Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Forefathers and My Father

I know that everyone knows this part by now - the part where I can do almost nothing but sit on my bed. This pregnant body betrays me . . . or is true to me. I can't tell which one. I read recently a woman who at some point in her seventh pregnancy came to this realization; I can grow this baby as long as I don't do anything else. That's how I feel - capable of this thing my body does by itself with no conscious effort from me, but nothing else.

So, to get three kids in the car and go to the Utah Museum of Natural History is, well, a bit ludicrous. But I have a Community Exploration card good through the end of August that grants us free entrance into the Natural History Museum, Discovery Gateway, Red Butte Garden, and the Fine Arts Museum. Never mind that my belly is contracting, my feet swollen, my back tight and aching - we will eek out these free experiences before the baby comes, and before my kids go crazy in the doldrums of summer.

Side note - Discovery Gateway has been permanently removed from my list of worthwhile things to do with the children. Unless the establishment would like to grant us a family night all our own.

Insanity. Times ten. With pigtails and petulance.

"Other people's kids."
That's what Matt always says. As if ours were . . . well they aren't. But we like them best.

On this trip - to the museum, where there are things of actual interest, we listen to music. Jonah and Caroline demand songs from the MP3 as soon as we get in the car.
"Play such and such."
"No, play this one first."
"No, I don't want that one."
"You always pick first."
"I never get a turn."

Until we end up with some Miley Cyrus (I'm embarrassed that this is on the MP3, but there is a reason outside my own music taste, and now that I have an Apple computer, I can't remove it) song, that makes me cringe. Where did they gain such an interest in Top 40, pop, teeny bopper music?

But not always. Sometimes it is Fleet Foxes, Mykonos. Or Sufjan Stevens, Decatur. The Eagles, Waiting in the Weeds. Or Feist, Joni Mitchell, Ingrid Michaelson, Jennifer Warnes, Kings of Convenience, Loreena McKennit, Landon Pigg, Hungry Cloud - music being passed to them intentionally.

Today it is Dan Fogelberg - Forefathers. This is Caroline's choice, taken from the playlist I made in December for my Dad, when I thought he might die, when he wouldn't wake up, when his heart quit working.

A massive heart attack took him from upright to open heart surgery, to unconscious for five days. My Mom and I took turns sitting by his side nearly every hour of each of those days, but he was not be woken peacefully. Like a bear he was, like a lion in a cage, thrashing his big body about such that there was no choice but to keep the sedatives dripping into his blood and his captive consciousness. We felt very tearfully helpless.

Aubrey felt the most helpless being three thousand miles away. In her geographic impotence she offered a suggestion that I think made all the difference. "Take him some music. Just play his favorites for him, soft things that will help subdue his subconscious while they try to wake him up."

I did. Within a few hours I had collected the music that lives in my Dad's soul, the music he would set on the turntable under the alchemy of a needle that would give us song and just a bit of crackle at midnight when we should all have been asleep, but were instead being infused with the stuff that brought musical magic into our home. I put it all on my MP3 player in a playlist titled For Dad.

We played it over and over until Aubrey's prescription lulled him into a kind of dreamy awakening. So many tears for the familiarity of songs that have marked the moments of living for him. Which he seemed then determined to do - live.

Forefathers is the first song on that list. I cannot summarize the poignancy of this song that harbors the foibles of synthesized bagpipes and other sundry sounds of the 80's, but still makes me cry every time I listen to it. The words are a means of bringing me into the center of my familial tapestry. Within it I am placed soundly and happily in all the roles that are the mortar of my identity.

And Caroline says "Mom, this makes me think about Las Vegas."
"How come," I ask.
"Because it sounds like Tickle Grandpa."
"Yes, it does. I have always liked Dan Fogelberg, because I've always thought he sounds like Tickle Grandpa."

And I can see Tickle Grandpa, my Dad, lying in a hospital bed, with a tube down his throat, a machine heaving his mighty chest up - then down - then up, eyelids fluttering from the movement beneath.

I see him sitting up in the same bed, awake, raspy voiced, professing CHANGE on every front. "A mission" he says, "God" and "gospel" woven through all the days that will follow. Professing mistakes and a hushed decree that he will learn to dance - for my Mom - he will learn to dance.

Yes, it sounds like Tickle Grandpa, who is an active forefather, granted time to become so much more to the generations he has borne thus far.

Good choice Caroline.