I just had a major operation to remove one of my kidneys and the large tumor that was attached to it. Won’t bore you with the details, the heading pretty much says it.
When you’re somewhat incapacitated, as I have been most of this summer, you have plenty of time to ponder. I’ve spent a lot of time going to my “happy places” (revisiting people I have loved and places that have brought me joy). I also realized how thankful I am for so much.
My “happy places” consist of many childhood memories; so please bear with me while I list a few.
Staying with my Grandma Hobbs and being greeted with an ice-cold Co-cola. Her giving me a quarter and walking down to Mr. Paul’s store on Creek Road where I could get an orange popsicle, football, baseball or Batman cards, SweetTarts and Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
Staying with my Grandma and Granddaddy Meads and helping him in his garden, enjoying a dinner (read lunch…in the south at that time the daily meals consisted of breakfast, dinner and supper) with fried chicken, boiled greens and potatoes, cornbread, sweet tea, homemade biscuits, and if I was lucky, a piece of Grandma’s chocolate cake. Grandaddy always had peppermint chewing gum and we’d chew that after dinner and sit out in the swing in summer.
Visiting my father at Culpepper Motor Company on Elizabeth St. and looking at the new cars in the showroom. I especially loved Christmastime because there was a big aluminum tree there and a life-size Santa sitting in one of the chairs.
Friday nights at Granddaddy and Grandma Meads’ when most of my aunts, uncles and cousins came over and we heard stories from long ago out on the front porch with background sounds provided by frogs and crickets and the occasional car riding down Thunder Road with the radio on and windows down. Me and my cousins played until we were exhausted and covered in sweat. That’s when we’d come in and get a drink of cold water from a green pitcher filled with rainwater from inside my grandmother’s ancient Frigidaire.
Weekends at my parent’s place down on the Albemarle Sound where my imagination ran wild with images of pirates, Indians, damsels in distress and whatever other images I conjured up from the books I read. My mother would cook fried potatoes and green beans and daddy would grill burgers or pork chops. It was heavenly! When I got older I would drive down there alone with my high-school girlfriend (although “alone” is probably not the correct term). As live, walking contraceptives, we were always accompanied by my sister and at least 2-3 of my girlfriend’s younger siblings. It worked.
Saturday mornings when my mother and I were home alone and we would listen to music (an awful lot of Gershwin) while we cleaned.
My father teaching me to play golf.
Band trips…anything to do with the band.
Soft ice-cream from Nu-Quality in the summer.
Stopping in to see Grandma and Granddaddy Hobbs after church on Sunday nights and getting powdered donuts, another Co-cola and maybe a slice of plain cake with white icing.
Hearing my mother play piano or organ at church.
Church picnics. Dinner on the grounds.
My parents taking me to Peter Nero concerts in Norfolk…
There are many other people and places that I have visited but that’s enough for now.
In addition to visiting my “happy places” I also started counting my blessings:
A devoted wife who has been with me through this whole ordeal, and in addition to taking excellent care of me, has also dealt with all the practicalities of insurance, doctors, phone calls, as well as my own ups and downs, etc.
My two boys, who have taken time out from their lives to help out at home and also kept me laughing.
A mother and father who are still there for me in every way.
A sister who has been extremely supportive and helped my mother and father help me.
Family on both sides of the Atlantic who have helped out and kept me in their thoughts and prayers.
Friends who have offered to help in any way they can, along with colleagues and former students who have showered me with love and good thoughts.
My main songwriting collaborators who continue to check in and inspire me. (I’m horribly afraid that one day they will find out they don’t need me).
The fact that I made it through major surgery and still ended up on this side of the dirt.
The fact that after only 3 weeks I’m relatively mobile and feeling as good as could be expected.
That I can listen to music again and that it moves me more than ever.
That I can see beauty and find joy where I never saw it before.
That “petty bullshit”, which somehow was incorrectly filed under “IMPORTANT” in my life has now been refiled under “PETTY BULLSHIT- deal with this later”.
All in all, I’m happy. Of course I wish I didn’t have cancer and I still don’t know what the outcome will be, but I’m positive, thoughtful and thankful. And my advice to everyone is this: take your moments and create “happy places” for yourself and people you love. Never forget that the most insignificant things you do (like giving someone a quarter to buy an orange popsicle on a hot summer day, or just spending time with someone) can be a lifetime memory for them. And don’t be afraid to turn around and look your mortality in the face. It’s the best way to remind yourself to keep “petty bullshit” in the right file. And most importantly, love each other and be kind.
Thanks for reading and please check out the rest of my site. And if you want to start being especially kind…download or stream my album, GENESIS OF WHO I AM.