Alone Again (Naturally)

Reflections on Life

August 2, 2022

Over the course of the past several years, I’ve developed a list of potential topics for Tuesday Newsday. If something occurred on a certain date, I will sometimes pencil it in ahead of time.

This particular song, which reached the top of the Billboard charts for six weeks starting on July 29, 1972, has been on that list since the beginning. But each year at this time, there were other topics which resonated more.

I can’t explain why, exactly, except to say that while I liked this song as an angsty 15 year old, there wasn’t any particular tie in for me. Until now.

First, about the song.

Alone Again (Naturally) was written and sung by a young artist by name of Gilbert O’Sullivan. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The single spent six non-consecutive weeks at no. 1 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, which ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1972. In Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 of the 1970s, ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ ranked as the fifth most-popular song of the decade (Debby Boone’s ‘You Light Up My Life’ was no. 1). It also spent six weeks at no. 1 on the easy listening chart, and reached no. 3 on the UK Singles Chart. (snip)

‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ is a melancholy, introspective ballad. In the first verse, the singer contemplates suicide after having been left ‘in the lurch at a church’; in the second, he wonders if there is a God; finally, he laments the death of his parents. O’Sullivan has said the song is not autobiographical: for example, his mother was alive during its composition, and he was not close to his father, who was cruel to his mother and died when the singer was 11 years old.

The song received extensive radio airplay in the months after its release, and was critically praised. O’Sullivan commented that ‘Neil Diamond covered ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ and said he couldn’t believe a 21-year-old wrote it, but for me it was just one song I had written.’ Neil Sedaka stating when he covered the song in 2020 that he wished that he himself had written the song, because its complexity was more typical of someone much older than 21.”

The complex lyrics tugged at the heartstrings of anyone who had ever suffered through a break up or questioned their faith or lost a parent. When I was 15 I had not experienced enough life to truly appreciate how profound the song is. What I do know is that I loved the song as somehow it spoke to something deeper.

And yet, when it came to including in my blog, I never did and was not going to again this week. Then, on July 29, something changed.

That something was the dreaded phone call, this time from the hubby’s younger sister, to let us know that my 96 year old father-in-law had passed a short time earlier.

To be clear, it was not unexpected. He had been struggling with ill health for quite some time. But dying, for those who have not been through it with an elderly loved one, is often a multi-week, if not months, long process. The steps are incremental.

For the family, however, his was above all else, a love story.

At the ripe old age of 20 in the autumn of 1945, he was on a Navy ship. Yes, he saw battle in WWII. But the particular day we always heard about was the day his ship was stationed in Seattle and, with a bit of shore leave, had disembarked.

In the crowds there to greet the young men, was an 18 year old girl from West Seattle. At the time, that’s what the young women would often do, go down to meet and greet the sailors who came to port.

It was a rainy day (of course it was, it was Seattle in October). My mother-in-law has always told the story that she saw him through the crowd and knew she wanted to meet him. He had ‘earrings’ on his ear lobes. Not real earrings, but droplets of water which clung to the bottom of his lobes just like the real thing.

Plus, I’ve seen the pictures of them from that time and they were both ‘lookers.’

I have no idea how long he was in port, but it was long enough for them to fall in love. They were married only five months later on March 20, 1946.

Photo taken a couple years ago with their wedding photo from 1946

This past March they celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary!

Through the years there were, no doubt, disagreements and times of challenge. But truly, theirs was a testament to the enduring power of love and commitment. Four children, six grandchildren, one great grandchild. Daughter and Son-in-laws. Heartache and joy. And being each other’s best friend for 76 years.

RIP my beloved father-in-law.

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