I’m thinking of B-52’s, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Godsmack. Most of all, I remember Nat King Cole.
All those nights, sitting at your mother’s kitchen table while the rest of the world was sleeping. Only because we both worked Vampire Hours.
Your impressive CD collection—the Baptist Hymnals rescued from the house your father owned in Purcell. Every time we sat at that table in the wee hours of the a.m., it was always centered around music.
Somehow, though, Nat King Cole stands out in my mind.
When that CD played, your eyes would close and you’d softly sing along to “Unforgettable” as the cigarette that burned between your fingers grew ash longer than any I’d ever seen before.
Breezy recently found a new radio station you’d love: The Martini. They play all those oldies. Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra.
Nat King Cole.
I cannot listen one day without thinking of you. That is our station now.
Seven years ago today, it wasn’t Easter. Easter that year fell on April 11, right before I went out of town to meet Christie for French Quarter Fest.
When I came back home on April 20, I went straight to the hospital to visit you. I looked into your eyes and I was haunted. The light in your baby blues had diminished so dramatically, it frightened me.
“Where were you?” you asked me.
“I’ve been out of town for the last five days,” I answered.
“I need you to get me out of here,” you told me, the fading light of your blue eyes unwavering. “Between you and my mom….y’all can get me out of here.”
Beautiful, vibrant, loving. Common denominator of us all.
Did I already mention loving?
When I would visit your mother in her hospital room, the nurses would come in and without fail ask, “Evelyn….who is this?” and she would answer without fail, “She used to be my daughter-in-law. Now she’s just my daughter.”
Before I’d gone out of town, we’d taken you to the emergency room. You, me, and your life-long friend Norma—stopping at Sonic with all the road construction along the way so you could get your daily Route 44 Dr. Pepper—driving away with you asking about the car-hop, “did y’all tip her enough?”
Your physical discomfort was concentrated somewhere in your back. I was recovering from back surgery. I’d had an advocate when I was so beaten down by the ungodly pain that I couldn’t seem to speak loud enough for anyone to hear me. I wanted to be your advocate.
There was also that lump in your breast. Sometimes when I look back, I wonder if you had a death wish.
We all but got kicked out of the emergency room that day. You had no health insurance. All you had were the films from your mammogram and the words of the precious woman who’d read them: Get to the emergency room as soon as possible.
You called me that night. You wanted to drink. You asked me to drive. And so we set out.
You drank all the Miller Lite you wanted. I drank water.
You studied the jukebox for a long time before putting your money in. When you made your decision, we listened to Three Dog Night.
With every song, you had a story to tell. It was almost like a story of your life but only the beginning part—the part where you knew you were somehow separate from your upbringing. The part when you realized you were Terry but not necessarily a Townsend.
You told me about the time that your sweet parents took you to Spring Lake Amusement Park. You’d never heard any music in your life besides Gospel or country. On this particular day, you heard Three Dog Night and it somehow changed your life.
You came alive on the inside and you knew there was something out there beyond horse-racing-barrels and your own backyard.
There was music.