Saturday, December 11, 2010

'If We Make it Through December'

A Long December

A long December and there's reason to believe

Maybe this year will be better than the last

I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving

Oh the days go by so fast

And it's one more day up in the canyons

And it's one more night in Hollywood

If you think that I could be forgiven

I wish you would

The smell of hospitals in winter

And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls

All at once you look across a crowded room

To see the way that light attaches to a girl

And it's one more day up in the canyons

And it's one more night in Hollywood

If you think you might come to California

I think you should

Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after 2 a.m.

And talked a little while about the year

I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower

Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe

Maybe this year will be better than the last

I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself

To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it's one more day up in the canyon

And it's one more night in Hollywood

It's been so long since I've seen the ocean

I guess I should…

The first time I really heard this song was December 6th, 2005, and I was in a hospital room after having a major surgery. Several days before going into the hospital, I was informed that my father had driven his truck into the desert, (The Valley of Fire, NV) and had simply vanished. Although it was not unlike my father to disappear, (he was a disappearing specialist) I did think it strange that he had abandoned his truck, and the fact that it was six miles into the desert gave me a shiver. Further, he was to meet me in St. George to see me through the surgery and stay with me. He never showed. Still, I was scheduled for surgery, and like the many times he had disappeared before, I figured he would show up somewhere, sometime. When I woke from the surgery, I experienced pain like I had never knew until that moment, further, I felt like I couldn't breathe for the ensuing four days in the hospital. The first thing I asked the nurse when I woke was, "Has my father been found?" Well, she didn't know what I was talking about, but soon a cousin came to inform me that "No, he was still missing…"

There is a long difficult story between that moment and presently, which I'll tell in a narrative some day. Suffice to say, however, the deep emotional pain I felt of abandonment that moment I awoke, coupled with a physical pain that still somewhat radiates today, left me wounded forever, I think, for all Decembers. As the great singer Merle Haggard says in a song, "I don't mean to hate December, it's meant to be the happy time of year…"

Rather than write about the existing cliché that polarizes the happy holiday folks and the melancholy ones, I'll just say that from Thanksgiving through the images of Christmas trees in garbage bins, its not the most endearing time of the year for me. Still, I try to make the best of it, and hell, I'm probably much closer in age to melancholy than joy anyway, and, in my opinion, sorrow is very underrated.

(Excerpt from 'Bohemian Cowboy')

My Father has vanished into the desert. I cannot find my Father’s boots or his felt hat. I cannot find his shirt, or the wrangler jeans he always wore. I cannot find his bear claw belt buckle or his soft white handkerchief. My Father is still in the desert.

(guitar strum)

My Father was a singer of songs. Songs that were remnants of all the good things that come from small towns, delivered with the splendor of a lonesome broken angel. All the songs he sang had the feeling of something that happened to him along time ago that he just couldn’t get over. When he sang, ‘Last Waltz With Mother’, you couldn’t help tearing up, even if you didn’t know his Mother died when he was just four. My father was a nostalgia ist.

I read in a book by William Styron that most depression is caused from an inability to grieve. When my Father did grieve, you could not stay in the same room, it was too much to bear.

Near the end of his life,

he could not remember five minutes ago,

but still knew the words to a thousand songs

knew the melodies

harmonies in triplet,

still mourning the loss of his mother—

still crooning that lonesome memory.

I think the song, 'A Long December' will always be a touchstone of my feelings this time of year, and I'm sorry I cannot write more positively today, but as I often do this time of the year, I think of him, sometimes fondly, and sometimes with some residual anger at the vast abandonment, of a man whose disappearances blazed a lost trail into the landscape of my life and spirit… Where ever you are, Dad, return again some day, but until you do, fly through those canyons at the speed of light…


Cheryl said...

I just downloaded this song and put it on my IPod a week or so ago. I have always loved Christmas but it has been lacking since my Santa, Grandpa Ott died. His Mrs. Santa increased that missing part by dying at Christmas as well. We spent Christmas Day that year in the hospital in Vegas with her. Maybe the high requires the low to create balance. Maybe we're suppose to learn something from all this. It's just too bad we never fully recover. said...

"If we make it through December.."
December seems to be the month that family draws together or is very much apart. The complicated family relationships are strained.
The missing are missed. The lonely are so alone. Those gone cannot be drawn back. And we think over and over of that great time, that is no more. And yet..those around us offer laughter, a bit of joy, some common sense, a sense of fun...and Christmas comes. We gather what we can and move on. We gather what we can and move on. Love happens and somehow binds.

Gerry said...

Christmas is always blue for someone. Your dad could sing that song so well that it had poignancy for me until his memory kind of faded. You were going to miss him longer because of having lived with him so many times in the winter. "Silver Bells" was another Christmas song he used to be asked to sing all the time. When you miss him just sing another of his songs. I think that is what comforted him so much for his sad life, singing songs about it. I think of him as always connected to some song.

caroline said...

all of these comment posts above are so full of truth and rueful beauty. "..we gather what we can and move on. We gather what we can and move on." that will stay with me for a long time. Thanks, all ya'll. Hope these blessings lift you up, Raymond.

Larena said...

Bless you Raymond, and may December not be to long or cold for you. This month does seem to renew old sorrows no matter what one does. In December we feel the best of life and the worst of life. Msy you find joy in the little things and remember that you have managed to gather love from many people in your journey.

Amandajo said...

Wow! This post was really beautiful. I like how you tie in the song with the story. How cool. Thank you for sharing that. I like to think my father is lost in the desert and just never got found. And actually that's exactly what he was. Had he found himself he might still be alive. My dad was adorable at Christmas time. He has been missed for a long time now. Christmas time is hard. Loneliness feels lonelier. And sadness is sadder. But joy should be the focus. I hope you have a wonderful evening and an excellent holiday with you mom. I look forward to reading more about your life.