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Great Gatlin expectation

Posted Thursday, December 27, 2007, at 4:29 PM

I want to thank Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers for a memorable experience. A little over a year ago, I made the trek to Branson with a sole purpose in mind. Finally, finally, after many failed attempts, I was going to see the Gatlins perform. In the realm of country music, these talented folks had long been my favorites.

I'd made plans to go see them in various venues before, but something -- you know, you get the flu, your car breaks down, storms threaten, that sort of thing -- always got in the way.

For years I imagined how great it would be to see them perform, building them up into larger-than-life icons whose very presence would leave me starstruck and speechless -- both great feats, especially the speechless thing, my family would say.

Conflicting schedules threatened my trip again, but I forged ahead and went even though some family members couldn't join me. Instead of the usual entourage, I dragged my mother and my then two-year-old son along and we sped down the winding Ozark highway, reaching our destination at the same time as a big ol' bus from Minnesota, filled with seniors who poured out of the bus and into the theater ahead of us. No matter. We already had our tickets. The two-year-old, who I'm pretty sure was the youngest in the crowd by 40 years (I'm 40 years older than he, but don't tell anyone. That's off the record.) stole the hearts of several people in the crowd, got a stuffed Chihuahua that sings and a bag of popcorn, and we sat down and waited for the show to begin.

The music was indeed beautiful and moving, but -- if there are any Gatlins, the president of their fan club or any of their relatives reading, prepare to stamp your feet and grunt indignantly -- the show, overall, just didn't seem as though their hearts were in it. It seemed more like I was at a dress rehearsal, and I half expected the director to call for a rewrite of a couple of the scenes.

It was so liberating! Thank you, Gatlins, for showing me that even the most talented of us have bad days now and then. I mean, it must be pretty tough, getting out there and making that performance sparkle every time. Even the most seasoned performer can forget, however momentarily, that the fans expect and deserve their best effort every day. It's reassuring to know that sometimes, even the most talented of us fail from time to time, but that doesn't make us failures. It means we were willing to put ourselves out there on the stage of life and try to perform our roles, whatever the audience is thinking, whatever expectations, fair or unfair, might be waiting in the darkened theater.

I think I'll go listen to my Larry Gatlin CD now.

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Lynn Wade
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