cuh… can you puh… play the wuh… wuh… Wedding Bell Blues? Puh… puh… please?”
* * * * *
Neither you nor I can really be sure what we would have done had we been in Cindy’s shoes. Even what we may call ‘unconditional love’ has conditions under extreme circumstances. There may be a lot of thick layers over it but there is a threshold within the heart of every person. We can only take so much. I’m not justifying our inadequacies I’m just saying they are there. Mankind is imperfect therefore our love is imperfect. We strive for ‘agape’ but at times it gets sloppy. God is different. He loves us with a perfect love. His love is unchangeable, unstoppable and absolutely unconditional. There is nothing we can ever do to make God change His mind about us. Scripture tells us that He knew us before the foundations of the world. Before time began He saw each of our lives from beginning to end. He saw every flaw, fault and failure. He saw through all the darkness and yet He loved us. With God there are no unforeseen changes that would cause Him to check out. He knew everything up front. Though we may shift like the wind, His love for us never will. It can’t. If it could that would make God imperfect but He’s not. And because He loves us He keeps the request line open. You may hear wedding bells on it but God don’t ever play the blues.