She Married a Beatle

My sister Wendy did good. Marrying a Beatle. Expand the shot of the Fab Four walking across Abby Road and you’d see him. Of course a lot of people don’t believe what they can’t see or prove.

But he’s used to that. Gets it a lot. Doesn’t faze him at all.

This week marks his birthday—he’s in his extremely late 50’s. So this party right here this moment is for him.

C’mon in! The doors to the tent are thrown open in all directions. Just like on the Plains of Abraham. So all are welcome. It’s the birthday of a Beatle. He really is a Rockstar.

And if you step inside, it might prompt the thought that there is a Beatle in your life too.

In our collective human lifting of voices into one resounding song, some people are just Beatles. Maybe it’s just for a moment, for a week, a year or even a lifetime. A Beatle is a person who makes a difference. Their song sounds in ways that changes things. Beatles change other people’s worlds.

Beatles are often people you wouldn’t look twice at if they passed you on the street. Picture John, Paul, George and Ringo standing in the gray English rain on a street in Liverpool, all at age 10. Who knew they’d change the world?

Wendy’s Beatle grew up close to Liverpool. In Manchester. Felt that same English rain on his face.

When Wendy first brought him home to our parent’s house, no one knew he was a Beatle but her. He was the kind of longhaired, bearded, revolutionary spirit likely to storm the temples of complacency, preach something frighteningly radical and overturn the moneychanger’s tables. He stood at the counter in my parent’s kitchen, took a long swig of an ice-cold Lite beer and spit it on the floor, saying, “You really drink this stuff?”

This was long before he took me into my first English Pub, warmed in the glow of the fireplace, the laughter in the conversation, the cheese and sausage pub lunch, the beer that leaves you thinking, this just might be like wine to quench the thirst of every tomorrow I am ever blessed to have.

When your sister marries a Beatle. You get to be a Beatles’ brother. Which is nice.

At their wedding, which might have been 30 years or 30 seconds ago, throngs of longhaired English people filled our parents back yard bringing the very same warmth of an English Pub. Our Dad made his now very famous in the new and larger family quote, “I don’t feel like I’ve lost a daughter. I feel like I’ve gained a country!” I got to play basketball with guys that did things like saw Van Morrison sing down at the local pub for a dollar, and Wendy and her Beatle went off to make a life.

As the years went by, the rest of us began to understand what Wendy already knew: this guy really was a Beatle.

I could see it when I watched him write a song. He did this every week.

Every week.

I got to see this more than once. Here’s how he’d do it. He’d start pacing around the room. Sometimes in circles. Faster and faster. As if any second he could careen off a wall like a silver rolling pin ball. He’d be muttering to himself. Every now and then he’d go look at this big book that always lay open on a table. Then he’d start pacing again.

I don’t remember the part where he wrote anything down. But I sure remember when he sang these songs. There would be two or more of us gathered, and Wendy’s Beatle would start off. No notes. He’d hold all who listened just with his words. And I knew it was him singing. I saw it. Those words coming from his mouth. But I also knew that what he was singing about was much bigger than anything he said.

See, that’s what a Beatle can do. A Beatle can lead you past what you see and bring you face to face with a mystery. Face to face with magic. With things you don’t really understand, with things you doubt.

Doubt. That essential element of faith. Singing songs of praise that don’t teach, preach, or sell—but instead reveal. A Beatle can do that. Sometimes with words, sometimes with actions. It depends on the Beatle. And the varieties of Beatles are infinite.

In fact, now that you’re thinking about it—doesn’t a Beatle from your life come to mind?

Wendy’s job, in her life’s travels with her Beatle, has always been, as the poet Mary Oliver wrote, “loving the world.”

Wendy’s Beatle sang songs of love. So that meant bringing in the rest of the world to sing along. John, Paul, George and Ringo did a lot of that too. They listened very hard to Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, even the Broadway songwriter Meredith Wilson, and then they carried on the song.

Wendy’s Beatle did the same thing. He read from that big open book. He drew from the real life, everyday world around him, and then he put together all those love songs. And delivered them pretty near every week of his life.

The lyric that follow is one he probably never heard. But a little surprise is good for a birthday celebration. And this song was written by another Beatle. Her name is Carole King. She grew up in Brooklyn. Raised Jewish. Just like the mother of Wendy’s Beatle’s Boss. Carole King started out as a secretary. But then she got into another line of work. And became a Beatle too. She wrote:

What must I do, how can I serve you

Is it true what I do is the way to be near you

I’m listening, though sometimes I can’t hear you.

Looking around fills me with wonder

At the way you can keep this old world running smoothly

Thinking of you always seems to soothe me

I know you’re probably not a man or a woman

Or a time or a season

But I’m here and life is dear

And I guess that’s a good enough reason to say

Just let me do what you put me here to

Let me be what you want me to be

And I hope it’ll cheer you

I’m listening and I think I can hear you

Even when I thought I didn’t believe

You believed in me

And everyone is a part of you

And anyone can know you

All they’ve got to do is be

I’m listening, and I think I can hear you.

Now, all these years later, Wendy and her Beatle have two children off in the wider world. Doing things like walking dusty roads in India looking to give comfort. And striding through hospitals in the U.K, looking to give care. Wendy and her Beatle now have a daughter in law who brings the grace and beauty of Korea to the party. And the word around the planet is that the party could soon get even larger with a brand new soul.

Turns out that all of them sound a lot like Beatles to me.

So, take a look around. You might see a Beatle too.

You’ll recognize them as the ones who are speaking words of wisdom.

And singing, let it be.

3 Responses to “She Married a Beatle”

  1. Paul Haider Says:

    I remember when Neil and Wendy got married on Saturday, July 7, 1979 in New Jersey; it was exactly eight days before the most honest and prophetic speech, “A Crisis of Confidence,”was delivered by an American politician. It was my first, but certainly not my last, time in the Garden State; I wore a navy blue sailor suit for boys in honor of President Carter’s years of service in the Navy. Of course, I had no idea back then that Neil looked a lot like John Lennon circa 1969 with a full beard. Happy Birthday to Neil, an honorary Beatle who is not like Paul or Ringo, fortunately for him.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

  2. Helen Gagel Says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your sister and a marriage!

  3. Paul Haider Says:

    I’ll share other memories of that day, Roger, even though it was only 4 days after my 5th birthday. I remember taking the train from Washington, D.C. to Bernardsville; it was the my first time on a train. I also remember you showing me your mother’s garden and explaining to me what peas were when I asked. Then I remember the wedding reception and seeing Wendy stuff cake into Neil’s mouth; I felt a little scared when I saw cake on his beard. Actually, that was my first wedding as well, and Neil looked a lot like John Lennon when he got married for the last time in 1969. It was during Thanksgiving of 1995 at Wendy’s home in England when she brought out a photo album to show me and the guests, and an English teenager there remarked how much Neil looked like John Lennon. So, I guess your sister did marry a Beatle.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

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