“You must be the frown. You must be the reason all the lights go down” – The Gourds
The phone doesn’t ring anymore. The texts stopped years ago. To be fair, she doesn’t even have a phone, and honestly I don’t think she even knows it. She barely knows who I am. My mom recognizes my face, and I’m still her son on occasion, but at other times I become her brother or her husband. She even told me the other day that I’m her “favorite husband.” I’m not sure how many husbands she thinks she has, but I try not to correct her. There’s no need to at this point. I just smile and hug her or hold her hand.
For some strange reason, I actually had the intentions of trying to make this post into a poem. I’ve always admired those with the natural gift of rhythm, rhyme, meter, form, etc., but to me it has always seemed very confusing, too difficult, and just too elusive for my simple mind. But, I digress.
My wife and I recently saw the new Dr. Strange movie, and (not to spoil it) there are various versions of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in different times and locations throughout “the Metaverse” in the movie. I often think that my mom lives in different times and places in her mind – her own Metaverse of sorts with her own different reality in each. It’s all disjointed and peculiar and despairing to observe a dementia patient in person.
Not being able to connect with a parent via the telephone is an odd thing for sure. When my dad was alive, I used to get phone calls from him – at all times of the day. Sometimes I welcomed those calls. Other times, I cringed when I saw he was calling. Some of the calls were just so he could tell me an amusing story or ask me a random question, but the last few years that wasn’t the case as much. I saved the voicemails. Not all of them. I started saving the voicemails as far back as six years ago knowing that one day I’d miss his voice and want to hear it again. As my mom’s battle with dementia grew worse, so did the anger and frustration in my dad’s voice. I don’t think he ever really accepted her future, and I can understand. It’s a tough thing to accept and a helpless, lonely feeling that I know took so much out of my dad the final years of his life. Even though the later calls were tinged with desperation and depression, I still strangely miss them.
My wife and I just finished watching the final two episodes left on the DVR of the sixth and final season of the incredibly well-written and acted NBC hit drama, “This is Us.” It was a brilliant run for the fictitious Pearson family, but it also hit very close to home these past few seasons. Spoiler alert: The matriarch of the family, Rebecca Pearson (played beautifully by Mandy Moore), develops dementia. I knew these final episodes focusing on her battle, her care, and how it affects the family were coming. I just didn’t know they would land this hard. My wife gave me a big hug after one of the recent episodes. She could see the pain in my eyes because I could relate and I know my dad could have related to some of particularly difficult, heart-warming scenes. Mandy Moore’s character did the disease justice just as my mom continues to do in real life. So for now, the silent destroyer continues to carry on within a woman who has no use for a telephone.
And maybe I do have a poem inside of me. A one word poem.
“Steeple full of swallows
Hammer in the weeds
Heart full of my head
Mosquitos on my feet”
I have a co-worker that loves a mid-90’s alt-country band named The Gourds. I’d never heard of them even though the band was formed in Austin and they made their way up north and played many shows in Oklahoma years ago. They’re probably most famous for their clever and pretty cool cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice,” but they were much more than a one-time parody cover band. They took “hiatus” in 2013 after 19 years together, and the band members have all gone their own ways with lead singer Kevin Russell and drummer Keith Langford now performing as part of the band known as the Shinyribs.
After listening to The Gourds most popular songs on Spotify, I stumbled across today’s gem (not listed among their top 10). With its melancholy sound and Russell’s piercing voice, it’s easily my favorite song of theirs. I can’t tell you exactly what this song means, but sometimes things make sense even when they don’t, and somehow it just fits with today’s post.
From their 2007 album “Noble Creatures,” I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do. Have a listen for the first time or the thousandth time to “Steeple Full of Swallows”
As always, thanks for reading, and donate to the cure.