In the fall of 2006, my mom almost died. She had gone to the doctor because her health insurance was expiring because the doctor’s office she worked at was closing. She went in to have a stress test to check her heart strength. She started vomiting uncontrollably, and they realized that she had a heart attack. She was lucky she was in the hospital when it happened. She had to have a septuple bypass—years of not going to the doctor caught up to her—and when they were doing her heart surgery, they found thyroid cancer. She had to have her thyroid removed a few weeks after her heart surgery, and it took more than a year before she was back to 80%. She still has a lot of health problems, but she’s still alive.
It’s hard to articulate what this does to you, when you are 20, when you become sure that your mom is going to die, that a parent that you love is in the hospital, and has been for weeks, and that you’re supposed to care about some bullshit Native American history class and pay attention to homework and exams and have to go through the motions of building a “social life.” It’s not like you can tell that shit to people you hang out with in college; no one wants to hear about your mom lying in a hospital bed across town, vomiting from chemotherapy.
So I became a pretty lonely guy. I had started working at the college newspaper, but I couldn’t talk to anyone there about my mom’s health; I had two deadlines a week, and a bunch of editors relying on me. I had no social life beyond the paper; I went to class and wrote stories during the day, and spent my nights with my mom in the hospital. I spent a lot of time living in my own head; in some ways, I don’t think I’ve ever recovered. I’ve internalized a lot of my feelings since then because trying to even talk to my dad about what I was feeling was too much; my mom was having problems and piling on my dad with how I was worried would have been adding to his own mental instability. My sister responded by never being around; she was a senior in high school and spent all her time at her friends’ houses. I started living in my own head to a more serious degree.
During that time, I spent a lot of time listening to My Morning Jacket’s Z, and specifically the closing track “Dondante.” I would stalk around the campus at UW-Oshkosh with “Dondante” at obscene levels in my headphones, avoiding having to talk to anyone and generally being pretty miserable. There were periods that fall that I would listen to “Dondante” 20 times a day.
So it’s basically impossible for me to listen to “Dondante” without thinking about being that lonely, worried and sad 20 year old. It’s not a good feeling.
* It never occurred to me until just right now that they are doing surgery on that owl. I never noticed the surgical masks. Weird.