Fourth Decade: Sucking the marrow out of life since 1969.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Plenty of Memories

At first I couldn't understand why I didn't reach for some Bruce and EStreet music to comfort me on Saturday night when I learned Clarence Clemons died.

Then, I rationalized it must be because I had blown the roof off my collection listening like mad all week long while awaiting news of his recovery from the stroke, and I must just be EStreeted out. As if.

But no, my reality isn't ever that black and white. I'm a Gray, and the murky color permeates my life, my thoughts, as well as my emotions.

There's a buzzing in my head and in my ears that no amount of IBU can take away. Since that moment I heard the news (Thanks my dear friend, Caren), there's a distortion in my world; this wasn't supposed to be. This day, this way, no. Not now. Not ever. But here it is. Now. And forever.

And I needed the silence. I read everything I could find. But I couldn't listen to the music. Even after the global playing of Jungleland on Sunday, the silence screamed for me to listen to it instead. Now I know, it was so I could hear my own words.

The Big Man is gone. And my mother's fragile mortality floats up to the surface, next in line once again on the balance beam of pain and suffering in the forefront of my mind.

My mother is 10 years older than Clarence, but she's been suffering from many causes for 20 years. There's been more bad than good, but, like a light in the murky gray fog of pain, there have been some pockets of relief for her. And I can claim sole responsibility with some pride. Quite simply, I got her into as many E Street concerts as I possibly could.

It only took observing her at her first live show to see that there was some elixir in the air, in the energy force coming off the stage. Well, Amen. Now this was a church service, a ministry, a belief system I could support. You see, nothing I'd seen my mother pray to before or since has the same healing effect that Bruce and the EStreet Band did.

For several hours, the music, the experience, and yes, even the humorous antics of Bruce and Clarence, Nils, Stevie and the gang transported my mother beyond her pain to a place where smiles and joyful noisemaking were all she needed. The reality outside the concert walls ceased to exist.

"I cannot, I will not, I cannot ---- promise you life everlasting, but I can ---- promise you ----life right now!" shouted Bruce during his 1999 10th Ave Freezeout band intro.

This. Could I bottle this? No, it had to be fresh. OK, I could give this to my mother. And I gave it to her all right. Mom "let me drag" her to nothing short of 5 Springsteen concerts. Small potatoes to those of us who have more than 20-30, but to her those 5 were a lot. The Reunion Tour, The Rising Tour (twice), The Devils and Dust Tour, The Magic Tour. There were tickets won on the radio, tickets given by dear friends, tickets bartered, and tickets bought and paid with every penny I had or could borrow.

Hartford, Boston, any chance I could, and even a trip to the floor of Giants Stadium; each time I witnessed the same remedy for my mother's pain: dance, clap, smile, and laugh. Repeat for several hours. I always tried for seats on Clarence's side, because Mom loved to hear that saxophone and see the Big Man strut his stuff.

When I met Clarence at one of many book signings he did, much to my regret, I obeyed the "no photos" rule while everyone else snapped away memories of meeting. But I seized the chance to quickly relay in our 2-minute exchange that his saxophone playing had kept my mother dancing for years despite her ailments. He beamed at that, and told me to tell her to "keep dancing," and that "I'll keep playing as long as she'll keep dancing."

I called my Mom immediately that night, and we both shed some tears for the genuine warmth we felt traveling through the message.

Nonetheless, Mom was done touring. Mom refused to "let me drag" her on the Working on a Dream tour, despite my insistence that I could get handicapped seating for her now and she wouldn't have to climb stairs. Instead, she told me to enjoy the concerts for the both of us, while she slipped in and out of a depressive state of mind that remains today. I went, of course, but I missed seeing her dancing and clapping next to me.

Now, my 79-year old mother's health issues will not be improving, and there's no chance that she'll ever dance again. Perhaps, now without Clarence's soulful horn, it's best that way.

After all, recently she reminded me quite plainly, "We have plenty of memories dancing to Bruce and Clarence."

I know Mom, but I couldn't help wishing for just one more. Just one more.

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