I want to go back to Father’s Day 1961, actually five years before that, for starters. My mother wasn’t feeling well. Her doctor called her and my father in. They wanted to run tests, they agreed. Those were the days when you could have as many medical insurance policies as you can afford. She went to the Lahey Clinic in Boston. She had breast cancer. They tried to get rid of it by what were experimental methods. Nothing they did worked. She wound up with a radical mastectomy. Also, cancer being cancer had moved stealthily into other parts of her body. They were interested with breast cancer so the little fiddly bits slipped by. She was home. On medication, including a concoction she and my father called RX. It was a low level opiate. Drug addiction is a minor concern when you’re aiming at the Big C. She had to shop in a “lady’s specialty garment shop” off Main Street in town. I really never knew why until I found one of her bras in the laundry basket, one cup empty and the other filled. She did well for a couple years but she was slowing down. My father hired a housekeeper to come in twice a week to do the heavy lifting. She spent good days sitting in a wicker chair soaking up sun. I read in a book the nuns gave me a cat who was sick was healed by sitting in the sun (I missed the analogy with god). After a while she spent less time outside and more time in bed. Then she spent time back in Boston. There was more chemo and radiation, stronger than before. I missed the hell out of my mother. My father foisted me and my sister off on relatives. I was with my godparents. They were childless and were clueless as to the day-to-day care and feeding of a ten year old. My weeks sucked. Monday through Friday were in school with the nuns which I hated. The bright spot came at six on Friday night when my father would drive with me to the airport to pick up my mother. She stayed until my life headed down the toilet at seven Sunday night when we drove her back. This routine continued for a year. They let her finally come home. She was different. I didn’t know the word then, I do now. It was resigned. She slowly, at first, let her world become smaller and smaller concentric circles around her. My aunts helped prepare food according to the diet the doctors provided. Her world finally became the bedroom she shared with my father. I went to church every Sunday and prayed for my mother. It came down to Father’s Day. My father and I were sitting on the front stoop beginning to have one of the last conversations we’d have. I could hear my mother breathing. She was struggling for breath. I heard something that wasn’t good. Again, later I learned the name, it’s Chayne-Stokes the sound of a person taking their final breaths. We went inside. I wanted to be there but my aunts pushed me out of the room. I went farther. To the ball field at the local high school, then to my friend Mike’s house. My Aunt Ann pulled me out of there and I got home in time to see the undertakers loading my mother’s body into a hearse. Something snapped. I prayed to the God that the priests and nuns said would answer worthy prayers. he didn’t. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. I stopped asking him for anything. I left it up to fate, kismet, karma, whatever. I sleep-walked through the wake and funeral. How the fuck is a twelve year old supposed to know how to react. You can’t cry, the male roles you had didn’t and you didn’t want to come off looking like a pussy. The women smothered you but had little or no idea of what went on in the male psyche. I don’t talk to god. I talk to whoever is in charge. I know it can’t be a male deity. A woman wouldn’t screw over a kid that way.

The segue: This wasn’t the original opening. I had something else in mind. It hurts to write this. For a second time. Jenny Hansen at More Cowbell posted about cancer and I weighed in. It hurt then but WTF try again. There are things I walked away with from my mother’s death: A dislike of the male god. A rebellious streak that arose when the nun’s tried to shove “It’s god’s will” down my throat. Older relatives don’t know shit about death, just because they’re closer than a kid, don’t separate them from a dying parent. They need closure. Sense memory is strong. Hearing and old song from back then can spur memories, which in turn, spur more memories. Bloggers usually kick themselves when the post the blog because they’ve forgotten a real fine bit that didn’t get put in. They can save it for the next one but it won’t have immediacy of that moment. On to music. Along the way my music tastes remained kinda radio rock and roll and parent music. Somewhere along the way I began to listen to A&M Records. They featured Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, The Baja Marimba Band and The Carpenters among others. Parallel to this I began to read Rod McKuen and listen to his records. My brain was nodding off. Change was needed, hence the next bit.

The musical change was gradual. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, the British Invasion followed by the Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, California groups, blues and late night AM radio soul. One day I borrowed a friend’s shotgun and took the A&M LPs out to a quarry and blew the crap out of them. The journey into music got deeper. I listened to David Peel and The Lower East Side. Lyrics: Happy Mother’s Day/ Happy Mother’s Day/ I am your son/ I am a runaway/ Call me a bastard/ Call me a bitch./ You are made of plastic/ You are filthy rich. And The Fugs. They were a village group consisting of Ken Weaver, Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg. To be charitable, they had minimal musical skills and their lyrics could only be described as avant garde rock and roll. Flash forward to the 21th century. On a somewhat faulty memory, fueled by possibly organic augmentation, I bought It crawled into my hand, honest /Tenderness Junction. It lay unplayed for about a month. I played it Wednesday night. I listened to three minutes. It sucked. You can’t go back because things don’t change they actually remain the same, our perception changes.

My Present Playlist:
Blue Print Live Ellis
The Best of The Band
The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle Bruce Springsteen
Jukebox Cat Power
The Whole Story Kate Bush
Boys & Girls Alabama Shakes
Forget Leanne La Hava
Is Your Love Big Enough? Leanne La Hava
How I Knew Her Nataly Dawn
Why you runnin’ Lissie

Some music:

See you Monday,