Almanac Music: My Faux Husband

My Faux Husband


Everyone has always told me, “your husband looks like Jackson Browne.” Each time I hear that I get a little kick out of it – when I was in high school Jackson got my engine going. Naturally, you grow out of crushes and move onto the real deal. My life cruised along but the past couple of years my real, not faux husband and I have hit a couple of bumps in the road. We’ve struggled through death, illness, and disillusionment.


Heck, isn’t that what Jackson’s songs are all about? Maybe swapping men would solve some issues. Instead of living with the problems, I can just live with the lyricist who writes all about them. D’ya think Jackson would go for it? Oops, I guess I’m putting it to the wrong guy first. D’ya think my hubby, oh forget asking the guys let me just enjoy the ride.


     Suddenly it’s so hard to find / The sound of the words to speak her troubled mind / So I’m offering these to her as if to be kind


The word faux has kind of fallen out of fashion but it seems to fit my feeling perfectly. Let me refresh your memory, faux is not like the wallpaper finish, well it kind of is but…it’s something that’s not the real thing…it’s an imitation.


Both men are about the same age, which is a good deal older than me. They’re a little grayer than yesteryears, but they wear it well. Their appearances remind me of my fleeting youth…oh wait, my youth, shit, that was much longer ago than I care to admit. If they look like that, it means I’m no longer…. All three of us are approaching the Barricades of Heaven.


So. . . which one is right for me now? The songwriter/singer or the painter/photographer? Damn, the faux wins on that one. I love a good chorus over a nice kodachrome. Speaking of photos, looking at the cover for the single, A Shape of a Heart, I can’t tell who is who. Same hair, both in cut and color, slender builds, identical eye shade too. In this time of their lives, no long locks but more a Dutch boy cut, an endearing innocent appearance.


Let’s shift gears and break into fantasyland. First, I want to know who my hubby would choose to swap with. C’mon it’s only fair play that this would be an equal opportunity escape hatch. I want to make sure that she’s cute ya know, but not too cute…okay, okay let’s not focus on that, back to MY daydream.


Backing up a bit, my husband is wonderful, he’s like a beautiful blue 1967 Mustang convertible in need of some restoration. If you looked at his Carfax there’s a history of something eating away at his body not unlike rust. After some treatment the mechanics didn’t anticipate the rust reappearing even though we’re in a rainy climate.


Recently, he was having problems with hmm, his engine, no, not that . . .transmission . . or maybe drive train…ah what is the right term? He wasn’t Running on Empty but maybe only on a quarter-tank: constant back pain was the difficulty. We made an appointment to take him into the shop.


At the garage after the diagnostics, we’re all looking at the MRI: “Ah, so that’s why he’s having trouble walking and using his arm.” The image showed a large tumor in his spinal canal, probably attached to his cord – has the rust returned again? The soundtrack in my mind: Take it easy, take it easy / Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy


Doctor: “I’ll clear my schedule, surgery will happen next week. There’s always a chance of paralysis but he should still be able to push the shutter on his camera after I’m through with him. Ha, ha.”


Us: “No thank you.”


Me, running out of the doctor’s office ahead of my honey. Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light / You’ve known that     hollow sound of your own steps in flight


Wouldn’t it be great to just slam on the breaks, get out and choose a different vehicle? As a substitute teacher myself, am I entitled to a substitute husband? I don’t have issues with my whole existence, just this car crisis at the moment. I enjoy teaching kids even if I’m a mere stand-in. That’s my giving back to society on a local level. Just think how I could change things globally after I walk into Jackson’s life. He supports music in schools and I’m an educator. We’d both be changing children’s lives; ideally making the world a better place He might even like me; every single aspect doesn’t have to be a fantasy. I can just picture it now instead of Brangelina we’d be Jacklene.


Shifting out of neutral dreamland, our wheels are rolling again. Natural remedies relieved the pain for a quite a while. My honey seemed viable for a couple of months but now the Mustang’s slowing down; the rattling has returned. He’s in need of some TLC. There was a particularly scary episode when he didn’t have a detectable pulse and an emergency tow truck had to be called.


After much indecision we finally chose an expert neurosurgeon out of town. We weren’t living in the big city anymore and needed someone who could do the surgery in their sleep. Speaking of sleep, can I have some anesthesia too? I want to focus on the faux and forget our foe.


Faux can mean, an imitation, kind of looks like the real thing, but isn’t, although it’s close enough. Please, give me the rental contract on the classic Woodie — station wagon that is. You know, the surf mobile. I’m so ready to take the singer on a spin.


Even though most times you don’t quite want the real thing, it’s too expensive, finishes gets damaged – – they tarnish, chip, peel, and flake off. Besides, the authentic might not live up to all expectations and you end up disappointed with it. But isn’t that the reality of day-to-day living?


We attempted this: With their hearts they turned to each other’s hearts for refuge. 


Tried to avoid this: And in the end they traded their tired wings / For the resignation that living brings


It seemed like our whole life was side-swiped. Fumes were leaking, and liquids were seeping all over the place. Setting up a dangerous situation for blowups and breakdowns.


     Tracing our steps from the beginning/Until they vanished into the air/Trying to understand how our lives had led us there The “I do’s” of how many years ago evolving into the “I don’ts”:


I don’t want to be chained to this responsibility.


I don’t want to witness his pain.


I don’t want to be a jerk, but can’t stop it.


     I could see the surprise and the hurt in your eyes


I don’t want the real to be failing, almost ready for the junkyard and me constantly feeling, My Problem Is You.


But I don’t see a way forward, just a Hold on, Hold out pattern:


I’m trying to Hold on,


for my hubby but failing miserably.


I’m trying to Hold out


from constantly being bitter.


Just trying to Hold on,


for this time to pass


While trying to Hold out,


on temptation.



All the while, devoid of physical affection, not even able to cry on each other’s shoulders to relieve some pressure.


     Tender is the night / When you hold your baby tight / Tender are the motions, tender is the night


No such luck on that end. Snuggling in each other’s arms is impossible. Even lying next to him causes pain.


         Stand apart/Hear your heart


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .but it just sounds so far away.


Hitting some speed bumps on the road to restoration. In our new temporary home, there’s no sweetness in our suite. Each on our own side of the room, retreating behind the walls of our anger and regret. Reinforcing our rift, unable to reach across and soothe our wounds.


     Proud and alone, cold as a stone 


Shouldn’t this be the time for enjoying the moment, squeezing in one more backseat romp, not knowing what life will bring post-surgery? They are both impossible. Right now, if we speak at all, our pillow talk is:


“If the operation goes wrong, when do you want me to pull the plug? You want to be in the ground or cremated? How long do I have to wait until I can date? Oh, and you want me to fill one out one of these too… so you aren’t alone in this? – – Great…”


Someone pulled the emergency brake. The operation is on hold. How quaint, our insurance company, just like used car dealers, lied to us, now claiming they’re not going to pay to make his pain go away. Which then let’s loose the loan sharks from the hospital who demand $50K upfront before giving him a ride to the O.R. Arguing with administrators and insurance companies created a temporary alliance between us. Meanwhile, feeling everyday if I was with the faux hubby, money wouldn’t be an issue at all.


At last, for better or worse, whether it bankrupts us or not, I’m sitting in the cafe across from the Operating Theatre after hearing for at least the third time in a week:


“Death is a possible side effect of surgery, as well as paralysis.”


No caffeine today, that would send the rpm’s way too high


     Through every dead and living thing / Time runs like a fuse / And the fuse is burning


And my fuse is burning here all alone. On to the concrete support that I do have – the health blog. While uploading info during the big surgery, a message pops up:


“You seem so calm and relaxed, if it were me I’d be freakin’ out.”


    Doctor my eyes…Is this the prize of learning how not to cry


A reminder of the meaning of faux, it’s like a fake designer purse that you can buy on the street corners of New York City for ten bucks. Although, Jackson would be worth more, being that he has musical talent and all


Back to the big day: The text comes:


“They’re sewing him up, you’ll see him in an hour.”


Great! – Two and a half hours later with no other communication the nurses wheel him in the room and exit silently. Finally, a phone call from the surgeon:


“Things went well, we had to cut some nerves; no crucial ones we hope. He’ll feel like a truck hit him for two months, in three to six months we’ll know his full abilities.”


He’s groggy and grateful, feeling: I’m Alive. 


Needing some respite, which guy should I choose to whack off to? I suppose it doesn’t matter. Currently, it’s a fantasy no matter who I choose to “do.” One doesn’t even know I exist, the other…that’s the bummer of illness.


Do ya think I could get a day or two swap at least?  Are conjugal visits part of the deal or not?… I just want to know the rules. If I got my wish, would it be like a typical first date? A visit to the zoo, a romantic dinner or BAM – right into the heart of everyday life?


Would life be so much better if Mr. Browne, was my fill in hubby? Would he go with me to the laundry mat, drive me to work or take the cat to the vet? I can just picture it now:


Me: “Hey honey, can you pick up some dog food? We’re out.”


Then he’d sing a sentimental little song for me while happily doing the errands. Ah, how touching. What of the chances of that happening – slim to none. Rouse yourself from fantasyland, kiddo.


     It’s like you’re already miles and miles away. . . We try to move ahead but we’re losing ground  Back at home, I’m bitchier than ever. I’m losing patience for no reason while trying to help him dress, resenting my caretaker role. I’m thinking about what would soothe me rather than the other way around. Rock me on the water / I’ll get down to the sea somehow. 


A friend comes over and observes our “fabulous” post-surgery repartee. We couldn’t even fake it in front of the guests. She presses a key to her ocean cabin in my hand. Rock me on the water / The wind is with me now  


Had she heard my telepathic cries? Or just heard me yelling all the way down the street? Either way it didn’t matter. Not even thinking twice about who will cook or clean for the patient I get in my car.


     Say a prayer for the pretender/Who started out so young and strong only to surrender Yeah, that’s right, I surrender.



Lifeline ( ) is a free and confidential support service which can be reached on 13 11 14.

Beyond Blue ( can be reached on 1300 22 46 36.


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  1. Quite a story, Darlene. Quite a soundtrack.

    As a Jackson Browne fan myself I can appreciate the importance of his lyrics at particularly hard times in life.

    The Jackson Browne line that keeps haunting me, over the years, has been “Don’t confront with my failures, I have not forgotten them”. (I think he wrote it when he was about 19!)

  2. Earl O'Neill says

    Helluva piece, Darlene. Onya.

  3. You are gifted Darlene!

  4. Powerful story and writing Darlene. Like you – Jackson Browne’s music is the one I would take with me to the Desert Island. Seen him 4 times in my life from the 70’s through to this year. Rebel Jesus is on the Christmas mix tape.
    Be careful what you wish for though with taking up with Jackson in real life. First 2 marriages did not end well, though he seems to have found some peace and happiness now.
    So many messages I could send to you and the Faux (great word) Jackson. Go well.

    “Some of them knew pleasure
    And some of them knew pain
    And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered
    And on the brave and crazy wings of youth
    They went flying around in the rain
    And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered
    And in the end they traded their tired wings
    For the resignation that living brings
    And exchanged love’s bright and fragile glow
    For the glitter and the rouge
    And in a moment they were swept before the deluge

    Let the music keep our spirits high
    Let the buildings keep our children dry
    Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
    When the light that’s lost within us reaches the sky”

  5. Peter B,

    If our Desert Islands were almost adjoining we could pump out Jackson Browne in stereo.

    Thought this personal yarn about The Pretender may be of passing interest:



  6. Sarah Barnett says

    This is such a heartfelt and haunting piece — I love it. I identified so much with this part, thinking “thank god someone else who truly understands this horrible feeling . . . . ”

    “Back at home, I’m bitchier than ever. I’m losing patience for no reason while trying to help him dress, resenting my caretaker role. I’m thinking about what would soothe me rather than the other way around. “

  7. It’s sort of scary to read the kind of things I tend to assume everyone thinks – from time to time- for a while or too long.
    Our “mindset” rules- but even knowing that does not make it easier to use that fact as much as we should?

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