Sunday, October 12, 2014
Track of the Week: The Kinks "Days"
The period from September until the end of the calendar year has long been my favorite. It combines the excitement of a new school year (before I inevitably start to lose energy around February) with my favorite holidays and cooler weather before it gets wearying and depressing (usually in mid-January.) Unfortunately, in recent years this season has brought the death of someone close to me. Last year it was my grandmother, the year before one of my best friends, a couple of years before that my wife's grandfather. This year my cat has been ailing, and after an emergency trip to the doctor last week, I took her home with the knowledge that she does not have much time left.
I've had her for almost eight years. I adopted her in the dead of my first winter in Michigan, where I was working as a visiting assistant professor. I had lived with other people all through grad school, and was not adjusting well to living alone, especially amidst Michigan's punishing cold and lack of sunshine. For the four and a half years that I continued to live alone, my cat was my one daily companion, and a loving one at that. She came with me to my tenure-track job in Texas, and then again with me to live with my wife in New Jersey. We have been through a lot together. She was a comforting presence during yearly bouts with the academic job market and some of the lowest points in my life. There were days when my alarm would go off and I had practically no desire to get out of bed. She would playfully mew and bat at my face until I got up, mostly because she wanted a drink of water from the sink, but it helped me survive some depressive troughs. Since those days she's been remarkably tolerant of my daughters and has learned to live with my wife's dog. Right now I am just trying to make her last days as pleasant as I can.
Pop music, like most of our culture, doesn't deal well with death. The best pop song about losing a loved one is actually more literally about heartbreak after the end of a long relationship. That said, "Days" by The Kinks has such fitting lyrics for mourning a friend. "I thank you for the days/ Those sacred days you gave me" and "And though you're gone/ You're with me every single day believe me" describe my feelings about my dear friend David's untimely death and the loss of my grandmother. It's a modest little song that's not musically distinct, but over the years, as I have sadly lost many near to my heart, it has meant more than just about any other song. So much so that I find it difficult to put my thoughts into words, and beg that you just sit down and listen to it. As the song says, 'The night is dark and only brings sorrow anyway."