By Tabulous on March 19, 2010
Whenever I hear Bach's "Jesu, Lord of Man's Desiring" I feel like my grandmother's in the room with me. It brings me a serene calm I can't explain, a sense of every little thing's going to be all right, and a comfort like a hug from someone who just always knows what you need without you ever having to say it. The sound of it stops me in my tracks and makes my heart swell and every single time I lose my breath for half a second and I swear she's right there, behind me, channeling her love of me through the music.
My mom's mom, Grammy, died when right before I turned four. My mom is a carbon copy of her mother, as I am of mine -- except I have my Grammy's hands (obscenely petite, like my noggin), so a lot of the now heirloom rings my mom keeps hidden away fit me perfectly, and always have. That makes it easier, sometimes, because my mom knows what it's like to always be mistaken for your mother, but it also makes it really hard, sometimes, because there's a part of the lineage missing to the average eye.
It's also hard because Grammy committed suicide. My mom doesn't know much about the circumstances leading up to it -- but she does know that Grammy was on lithium, which at the time was the go-to drug of choice for bipolar. It's conjecture, sure, but after my diagnosis my mom said she could see the similarities in our behaviour, the highs and the lows and the aftermath of both. And in a weird way, that makes me miss her even more, because maybe she could have understood in a way no one really else in my family does. They learn how to handle being the loved ones of a bipolar, but no matter how many times I try to describe it, they just -- they just don't have the capacity to comprehend it all. Only other bipolars do. And I could have really used that connection over the years.
There are endless similarities and odd coincidences that I could spout right now, but honestly even after 22 years it's hard to talk about without getting choked up. And I know my mom reads (Hi Madre!) and I can't begin to fathom how hard it must be for her, still, every day. I can honestly say that as I get older I am constantly in awe of how she managed to hold her shit together with two young kids from two states away, because I know I couldn't do the same if she were to just be gone one day. I'm panicked enough about her moving to Chicago this summer and not being 20 minutes away at any given time (I can't talk about that, either, not yet, not really -- I'm so proud of her, but dude, we're enmeshed hardcore, just like she and Grammy were, and it's just ... overwhelming. But that's for another time, another post.) I can't -- my brain just absolutely cannot even entertain the notion of her being permanently gone.
That specific song has been what people in my mom's family walk down the aisle to for -- well, I make the third generation that I know of. Of course, most of those marriages didn't so much work out, but that's not the music's fault. I remember when my mom got a new Christmas CD one year from a Christian artist, how she stopped in her tracks and choked back tears because there it was, out of nowhere with bagpipes (my mom is Scottish through her mom) and happy and bright. Last Christmukkah my mom got me the same CD (even though Kyle has about .00005% tolerance for it) because it's just not the holidays without those bagpipes playing our family music.
It's also the song that was played at my grandmother's funeral. It may be an ancient work from a long-dead dude, but I can't help but lay claim to it. It's ours, has been for generations. You can't take that from us.
Today, the classical station here in Dayton, one of the only 24-hour classical stations in the country, began their semi-annual fundraising drive (because they're public, have no advertisements, and are awesome) and they don't have to sell me a good time, but it means there's a bit more chatter than usual. (We listen everyday -- I have the radio on in the living room pretty much no matter what.) I took Kiedis upstairs to change his pants and put him down for a nap -- he was fussing and being generally loud (he is my son after all) and I was talking to him as I set him down in his crib and turned on his radio to the same station, as I always do.
And he was instantly silent as my heart swelled. I walked over to the crib so I could better see his face, and he was rocking just the tiniest bit back and forth, looking at me, smiling.
"This is our music, Monkey," I told him, choking back tears. "You knew this song before you were born." I brushed his curly hair on the back of his head, and he cooed a little. He pulled up his blanket to his face and cuddled it, and then grabbed a stuffed animal in his crib and began to play with it a little. I stood for a minute, singing the notes I know near instinctively to him as he smiled and cooed and rocked in time. I stopped when I wasn't sure I could hold the tears back any longer, told him to have a good nap, and shut the door as I left the room, the music softly floating and intermixing from his radio and the stereo downstairs.
I didn't hear a peep out of him as I went down the stairs, which for him, is HIGHLY unusual.
She was there, with us in my son's room, letting me know it's all going to be okay, we're going to be okay. It's a beautiful day, with lots of good to come over the next while, and though it may be harder than I ever expected, it's going to be okay.
It was exactly what I needed today.
Well, I didn't need the tears that always come from talking about her, but you know, tit for tat, I guess.
Tomorrow's the Spring Equinox. Go outside and stand in the sun for a minute, soak in the warmth and the love and the connection of everything and know, please know, that every little thing is going to be all right.
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