Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Paying it forward

Up at the crack of feckin' dawn--6am--after the 10th and last St Patrick's gig within 9 days, ending at 1am. Now on the road, blogging lite, to give a paper in the Mile-High city.

Sometimes, though, even during an early morning after late Last Night's Fun, you wind up feeling thankful for things that seemed at the time to be burdens. Like: for all those years that certain family members from whom you desperately wanted approval for your practice of the art form to which you have dedicated your life withheld it. And in fact, with the hindsight provided by years of therapy, you realized they actively, intentionally withheld that approval because they were trying to fuck you up. And then worked years more in order to learn to let that go.

And now, when they're old, and infirm, and the mind is going, the local siblings who are bearing the brunt of this second childhood walk them into the adult daycare facility, for the first visit. On March 17. And, thanks to the blessing of the Good Saint Padraig, or of Brigid, or Columbcille, or all the Boddhisattvas and Buddhas, or just the angles of the universe aligning, there are musicians playing "Celtic music".

And the old lady's face "lights up like a Christmas tree," to quote the caretakers, and you realize that maybe, just maybe, all those months and years and decades of "well, that's nice, dear, but it's not right yet," or "well, honey, I really want this to work out for you, but you know that's not in tune yet," or "I just don't know if you're going to be able to do this," or "Well, [X] is already doing this; are you sure you're being realistic?", or "your father is just going to be very unhappy about your deciding to do this" have maybe, just maybe, been intended to lead to this moment.

That all those years of disappointment and invalidation and mind-games and psychological abuse have, at the very least and if for no better reason, allowed her, in the pleasant distraction or the frightened confusion of her second childhood, to feel just that slightest bit safer in a new situation because she recognizes the music.

It was never about me, was it, Patrick? I made it there anyway, in the face of the active discouragement, right? We do what we do anyway, to the best of our not-inconsiderable ability and dedication: the journey has been its own validation.

As I said to Dharmonia, "thank Christ that, even if she never gave me shit for encouragement as a kid, at least she still recognizes the music that we play."

Maybe it was all--all those years of neglect--always about paying it forward, for the sake of that momentary sense of familiarity and safety in the flickering candle of an old lady's mind.

Go raibh mile maith agat, Naomh Pádraig.

I get it now.


John from Taos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John from Taos said...

Hey man, go read about MY mother, and then check out my new website. :-)

Had to put that URL in here nekkid 'cause Blogger won't allow the target attribute, and the damn thing was opening in this window.

(At least you have caretakers for her. My old lady is a blind rogue elephant on crack headed for the Dumpster of God...)

Dharmonia said...

I was moved to tears by this.

Sean Williams said...

My mother-in-law just passed away, after 30 years of deeply disliking everything I have been and have done, and being mad as hell over the fact that I stole her son from her. You have had the great joy of being able to put some of the broken pieces of that part of your life together because of her recognition of the music, and I am so touched by what you've written. I only wish the flickering candle of my mother-in-law's mind could have bent, just a little bit, toward softness at the end. Thanks for letting me imagine.