It’s been way too long since I’ve done a music post, so without further ado, here are some “T” songs for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!
Tupelo Mississippi Flash by Jerry Reed – Starting with a fun one. I love Jerry Reed’s playful story songs. I think my kids probably know this one by heart by now.
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly and the Family Stone – you would never think that Mr. Stuck, a huge AC/DC and Led Zeppelin fan, would also be a huge fan of funk — but he is. As soon as I started playing this, he started grooving.
That’s All by Genesis – we were inundated with Phil Collins and Genesis in the 80’s – this is my favorite song from that time.
Take Five by Dave Brubeck – a jazz classic that never gets old. Where’s my black turtleneck?
Time of the Season by The Zombies – a great hippie tune from their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle that became a huge surprise hit in 1969. It’s just cool.
Time by Pink Floyd – although more than 40 years old, from Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon , ‘Time’ is timeless.
Take the A Train by The Duke Ellington Orchestra – I love Big Band music, and this is a toe-tapping, jazzy favorite. It became Ellington’s signature tune.
Twelve Thirty by The Mamas & The Papas – a great example of John Phillips’ arrangements and the group’s flawless harmonies. My sister had the 45, so I listened to it a lot.
Truckin‘ by the Grateful Dead – What a long, strange trip it’s been. This is a catchy tune that stays in my head a long time after I hear it.
Tom Sawyer by Rush – I confess that I’m a latecomer as far as being a Rush fan; I didn’t start liking them until just a few years ago. Glad I gave them another listen. I like the smart turn of lyrics in this as well as the complexity of the arrangement.
Tusk by Fleetwood Mac – this is just a fun song with drums and a marching band – a pretty good combo, if you ask me. The band parts bring back some great high school memories.
For the rest of the Alphabet song lists, click here.
Maybe I’ve been navel-gazing too much lately. It’s the holiday season, the end of the year, and the coming of winter, and I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff.
What kind of stuff?
Well, since you asked, my mind has been wandering through nostalgic memories of Christmases past.
For most of my childhood and adolescent years, my brother welcomed our big family on Christmas Eve for the annual party. My sister-in-law was a talented and gracious hostess to our large brood, and we always looked forward to the traditions of that night.
We’d all file in and settle into the living room, perching on chairs or whatever horizontal surface was available. The house would be filled to the gills with us. Once the chicken wings and macaroni came out of the oven, we’d make a beeline to the fabulous buffet that always included a variety of tempting desserts, and of course we always ate too much.
My favorite part of the night was the singing. Out would come the caroling song books (handy, especially when singing the third and fourth verses). Sometimes we’d have piano accompaniment, but most of the time it was a cappella with three- or four-part harmonies. It makes my heart swell just to remember it: Mother’s voice was warm and true; my brother’s full baritone added color; Wendy always sang harmony; and sister Rob’s clear, sweet soprano could always reach the highest notes of O Holy Night. The rest of us would fill in around them. The house rang with music — all the songs you can think of, and more. Everyone requested their favorite carol — mine was always We Three Kings of Orient Are; Missy always requested Winter Wonderland. (What’s yours?)
I can’t even begin to describe the joy and love in that moment.
The gifts had to wait until one last tradition — the reading of A Visit From St. Nicholas, (you might know it as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore. Mother would sit and the children would crowd in at her feet. She loved poetry and knew how to read it aloud, engaging her young audience. She knew it by heart, so she just turned the pages to show the kids the pictures. I’m sure my nieces and nephews remember it fondly. I sure do.
Next came the mad scrabble gift exchange. We all know what that’s like – squeals of delight, oohs and aahs, and lots of hugs and thank yous. The din was terrific — my ears would still be ringing the next day. Not long after the last gift was unwrapped, it would be time to go home, tired but happy.
In later years, my young adulthood, sister Wendy hosted the party at her house, but the traditions were much the same. It didn’t matter where the party was or what food was served — the main ingredient was always love.
I hope you all have memories like this, the kind that warm your heart. And I hope you’re all making more memories just like them, whatever your traditions may be. As much as I miss my parents and my sisters, I am eternally grateful for the memories that envelop me this time of year. I am thankful to my brother and sister-in-law for hosting this event for so long. My traditions are quite different now with my own family, but I believe that it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you do it with those you love.
Twenty-one is the ‘let your hair down’ birthday. It’s a good time; some of us even remember it.
I think it’s safe to say that many of these celebrations feature similar outcomes and somebody, somewhere, has pictures. In this day and age, those pictures will live forever, all over the world. So, In the spirit of love, lessons learned, and damage control, I’d like to offer a few words of advice to the initiate:
Drink as much water as you do alcohol. You’ll thank me later.
Stay far away from tequila and anything featuring a creature at the bottom of the bottle.
In my experience, whiskey liqueurs, often used in sweet, syrupy drinks, never seem to end well. Same for the ready-made cocktails — they were far better in theory than practice for me.
Water- or juice-based mixers are better than sodas. The carbonation in soda speeds up the alcohol absorption rate.
People can (and do) die from drinking too much alcohol. That’s a stupid way to die. Don’t be that person.
Most importantly — MOST IMPORTANTLY — Don’t drink and drive. Don’t ride with someone who’s been drinking. We already know how that ends.
How about you? I think most all of us have a well-learned lesson in this arena: stupidity is universal and eternal.
It barges in sometimes, an unwanted, boorish intruder with a booming voice and bad body odor, and forces you into a confrontation. You’ve barred the door and closed the curtains and turned off the porch light, but that doesn’t matter. It’s here, and it WILL BE HEARD.
I was minding my own business this weekend, trying to find my desk under all of the stacks of mail and paper, when I found it. The Book. It’s a nondescript hardcover, coffee-table sized, with writing on the spine and section dividers. It is the book that was prepared by my family’s law firm to provide personal portraits of my mother, father, and sister to people who never knew them. It was intended to show them as special people who were loved, who were important, and who are deeply missed. It does a pretty good job of it. There are photographs, excerpts from our depositions and testimonial letters from family and friends. It touches on highlights of their lives and then devotes the end of the text to their sudden deaths.
I had brought it down from the shelf a few months ago when Number Young Son had some questions about the train crash. Having been so young at the time, neither of the boys have read the newspaper articles or seen this book. Their knowledge of the crash has come from me and their dad. I hoped that maybe the book could fill in some of the holes and answer some of their questions.
Of course I had to open it. I just thumbed through it, pausing to read a few lines here and there. The tears welled up and spilled, and my throat was tight, but it was more of a release than anything else. Reading those heartfelt words about my Pa, my Momma and my goofy sister made me cry good tears. But even those tears just drip into the void.
I’ve done that ‘grief work.’ Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy — it’s not. It’s horrible, brutal, cruel, painful, exhausting, punishing work. It’s as tiring as hard physical labor. It drains every last bit of energy, spirit, ambition, and hope right out of you. It robs you; it takes you down to the raw nubs of your most naked inner self and leaves you with nothing. I have spent way too much time there, thanks. No need to go back. These days, I have a sort of inner governor that kicks in when the going gets rough – it keeps me from the deep end of that drowning pool.
But that is not to say that I don’t mourn. Believe me, I miss my parents with every cell in my body. I miss my sister the same way. I ache for their voices and yearn to be wrapped in their hugs. But fifteen years after the fact, the jagged edges have been worn smooth. The peaks and valleys are there and the road is still bumpy in spots, but I’m no longer picking splinters out of my heart. My sadness is a still, deep well.
So when I saw an item shared on my Facebook feed, a link to a post entitled Mourning My Mom, Before and After Facebook, I had to read it. The author talked about how different it might have been had Facebook been around when her mother passed away in 2002. I won’t summarize it here — you can read for yourself — but she made some great points and made me think about how we mourn and how people offer comfort.
I could write at length about my grief and mourning. I could, but I can’t. I can’t, because I still have some kind of block that prevents me, like that governor inside, from taking it too far. Self-preservation, I suppose. But that can be so frustrating, when I know that each time I write about it, talk about it, and read about it, it gets a little easier for me. I really want to scream and holler and throw things and Get It All Out. Then I would feel so much better, right?
That’s a myth, though. A pipe dream. I could never get it all out. It’s part of me now, and it’s changed me.
In the article, the author says, But grief is illogical. It never feels resolved. She’s right about that. I want to spit every time I hear someone use the term ‘closure.’ Like you can close the door on that part of your life, and it’s done. Pfft. Maybe there are people who can, but I haven’t met one. I can’t close that door because there’s a big boot stuck in it. Grief, that paragon of perfect timing, is not about to be shut behind that door. It is going to show up unannounced and unwelcome, for the rest of my life. When you least expect it, expect it.
I’m no expert. I’m not here to tell anyone how it’s done. I’m not here to wear my loss like a medal or trot it out as a trump card at the pity party. It’s fact, and it’s my life. Even my siblings, who had the same loss I had, don’t experience the same mourning in the same way. I don’t want to carry it around as an excuse for what I do or don’t do. In reality, it’s there; sometimes I spend time thinking about it, but most times I don’t. When it was new and fresh and ugly, there was a part of me that wanted everyone to know, so they could understand the person pretending to be me. I wanted justification. I wanted reasons. I wanted something. Anything.
So I guess this is rather a pointless post. I’m blue now, but it won’t last forever. I’ll pause and reflect and savor warm memories of the way Momma pushed up her glasses and how she answered the phone in her sing-song voice; how my Pa would perch on the stool in the dining room, peeling apples for the pies she made; and the taste of Wendy’s World-Famous Potato Salad. I’ll wipe some tears and bite my lip. I’ll think about what could have been. I’ll wish I could wake up from this bad dream that’s lasted fifteen years.
And then I’ll be thankful to be as far down this road as I am, and I’ll pray I don’t have to walk that stretch again.
We’re at my Marvelous M Music now! Enjoy! And to recap, you can find the rest of the Alphabet here!
Mercy, Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye – Silky smooth Marvin; as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1971.
My Old School by Steely Dan – From Wikipedia (I know, I know): “In its March 24, 2006 edition, Entertainment Weekly details a return trip to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York by Donald Fagen, in which he describes a raid by sheriff’s deputies in May 1969. Fagen, his girlfriend Dorothy White, Steely Dan bandmate Walter Becker, and some 50 other students were arrested. Charges were dropped, but the harassment was the origin of the grudge alluded to in “My Old School”. Fagen was reportedly so upset with the school being complicit with the arrests that he refused to attend graduation.” And there you have it.
Magic Bus by The Who – I don’t want to cause no fuss/but can I buy your magic bus?
Midnight Rider by The Allman Brothers – This song is one of the reasons I love Southern rock. I don’t own the clothes I’m wearin’/and the road goes on forever/I got one more silver dollar/but I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no/not gonna let ’em catch the Midnight Rider.
Moondance by Van Morrison – The first Van Morrison song I ever heard; I love it.
Moonlight Feels Right by Starbuck – I have loved this song from the first listen. I love songs that feature unusual instruments or arrangements; the marimba solo in the middle of this song always made me wish I’d been a percussionist!
Morning Dance by Spyro Gyra – My friend Jon introduced me to Spyro Gyra, one of his favorite jazz groups. I fell in love with these contemporary jazz musicians. This is an old radio favorite, an instrumental that puts me in a good mood whenever I hear it. Thanks, Jon.
Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Originally written and recorded by Jorge Ben Jor. I love Latin music. The rhythms get me moving. Someone had this album when I was growing up and I have always liked this little tune, which translates roughly to ‘I wish this samba would never end.’
Maria Maria by Santana featuring The Product G&B – this song came out on Santana’s Supernatural album in 1999. It’s been said that Carlos Santana doesn’t play guitar; he makes love to it. I agree.
Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash – Graham Nash wrote this one and sings lead. The harmonies are great, like all CSN songs.
Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin – A few years ago, I saw Kris Kristofferson, who wrote this song, in an intimate theatre show. He reminisced about the old days and the talented people he used to sing and play with. He sang this song for his friend Janis.
Mornin‘ by Al Jarreau – This is a pretty corny video, but it puts a smile on my face when I hear this song. It makes me feel good, and I do love Al Jarreau’s voice.
Mr. Bojangles by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – this one is a little melancholy, but I’ve always liked it, even though the part about his dog dying tightens my throat. Love the mandolin.
My Funny Valentine by Frank Sinatra – this song has been recorded by a number of artists, but I always come back to Ol’ Blue Eyes. I sing this to Mr. Stuck sometimes.
Next year, I’ll be 50.Half a century – you know, Nifty Fifty – ripe fodder for jokes about ‘Old-Timer’s Disease’, gag party gifts like adult diapers and Geritol, and paybacks for all the ribbing I gave my sisters as they reached that golden age.
Fifty isn’t old.
Fifty isn’t traumatic.
Fifty isn’t the end of the world or the end of my life.At least, I hope it isn’t.
But fifty is the number of years my sister Missy was given on this earth, and as I approach that birthday, my head and heart are filled with a certain apprehension – what if my life stopped right here?Am I ready?Would I fight it, or would I accept it? Would I be strong enough? I confess that because my sister Wendy died just a week shy of her 43rd birthday, I could think of nothing else when I reached 42.
When my sisters died, I was an adult, and so were they.I am sure it is much more difficult for people who lost their brothers or sisters as children – I cannot even imagine, and I cannot speak for them.Children tend to blame themselves when things like abuse or divorce happen; I suspect that they would also blame themselves if they lost a sister or brother.I did not have that guilt; as a grown up, I knew it wasn’t my fault.
Still, the sad regret is there – the what ifs…the if onlys… the second-guessing…the replaying of events in my head.And it’s not just family whose passing makes me compare my lifespan to theirs.My friend Jon was only 32 when he perished in a house fire.My dear friend Shirley was 47 when she succumbed to a pulmonary embolism (blood clot).At each of those ages, I looked in the mirror and asked the questions for which I had no real answer. I suppose this is a normal part of grieving and moving on.
Life offers no guarantees.Today I talked with a friend about people who overcome extreme personal adversity, such as the loss of limbs or a grave illness, to live their lives not defined by, but in spite of, those circumstances.We talked about how attitudes toward death can determine how we live. We agreed that even for people like us, who do not live under the cloud of a serious disease or catastrophic injury, life holds no promises.We talked about how life can change – or end – in a moment. Can we ever really be ready?
So, at 32, with young children, I was grateful, but still checked my smoke detectors.
At 42, I looked at my own family and was thankful that my sister’s passing would leave no children motherless.
At 47, I thought about Shirley and how much she had done for others all of her short life.
And when 50 comes, I will think about Missy and what a terrific grandma she would have been, and I will cherish every moment with my family.
Had a moment last weekend that both surprised and shook me.
Our dear friends are on vacation right now, and they got word on Sunday that their dog, a handsome boxer named Prince, had run off. The gate had been left ajar, and the noise and fireworks from a neighboring party had frightened him. He is an old dog, half blind and half deaf, who is on regular medication. We love that dog, so we went to help look for him. Other friends and family members were already in the area, canvassing in a radius of a few miles from his home.
Mr. Stuck and I touched base with other searchers and then drove slowly around, up and down driveways and in and out of neighborhoods, calling for Prince. We had dog treats and water and flyers with his photo and some contact numbers. We spoke to several people, but nobody had seen him. There had been a sighting earlier that morning, but he was skittish and wouldn’t come when called. He was within mere feet of the caller, and he knew her — but he was scared and ran off.
As we drove around, our route doubled back upon itself, took us down unmarked roads, and would have gotten me lost had I been alone. Fortunately, though, Mr. Stuck has uncanny skills when it comes to navigation, and he knew precisely where we were at all times. In fact, as we drove down yet another dirt road, he pointed out a driveway and said, “That’s where Jon lived.”
“Jon?” I said. “Jon who?”
“Jon! You know, your friend, Jon?”
I was puzzled at first, and then I realized what he was saying to me; I realized where I was. ‘Jon’ was my late friend Jon, who died in 1994 at the tender age of 32. We had just passed the driveway where my friend Jon’s parents had lived, the house I had visited so often, in happy times and sad. It was a big house for a big family; like me, Jon was the youngest of seven children. The house sat up on a bluff and looked down over the water; it was a very lovely home, and I enjoyed visiting whenever I could.
I had Mr. Stuck drive past again, because it looked so different. I couldn’t see the house from the end of the driveway, but I knew he was right. He said, “It’s all overgrown now — it’s been 20 years since you’ve been there, I’m sure.” He was right, but the address was there on the sign, and I knew that address — I had written so many letters to Jon when I was in college, how could I have forgotten?
The search for Prince was pushed out of my mind for a moment while I digested what I had seen and tried to steady myself amidst the onrush of memories. How could I have forgotten, indeed. I had driven past the main road from which the driveway branched numerous times on my way to our friends’ home, only a mile or two beyond, and yet I had never ventured down the old road to the old house. Maybe it was a subconscious effort to protect myself, to save my heart from remembering that painful loss. I decided it was an unforgivable travesty of our friendship that I did not even remember where he had lived, and I have been beating myself up ever since.
Recently, I had begun allowing some of those memories back out of cold storage after reading a post in Boles Blogs about Kaposi’s Sarcoma. It brought back so much of the times in the 80’s and early 90’s where many of my friends and acquaintances became infected with HIV (called HTLV at the beginning) and subsequently succumbed to full-blown AIDS. I don’t like remembering that time; it was harsh and ugly and heartbreaking. Whispers mentioned friends from college and from my social circle who were ill or who had died. There was a lot of fear and a lot of unknowns back then.
I remember the phone call. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and my apartment looked out over the water. I was happy to hear from Jon, but immediately noticed something different in his voice. “What’s wrong?” I asked. Jon told me that he and his partner, Carl, had recently been tested, and they both came up positive for the HTLV antibody. “That only means we’ve been exposed to the virus, not that we’re sick,” Jon hastened to explain. “We have no symptoms, and we’re fine. Don’t worry about us.” My heart was leaden with the news. Nobody really knew about this ‘gay cancer’ that had recently been making the news. All anybody knew was that it was taking gay men down with frightening speed, and it was not a nice way to die. It was a disease associated with suppression of the immune system, which meant that any and all opportunistic infections could swoop in on someone who couldn’t fight them, and that person would die.
I was scared for my friends. I read as much as I could about AIDS and its treatments, its victims, its politics. People were (rightly) terrified to get this disease — a death sentence — which was thought to be passed along on dirty needles or via exchange of bodily fluids, but nobody knew for certain. Families turned their sons away, friends no longer hugged, and a deep suspicion fell on gay men. Blood banks clamped down and denied donations from anyone suspected to have been exposed. Dentists and health workers began donning masks and gloves to deal with people for fear of exposure.
It wasn’t long after the phone call that Jon’s partner, Carl, became sick. He could no longer lift his arms; he lost a lot of weight; he became very weak; and developed lesions. He also developed thrush in his mouth. It was horrible to see him wasting away, frail, miserable, and terrified of dying. He had constant diarrhea and pneumonia, and seemed to contract any infection that came around. His parents came from Ohio to Washington State to bring their son home to die. They put a few of his things in a bag (just a few — they didn’t want to touch anything for fear they’d get sick, too), carried him to the car, and drove away. They didn’t even let Jon and Carl say goodbye.
All letters were returned, unopened. At some point, one came back stamped, “DECEASED.”
Jon eventually developed AIDS, although that is not what ended his life. He lived a very long time in final stage AIDS, which was pretty rare back then. It is difficult for me to reconcile my memories of my lively, wickedly smart and funny friend with his sad, final years.
Mr. Stuck and I spent about four hours looking for Prince, calling for him down many dirt roads. On one of those roads, I found something I hadn’t been looking for — a hard little knot of memories buried deep inside. Prince was found several hours after we drove home, safe but tired and hungry.
I will write more about Jon, because his friendship was a stalwart place in my life, and because he deserves to be remembered better. He taught me many lessons through his living and his dying, and I am forever grateful to him.
My sister Missy and my dad had an especially playful relationship.They pulled pranks on one another, gave each other trouble, and goofed around constantly.Missy was as much the instigator as Dad was.For example, when Dad teased her, she’d admonish him and threaten, with mock seriousness, to ‘get the spoons.’
Getting the spoons meant she would pull two large serving spoons out of the drawer and ‘play’ them on Dad’s arm or back (or sometimes his head) like drumsticks.Dad, in turn, might ‘accidentally’ butter her arm at the dinner table as he buttered his bread.Sometimes he would go outside when it was getting dark, and, as Missy and I did the dishes, would sneak to the window above the sink, suddenly showing his face and making us shriek. You just never knew what to expect from Missy or from Dad.
I always wished that I could joke with my folks the way she did, but none of us other siblings had her special touch. Dad and Missy had a very close bond, and much of that was their shared sense of silliness. Missy, especially, was always thinking of stunts she could pull on Dad; while she was the brains of the operation, I usually ended up being dragged along as the brawn.
One afternoon, when she was about 15, and I was about 12, Missy had a grand idea.She collared me and told me to go find a box: we were going to pull a trick on Dad.So, like the dutiful little sister (and errand boy) that I was, I found a box and reported back to her.We went outside to the shed, and she got me a fishing net with about a 4-ft handle.We proceeded to the chicken coop out back.We were going to catch us a chicken!
After running around in the pen for awhile, I was finally able to get the net over one of the agitated hens.She squawked something fierce, and left me with a few scratches and welts, but once we put her in the box, she settled down.We folded the flaps over on the top of the box so there was just a little opening at the top. We peeked inside; the chicken was eyeing us, but she stayed quiet.Perfect.
We sneaked in the back door, and I carried the box into Mom and Dad’s room.Missy told me to set it down on Dad’s side of the bed.Then, with hushed giggles, we ran upstairs to her room, which was directly above our parents’ room, to listen at the vent.For some reason I can no longer recall, she knew Dad was heading to his bedroom
Soon enough, we heard Dad in the hallway. We held our breath.We heard him go into the bedroom, where he saw the box.He went to open it, and we heard, WHAT THE — ?!??MELISSAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!And then laughter. She had gotten him again.
Missy and I were rolling on the floor, we were laughing so hard.
Fortunately for us all, Dad hadn’t let the chicken out of the box – he had opened it only far enough to see what was in it and closed it up quickly when the chicken started squawking and flapping her wings.(I was really glad, because I didn’t want to be cleaning up the mess.)