On Saturday, March 18, 2017 I spent a few hours at the viewing for my late Uncle Joe, dead too soon at only 77. He survived the “widow maker heart attack” (which has a 90% kill rate) for about 30 years. It took three decades for a complete closure of the left anterior descending coronary artery to kill him. Still not long enough…
To attend the viewing, I did an “over-and-back” to the county where my Mom’s family has lived almost their entire lives. If it wasn’t for the military in the case of her three brothers, she would’ve been the only member of her immediate family to ever receive mail someplace other than St. Francois county, MO.
During the 200 miles in each direction, I had plenty of time time to think about my Mom’s middle brother and the good times we had, and to listen to about 7 hours of music.
I have a ton of music on the USB drive that I travel with, but I really would have only needed a few CDs on Saturday.
The first one I listened to as I was leaving Springfield, and again as I returned, was “American Band” by Drive-By Truckers. That’s no surprise. I have probably listened to that album on more than half of the days since it was released at the end of last September.
“What it means” is the most meaningful new song I’ve heard in years. It’s a meaningful album. This is the best 57 minute 7 second YouTube out there….
Go to 36:42 to listen to the story behind “What it means” and to 50:12 to the song Patterson Hood wrote when he heard that Robin Williams was dead.
Number 2 in the rotation: “Late for the Sky” by my favorite singer-songwriter Jackson Browne released the album in 1974. I’ve worn out a couple of vinyl copies. For me, it captures the human experience. It is an existential record. An essential album.
There are a couple of songs on this album that I want played at the celebration of my life: “The late show” and “For a dancer.”
The former because of these lyrics:
“Everyone I’ve ever known has wished me well
Anyway that’s how it seems, it’s hard to tell
Maybe people only ask you how you’re doing
‘Cause that’s easier than letting on how little they could care
But when you know that you’ve got a real friend somewhere
Suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear”
I feel fortunate to have more than a few real friends. Unfortunately they are scattered from coast to coast….but maybe that is actually fortunate?
“For a dancer” as my ashes cool because of this:
“I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening”
“..No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone…”
“…Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know”
Tomorrow I’ll see and hear Dawes in Tulsa. I expect them to sing several songs from their latest album “We’re all gonna die” which got repeated plays on my drive to the Leadbelt.
As I sang along with the title track on both directions of the “over-and-back” I found myself thinking about how my family is getting smaller. When I moved back to Missouri in 2011 I had no idea how long I’d live in the state that I had moved from in 1976. I never expected to do more than visit. Even though my Mom was on the slippery slope and even though Dad had survived bacterial meningitis in 2010, I wasn’t sure how long I’d live in MO.
In the six years I’ve been here, we’ve buried my Mom, her sister and now her brother. Only three of the six Stevens remain, and the oldest one has good days and bad days and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Both of my Dad’s sisters have died in the past three years.
My dad, who’ll be 91 in a couple of months, says “the troops are thinning.”
They are. It’s inevitable.
“…So try not to get upset
Everything is fine
Hey, it’s not that big a deal
We’re all gonna die”
Until then, I’ll keep playing music, giving hugs and telling the people I love how I feel. I only told my Uncle Joe that I loved him a few times. I know he knew, but I didn’t tell him as many times as I should have. That makes me sad.