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The Friday Morning Listen: Greg Brown – Slant 6 Mind

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Hi, Mom. Happy Mother's Day! We haven't spoken much since you left, so I thought this would be a good time to catch up. A lot's been going on around here and I wasn't sure if you were up on all the details.

Let's see. Last summer. It turned kind of cool around here in the latter part of June. We hardly needed the air conditioner at all. There were a couple of days, though, when I came home and it was over 80 in the house. Dad was either too lazy to get up and turn the AC on or was trying to save money. I didn't bother asking him, because you know how he was about that stuff. Anyway, I worked at home for about half the time. It was hard for me to leave him here alone in this big house. That is, until I realized that he liked it. On days that I went in to the office, Dad would run an errand or two (usually just picking up stuff for dinner at the farm stand), and then stop on the way back to get himself some lunch. I had no idea he was so fond of McDonald's Quarter Pounders and jelly sticks from Dunkin' Donuts. I figured, what the heck? I mean, he's 86… what could be the harm?

We didn't take a vacation last summer. It would have been too weird and nearly impossible to relax, worrying about Dad being at home (even with someone staying with him). For a few days, we thought about taking him with us. Then we just decided to stay close to home. Like I said, it all felt kinda funny.

I did take one day off with him and we went for a drive over to the coast. Picked up some fish and chips and ate in the car while looking out over the ocean. We figured we should carry on the tradition. That was nice.

Late in the summer, Dad complained of not being able to sleep. You know how guys from his generation were. They never say anything unless it's really bad. I thought maybe he was watching too much TV or something. You just would not believe the amount of Westerns he went through. I didn't even know they made that many. His complaint though, had me worried, so we went to the doctor and she mentioned something about depression and gave him a small dose of a mild sleeping pill. That seemed to help a lot.

His cough kept getting worse though. I tried to get him to go to the doctor or even the hospital but he insisted he wanted to wait until the next week for his scheduled appointment. Well, on Friday night I looked over at him about five minutes after he'd taken his sleeping pill. He had told me that it took about 45 minutes to take effect, so I was sort of surprised to see his eyes closed. We were watching the news and, in the middle of the sports, he mumbled something about them being a bunch of drug dealers. I asked him what he was going on about but there was no reply. I got up and shook him gently and he opened his eyes, smiled, and then fell back asleep. After that, no response… just a light snore.

The EMT people showed up in a short while and off he went to the hospital. Turns out his cough was pneumonia. He spent a week there and then went for some rehab at, wouldn't you know it, the same nursing facility that you were in. It was a long and strange fall, Mom. Dad got a little better but never got good enough to come back home. In fact, the idea sort of worried him. When he finally made the decision to stay, we came back here and pulled down all of his artwork from the walls and brought it over to the home. I tell you, the people over there were so impressed, he could have charged admission to his room. Every time I visited somebody stopped by to be amazed at this wall of beauty.

(Is this weird for you, chatting like this? I've tried to tell you some of this stuff when I'm in the car by myself, but I always end up in tears and have to stop. I just figured that maybe you should get the full update.)

Do you bother with looking at the weather anymore? Then maybe you know about the ice storm we had in December? It was crazy. Trees down everywhere. We didn't have power for over ten days. Good thing Dad was at the home because the temperature in the house hovered at just above 32. They had to run the home on generators for three days. Dad was not so happy without the TV.

Christmas was very, very strange. The ice storm went on for so long that by the time we got the power back, it was sort of too late to get a tree. We ended up plugging in that nice keepsake tree that Linda's parents sent her. I brought Dad your ceramic tree and set it up in his window seat. Christmas Day was tough. Linda had to work, so I went over for a visit, bringing Dad some Western DVDs and also a Tiger Woods golf game that could be played using only the DVD remote. We played a game, but then he got tired and I went back to ready the house for the kids and dinner. I cried all the way home.

Everything after that is a sort of blur. I remember lots of details but you don't really need to know them. Maybe the next time I write. I have to say, though, this was the first time that I was actually glad that you weren't here. You didn't need to see this.

Did you know about Lynn? And the heart attack? I told Dad about it but not that she was gone. I figured he already had enough to deal with.

It was only two weeks later that he passed on. I never actually got to ask him about it near the end (mostly out of fear), but he knew what was happening and apparently had had a conversation with Rita at the home about being ready to visit you. That man always had more going on in his head than he was willing to let on.

Obviously, there was more blur for the rest of the winter. Spring finally showed up around here a few weeks ago, to much rejoicing from the locals. I promised myself that, after the long and harsh winter, I would not complain about the mud or the black flies. So far, so good. Hey, even your buddy Greg Brown made a local appearance. Yes, he played over at the Unitarian church. You would have loved it (though maybe not those wooden benches up in the balcony… I think my butt still hurts from that). I still remember when you ran up to him and hugged him after that show a few years ago!

Hey, did you watch the Kentucky Derby? Oh man, 50-to-1! Yeah, we cried too. So awesome.

Oh, almost forgot: the robin! Remember those house shutters that Dad fixed up and painted, the ones I never managed to get back onto the windows? I'd left them leaned up against the garage wall on the front porch and a robin made a nest right on top of them. You would have loved it. I took a peek and there were four beautiful blue eggs resting in there. The robin almost never left the nest, though I have to say that I felt sad for her during one particularly nasty rainstorm. I would love to share pictures of the babies but, sadly, the mom robin disappeared a couple of days ago. I haven't managed to remove the nest yet, but I have to soon because every time I walk by the living room window, there it is… empty. Yes, it makes us cry too.

Anyway, we're doing better now, but still miss the heck out of both of you. I suppose that will never change. It feels weird to be wishing you a Happy Mother's Day, but I've been doing it for over 40 years now… can't really stop. I just hope that Dad doesn't make you watch Lonesome Dove for the umpteenth time. Oh wait, no… he'll want to watch the TPC golf tournament. The one with that island green? Don't worry, he'll explain to you what a birdie is again… for the umpteenth time.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Rob

    This is a great album!

  • I don’t have the words that could really compare to what you’ve written here. What a wonderful, loving tribute.

    Sending you some hugs this Mother’s Day.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Beautiful tribute, my friend. I know you miss her.

  • very nice – wish i had your guts.

  • That was lovely, Mark. Very moving.

  • Linda Saleski

    Yeah! We cannot really be so alone when they live with us in our hearts and minds. Each holiday allows us to feel their love once again. The Wife

  • Jeff Mazza

    Mark, I feel your pain. I miss my dad, your mom and dad and your sister Lynn. It has been a rough year. All I can do or say is that I love you man. Your my cousin and my friend and your parents were always my other set of parents. Linda “the wife” is right…they live on in our hearts and memories. You know how to reach me. We need to get together soon.
    With Love
    your cousin