Stuck in the car with Leesha (Summer Music Series III)

IMG_2096Summer is the season for long car trips and if you’re traveling anywhere with me, you can be sure of singing…and talking about memories (or trivia) associated with songs.

“I Just Called To Say I Love You” – written and performed by Stevie Wonder

Late one night when I was a young kid, our telephone shrilled to life.  There are a lot of things I’ve forgotten over the years (or even this week), but this one sound – the telephone ringing – I’ll remember forever.

It was my aunt calling to tell us that my cousin, we’ll call him “M,” had been hit by a car.  M was just six months younger than me and in a hospital bed, in a coma.  I don’t remember too much from this time, mostly because it was confusing and a whirlwind of activity.  I remember my mom hugging me tight and my family talking about things that were hard to follow.  Probably because I was too young to really understand the things that the grownups were talking about – terrible accidents, broken limbs, head trauma… All I knew was that M looked like he was sleeping and while everyone wasn’t sure if he was going to pull through, I had the confidence that only a child could possess in a time like this.  “Of course he’ll be fine,” I’d say.  And thankfully, I was right but the scary thing is that I could have just as easily been wrong.

While he was in the hospital, they told us that it was possible that he could hear and recognize our voices.  My mom, always a caretaker and big-hearted woman, came up with a sweet idea – she, my sister, and I would record ourselves talking to my cousin and singing to him.

I remember making the tape for him.  Singing silly songs that we all knew and telling him how much we loved him.  Which called a song to my mind – “I just called to say I love you.”  I didn’t know all of the words, and in the times before a quick internet search would render the full song lyrics, my mom had some doubts.  But I was determined and besides that, the refrain (which nearly everyone knows) is the most important part of the song.  So we recorded it for him, complete with humming or nah-nahhing our way through the parts we didn’t know and later played it for him in the hospital.

And as it turns out, we were lucky that year.  Our family was blessed with the miracle of my cousin pulling through and making a full recovery.

For a long time, and still to this day, I think of my cousin when I hear the song.

When I was going through the early stages of my divorce, I was careful (probably a little too careful) on which of my mutual friends I confided in.  After talking with one of my friends about the events leading up to the divorce and the storm of emotions inside me, he posted a YouTube clip of “I just called to say I love you,” on my Facebook page.  And the sweetness of the gesture made me cry.  Up until that point, I wasn’t sure who I could count on anymore.  But with that single gesture, I knew that people can still surprise you (for good) and stand by you in times of need…and it’s made me love the song that much more.

“I just called to say I love you” 

No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring
No song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day
No April rain, No flowers bloom
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

No summer’s high
No warm July
No harvest moon to light one tender August night
No autumn breeze
No falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies

No Libra sun
No Halloween
No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring
But what it is, though old so new
To fill your heart like no three words could ever do

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart,
of my heart

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart,
baby of my heart

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