Friday, January 1, 2016
Crowded House "Don't Dream It's Over"
New Year's Eve has long been one of my favorite holidays, and and New Year's Day one of my least favorite. It's the day I realize that the holiday season is over, and that I am about to go back to work with the worst months of the year stretched out before me. In recent years it has become even more difficult because of the deaths of those close to me, and the changing in the calendar reminds me of their loss. The years keep rolling on, and fewer and fewer people are there with me, either due to distance or dying.
I've tried to take time this new year's season to remember those that I've lost. The song I choose for this reflection is always "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House. This might sound like a strange choice, since it's apparently a minor key love song, but I have my reasons. The first person close to me I ever lost was my dad's father, in April of 1987, on Good Friday after a long illness. He and my grandmother lived in a tiny town half an hour away, and I swear every time we drove there over the days after my grandfather's death this song was on the radio. I cannot hear it without thinking about that moment in my life.
I often think about the fact that I was just really getting to know my grandfather as a real person right at the moment he died. The prior year he had stayed at our house for a couple of weeks while getting treatments at the hospital. I was at first resentful of the fact that he was sleeping in my bed, and I was now confined to the couch. I got over that pretty quickly, thankfully. My grandfather would tell me stories, and as a budding history nerd, they blew my mind. He was born in rural Missouri in 1903, and could thus tell me of a time when he surprised to see cars, not just horse drawn carriages, on the roads. He was actually in the train station in Kansas City during an infamous 1933 shootout there between gangsters and the police. More crucially, he wanted to watch baseball every day, and that habit drew me away from the after-school episodes of GI Joe and towards Cubs games on WGN. My life would never be the same again.
But I never really had the chance to talk baseball with him, even though he lit the spark for my more serious interest in the game. I watched the '86 World Series intently, and when the 1987 season began I was buying Topps cards like a maniac and checking the daily baseball scores, but he was already in the hospital for good. I still remember a day, maybe the day of his funeral or the day after, sitting disconsolately on my grandparents' couch in their always underlit, cramped and cluttered living room while looking at the sports page of the Omaha World-Herald and seeing that Bo Jackson, the Royals' great new hope, had struck out five times in his last game. (Based on my research, this was apparently on April 18, 1987.) That made a truly rotten day feel even worse. As I sat on the couch, despondent, my sweet Aunt S. came over to ask if I was all right, and I think I talked about Bo Jackson as a way to deflect the depths of my sadness over my grandfather's passing.
I was talking to my parents on the phone tonight, and my dad retold the story of how my grandfather loved baseball so much that he played on the town team (back when every little town had its own amateur teams) well into middle age, and used an unorthodox cross-handed hitting style to great effect. For some reason my hands instinctually want to grip a baseball bat that way. It's my grandfather's blood talking to me.
What I would give to be able to talk to him again. Listening to this song is the closest I can get.