This is a bit difficult to talk about, but the last 6 months have been a struggle. My mother has had a rough transition from apartment living to hospital to rehab to hospital and rehab again and finally to assisted living. It’s a sad but true tale of dementia and Alzheimer’s in my 82 year old mom. There were mountains of paperwork, trips to the ED and watching my once strong and independent mom learn to give up all the trappings of her former life and learn a new reality, some of which she makes up as she goes.
I have tried really hard to maintain a sense of understanding and compassion throughout, but to he honest, for a long while it broke me. There were days that I just couldn’t be strong enough and just broke down in tears and sobs that came from deep inside and couldn’t be stopped.
Cindy kept me held together, or at least we alternated breakdowns through the process, and I have her to thank for keeping me sane and grounded as we considered how best to help my mother and negotiate that path. It wasn’t easy to hug me enough, but she did it, again and again, and I can’t thank her enough for being my rock.
The other thing that helped to keep me sane, and I mean this in all seriousness, was… The Grateful Dead.
I have spent hours and hours and hours driving back and forth from Belmont to Waunakee and the hour and 15 minute drive was a lengthy time to be alone with my thoughts. Fear, trepidation, sometimes anger… all of it was turbulence in me that I didn’t know how to calm. I had been listening to a lot of sludgy heavy spacey rock (probably to help try and help drown out all the mental garbage) but it wasn’t soothing me.
Then one day at work after listening to a string of heavy stuff a Grateful Dead live show came up in my YouTube feed. Ready for a change that day, I played it.
My history with The Grateful Dead is a long one and began in high school. An acquaintance in school loaned me “Skeletons From The Closet” (on vinyl of course back then) and I took it home and listened to it. I liked a couple songs, but overall didn’t care for it. When I returned it he was of course anxious to hear what I thought. We didn’t talk much after that.
However, that loaner and the song “Uncle John’s Band” was what led me years later to pick up the album “Working Man’s Dead” from the bins at Meijer Superstore.
This album changed the way I looked at The Dead. These were songs I could relate to and they remain my favorites today.
In years to follow I copied a Dead show tape (now long gone) from a friend at the factory. It was cool. A whole different experience from the albums I had heard. Wish I still had that, but if you want a Dead show, try going to the internet and NOT finding one.
That led to downloading a few shows.
I gave a few shows to Dalton, but surprisingly he wasn’t into it. That was rare.
I eventually also leaned into Jerry Garcia solo and Garcia with David Grisman.
So it was an on again, off again thing with The Dead for me. It was a bit like the way I consume Yes. There is a specific time and place for it. Over the years I have downloaded maybe 50 shows to turn to when that mood struck me, but nothing like my gargantuan 1200 Zappa shows. So they had a presence in my catalog, but I was far from a Deadhead. Sort of a sunny diversion on occasion.
That was all in the salad days of my youth. In my middle years I kept dabbling and I have to say that I connected even more with the band. In the last few years I dabbled a bit harder still.
When the issues with my mother began I kept finding myself going to the YouTube live shows again and again.
There are certain types of music that affect me in different ways and I was coming to realize that The Dead had a calming and soothing aspect that I was really needing right then.
I downloaded a few soundboard shows and replaced my car music flash drive. It was a good move. The drives to Waunakee and back became more soul soothing, which I really really, really needed.
Then I discovered Dead And Company.
Yeah. That’s John Mayer with ole Bobby there. I was like huh? I knew Bobby had created several incarnations of both Dead amalgams and solo work, but this was new and I had to admit… SO totally awesome.
It was Dead and Company that was playing in my car as I drove back and forth to Waunakee now. The best of both worlds for me, Dead music with a touch of new blood that I really dug. It was true to the notion of The Dead while John gave it a personal touch without twisting it or taking it over. The back and forth with Bobby was great.
Best of all, it smoothed out my rough edges and tangled emotions, and I needed badly as things with my mother escalated as she became more and more unknown to me and even to herself.
So between my wife Cindy (thank you Cyn for always being there) and The Grateful Dead I have managed to come this far in my mother’s journey and remain intact and functional. Her journey isn’t over yet, but I am well more well equipped emotionally now.
Thank you both.