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Random Shuffle – Randy Travis, Ryan Adams, Curtis Mayfield, and Cat Stevens

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"Forever and Ever Amen" – Randy Travis
From Always and Forever
Download the MP3

I have an uncle, he's one of those uncles. He's never been married. He lived with his parents until they died. He frequents a local bar enough that when he arrives the crowd cheers him on Norm-like, etc. I make him sound pathetic there, and there is some of that to him, but really he is a very nice man and has always been a very good uncle.

As a kid, he would periodically take me and my cousins to various places. I can remember riding up to Tulsa to go to the zoo or we'd go see the local minor league baseball team in the summer. The best trips were when we'd ride up to Coffeyville, Kansas and see where the Dalton gang robbed some banks and died in a shoot-out. Hot stuff for a kid. My uncle would take us to these places, and tell us all kinds of stories there and back. I supposed he did this because he had no children of his own, and we became like surrogates.

We'd ride there in his little car and listen to the country music station. He'd often tell me that no matter where you went in this country you could always find a country and western station. Even in the smallest of places. In my 32 years of living, I have found this to be true. Randy Travis was my favorite, and I'd sing this song with all the conviction a 10 year old can muster.

I'm older now, of course, and so is he. We no longer go places together, and I suppose that's the way it is to be. I have nephews now, and though I no longer care for baseball, and zoos tend to make me uncomfortable I think that once it gets warm again, I'll have to take them out and perhaps listen to a little country music.

"The Hardest Part" – Ryan Adams
From Jacksonville City Nights
Download the MP3

On his very peculiar blog, Ryan Adams recently announced that he is quitting the Cardinals, and perhaps music. It seems he is ill, or diseased, or something (nothing comes easy on that blog) and it is keeping him from enjoying music. As it comes from Ryan Adams, who on his best days could never be what one called stable, there are still question marks hovering over the truthfulness of this. Likely as not he'll quit for awhile then announce a come back and make some startling, remarkable music.

In the wake of the announcement me and some friends have been pondering what this will actually mean, and how much we need Ryan's music. Need is the right word there. Man, I can't speak eloquently enough about what music means to me, nor so many others. I can say there have been many the night where I've laid on my old couch, earbuds plugged into my iPod and sat there in the dark weeping along to "Dear John" or "Two" or "Sylvia Plath."

Ryan turns my insides into weakness like no other artist around. His music sticks to my gut and stays. He has given me joy, and pissed me off, and broken me forever. It has been a long week where my own mortality has stared me in the face a little too closely. To see something that means so much to me coming to an end so soon, hurts. All lives must end, all music must stop playing. Here's to hoping he feels better, and finds there are some more songs inside him.

"People Get Ready" Curtis Mayfield
From Live in Holland
Download the MP3

I spent this morning at an employment agency filling out mountains of paperwork, watching asinine company videos and generally trying to make myself look employable. Since being back in the States I have been working for my dad. He is a contractor/house builder and I have been doing all of his cleanup. It is grunt work, and boring and is definitely not something I want to continue doing. When I hired on I told him that I would help him out until the new year but then I would have to find something else.

The other day I logged into an employment website, searched it for the town I live in plus all areas within a 30 mile radius, and told it to find me every job available. It came back with four results.

Four. Jobs. Total.

The agency this morning told me about the same thing. They had nothing, but would be sure to let me know if something came in. Standing this side of the new year I find myself worried, scared, and freaked out of my mind. I know that I am not alone in this. I am thankful that I at least have money still in my account. I am thankful that I have a family who can help me out. I know so many others are not so fortunate.

Watching the inauguration on Tuesday I couldn't help but get a little flutter. No, he is not our savior. No, he will not live up to all his hype, or his promises. The recession will still go on. He can bring no miracles. Still, as I saw him up there taking that oath, I believe I felt what millions of others felt:

Hope.

"If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" – Cat Stevens
From Harold and Maude
Download the MP3

It was Sunday morning when we got the call. Grandmother’s kidneys were failing and if we wanted to see her alive, we’d better come. And that quick. We packed a bag and made the almost 800 mile drive to Tennessee in about 12 hours.

We arrived late Sunday evening to find the family gathered around grandmother’s hospital style bed, set up in the living room of the house she has lived in for as long as I have memories. She was not awake – or I should say she was not really conscious. We could hear her breathing, but she had made no real recognition of us, or the noise we were making. Still there was comfort in knowing she was alive and in our ability to grab her hand and whisper that we loved her.

We made vigil until around 2 in the morning, then slowly we each wandered back to our beds, couches, and chairs and drifted off to sleep. When I awoke the next morning around 8 she was already gone – in spirit as well as body as the hospice had already removed her person.

There was sadness, of course, and relief as we had been expecting this death for more than a year. Anger is there too. I have to admit I was angry that she passed while I was asleep, that no one woke me to see her go. I went to bed when she was alive and I woke to an empty bed, laying lifeless and sheetless as if no one had ever occupied it before.

Perhaps it is strange to be angry over such a thing as that, I don’t know. I just wanted to see my grandmother one more time before the funeral home got ahold of her.

The home did a good job and she looked at peace. Funerals in that side of the family run at night and the preacher’s tend to give sermons rather than speak of the departed, but it was a fine service. My cousin preached part of it, and he remembered her well. He spoke of Grandma as the Godly Woman and that’s as it should be. The burial was the next morning next to an old country church, and her husband. It was bitter cold. And sad.

We spent the rest of the week sorting through her many things. It seems strange to sort through all the things a person collects in a lifetime and to bundle some up for remembrance, others for giving away, and others for the dumpster that sat outside.

My grandmother was a good woman. I don’t believe she ever met anyone she didn’t immediately love. She was the kind of person who would cook you a seven course meal even if you were leaving in just a minute, and weren’t hungry. The type of person who when the doctor’s said she had to use a walker to get around, simply lifted the things up and walked while carrying it. She was the sort of woman who while being mugged at gun point would ask the assailant if he knew Jesus and wished that he did. She was full of life, my grandmother, even in death.

I miss her so.

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About Mat Brewster

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I feel your pain Mat. It’s been a couple of decades since I lost my own grandma (“nana”), but I remember all of it well — the awkwardness in that hospital room, and finally the loss itself.

    More recently, I got laid off (no, not from Blogcritics, but from the job that actually fed me and paid the bills), and yeah, it’s pretty bleak out there. I also feel the same optimism about Obama. I supported him in the election, and I still feel like he could be one of the great ones…potentially an FDR or a Kennedy.

    He does have a hell of a mess to clean up, and anybody who expects Christ-like miracles overnight is kidding themselves though. Still, I feel a lot better with him driving the boat than I would have if it was the other guy. And like you, I’m scared to death to think what happens once the severance package and the bank account (which was already damaged by another lay off last year) run dry. Scary shit.

    As for Ryan Adams, once he sobers up, detoxes, or whatever he has to do this time around, I’m sure he’ll be back. I mean the guy can’t go two weeks without making another new album, right?

    Great article.

    -Glen

  • http://themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    Thanks Glen. I have high hopes for Obama, but I realize there is only so much a president can do.

    I’m sure Ryan will be back at some point. I’m just glad he’s going to finish this tour since I have tickets. I just hope his “retiring” doesn’t mean the show will suck.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    well done