I love me some James Taylor. My best friend is to thank for that. The summer I graduated from college, we drove to New Mexico and I remember listening to James in my dad's pickup as she and I cruised along the edges of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. James Taylor is peace and mellow personified.
Then, during the 2004 election season, she and I drove all the way to St. Louis, Missouri (our closest swing state) to see James perform with the Dixie Chicks in a protest concert.
There's 'something in the way' he croons. Puts me at ease. Focuses my perspective. 'Seems to leave this troubled world behind.' Case in point:
Anyway, singing this particular tune is a way to share that special significance with her - a little part of my musical and political tastes - but there's one more layer, too, and it's hard for me to voice out loud.
The chorus says:
"So, close your eyes. You can close your eyes; it's alright.
I don't know no love songs, and I can't sing the blues anymore.
But I can sing this song. And you can sing this song when I'm gone."
When I'm gone.
Yeah. [uncomfortable silence] The diabetes thing. The mortality thing. 20 years in already with a chronic illness that will likely have something to do with my eventual exit.
I'm not normally one to get freaked. I knew having a child would make me more aware of fragility - mine and hers. I knew that. I'm the realist in the family when it comes to death (said my uncle before he died). And I have no illusions about an afterlife, honestly - a big kumbahya where we can all join hands around a holy campfire and drink cocoa with the friends and family who behaved well enough in life to get there.
When I'm gone...I'm gone.
Part of that belief has never bothered me. I mean, yeah sure, I don't WANT to go. I find life to be pretty awesome. The whole thing - the pain, the humanity, the creative spirit, Amazon free shipping. But I'd always just assumed I'd go earlier than other non-diabetic friends and family and that that would be the end of it.
But I have HER now. And my time with her is only just beginning. And I'd be pissed to have to leave now.
When I'm gone...will she remember me? The sound of my singing to her? The "I'm gonna get you" game or the way I call her "Boo Boo" for no particular reason?
Is it macabre that I make videos of myself singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and other favorite songs for the express purpose of archiving my voice for her in such an event?
But I sing her this song because it expresses exactly what I want to tell her. That this old world will still be spinning 'round. That it won't be long before another day. That no one's gonna take that time away. And that I still love her.
So she can safely close her eyes. She can close her eyes; its alright. I'm going to keep singing this love song. And I hope she will sing this song when...you know.
"Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought."
---Percy Bysshe Shelley