Dad’s (Al Bruno) promo photo ~ Chicago, circa 1945 (?)
Shortly after my jazzman Dad passed away last year, I received a letter in the snail mail announcing a contribution had been made to the Bringing Music to Life’s instrument repair fund in his memory by one of my cousins* and her husband. What a perfect way to honor my Dad!
Founded in 2010, this non-profit organization not only provides musical instruments to students in underfunded schools throughout Colorado, but refurbishes each donated instrument before being placed in their eager hands.
“If you take a musical instrument that is in bad need of repair or even partial need of repair and put that into the hands of a 4th or 5th or 6th grader, they’re going to be very defeated when they try to play that instrument. They’re going to think it’s them – they’re not gonna know it’s the instrument.” (Dan Parker, pres. Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology)
Been up and down with that lousy respiratory bug for the past four weeks…Hubby, too…Been unable to taste or smell for at least the last two weeks (well really only ten days and counting but still)…Hubby has his back…Been on a self-imposed coffee fast because I can’t taste it so why bother?…Hubby doesn’t get the coffee thing…Gettin’ kinda cranky…
Okay, so maybe I’m going through a good healthy coffee purge/cleansing – Sooooo: should I still pick up that first cuppa once I get my taste buds back?
I Miss My Coffee!!!!
I’m going psychedelic-crazy without my hot-shot brew
The day after my cousins and Aunt Dolores returned to Chicago from Dad’s funeral* in Colorado, my Aunt Betty fell, broke her arm and entered into hospice care within the week.
Unlike Dad, she and his other sibs were/are lifelong Cubs fans. And I confess I caught the cub-bug from them back in the day! Freshly back from Colorado** hubby and I settled into a regular routine of watching 2016’s historic World Series. It helped ease re-entry into our life away from loved ones, life’s new normal and tending to everyday living in our little rental here in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, my cousins and Aunt Dolores had the television on for all the games, too. They spent time with Aunt Betty during her last ‘dream-sleep’ days listening and talking with her about all the exciting baseball action.
On November 1st, Dad’s sister joined the increasing Family party up in heaven.
When news spread over the Bruno Grapevine about her passing, I took comfort in thinking she had the best seat in the Universe to see those Cubbies take the World Series in all its victorious glory***.
The very next day, Terry and I took to the road again to attend the wake/funeral mass on Chicago’s south side.
Going back to old family locations, rejoining the cousins and the last two remaining of Dad’s sibs proved to be an unexpected blessing in the midst of my own raw grief.
I received an extra gift from my aunt – a chance to honor her – standing for Dad – and a chance to continue in the healing and comfort with Family – Coming back to my roots and laying Dad to rest there, too.
Surrounded by Family still in mourning over the death of Dad; beginning the trail of sorrow again with the passing of Aunt Betty – shared sorrow, shared support.
Joining joyful memories with the present shifting of Family ‘residency’ – sharing in the double grief – makes me think Aunt Betty waited to sit at that Family Table till Dad would be there, too.
In my over 3 years of blogging, I have never, ever, been nominated for any type of ‘blogging’ award. I figured because I am WP.org (self-hosted) rather than WP.com (WP hosted) that my chances for those sorts of things were stacked against me. So be it.
This coming Saturday morning, I leave for my third and quite possibly, last, scheduled trip to Colorado to visit with Dad (note-operative word here is scheduled). With it comes the usual deliberation on what to pack; most of which is rote routine. But those few variable items that require more thought on just how to pack along for the trip are often troublesome.
As a musician, it’s always about the music.
Yes, I have my NOTION software available to me on my laptop if the muse tickles my fancy, or I feel the need to work on compositional works-in-progress. Heck, I’m so old-school I consider it a badge of honor to whip out my staff paper notebook and jot down ideas using archaic graphite dots.
But that’s not what I’m meaning. And I’m not talking about iPod, streaming or even radio station music, either.
I’m talking about how does one pack that part of your essential being that doesn’t fit into a suitcase, in the overhead bin on an airplane, or be safely transported as general baggage without risk or costing a fortune? This common question faces all instrumentalists, yet there is no one-size-fits-all answer to it.
Coping with life – the good, the bad and the ugly (to borrow a phrase from a fav Spaghetti Western) – has always been reflected in my music. Prayers, supplications, questions, acceptance; hurts, healings and happy dances; all the dialogue, working through, pouring out – done with my instrument.
Rental ‘beater guitar’ placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983
Borrowing or renting a classical guitar is not as easy as say, a violin. I won’t go into the technical details of why, but suffice it to say that the “beater guitar”* I scouted out to rent during my first extended visit, while hard to procure, did deliver as a sort-of security blanket instrument during that five week time span.
My second visit lasted two weeks, a doable length of time to go without direct instrumental contact so that counted as an easy fix.
But…those were solutions for then. What about now?
This time around, I’m slated for a three week stay. As much as those visits are a precious blessing, they are also very intense; filled with tender moments alongside heart wrenching end-of-life realities.
This time around, hubby booked my flight on another airline, one which allows 1 bag and 1 personal item for free as carry-ons.
This time around, I’ll stuff the computer bag with my wallet, snacks and paperback mystery novel as usual, and tote my UKE as the other carry on.
After all, George Harrison composed ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on his UKE when his primary instrument was unavailable for use.
*”beater guitar” is a term used by cgers and acoustic guitarists alike that refers to an instrument that can be taken anywhere without fear of ruining it…case in point: around the campfire during wilderness treks.
One of my fav renditions of this piece follows and indeed, inspired several of my students at the time to ask me to teach them the UKE…thus forcing me to pursue a certain level of mastery over this little gem of an instrument -
I’m gearing up for another trip out to visit Dad. I’m officially on a ‘four weeks here and two weeks there’ schedule that is subject to change as Dad’s situation escalates; these next two weeks I’ll be ‘there’.
Dad’s steadily declining, but in a good way…not a panic stricken, fearful way because he is in the compassionate and knowledgeable hands of hospice and the Ashley Manor caregivers – all of whom I believe to be extensions of the Lord’s own hands here on earth. During my recent five week visit, I interacted with the staff, healthcare professionals and other residents while visiting, sitting with, and eating with Dad. They all have hearts of gold and strength coming from somewhere beyond the realm of human ability…I stand in awe and in deep appreciation of all they do on behalf of my dad and their 5-6 other elder-housemate residents.
please, enjoy the music while you read the following, I promise it is related to the main thrust of this blog post…and since there are several guitar solos, well, you don’t really need to watch the lyrics up on the screen
Okay, so I’ve been starting and stopping in the writing of several blog posts.
I need to feed the blog, yes, but I gotta say my focus has been a bit wonky since returning from my five weeks visiting Dad. I started to write about that in a post entitled “Spider Webs, Jacob’s Ladder and Losing the Strand” but could only get so far when I’d lose the strand…(to befinished and posted at a later date).
Then on to a relatively easy Shoutout about the great Maestro Ricardo (and my friend) receiving a prestigious award at the annual GFA Convention in Denver, held just one week after I left. I wanted to attend, but those plans got trumped (don’t know if I like that term anymore…) with the Dad-card. No regrets at all, but it does leave the “Shoutout: In Honor of the Maestro Ricardo” in the queue to be sent sometime whenever I can do a final edit on it…again, the focus thing is the limiting factor here. It may never get finished and sent out since it’s more (out)dated news.
I discovered early on that I didn’t have the energy required to return to my current Swimming with Swans projects. This of course lead to frustration because I needed something to do in the realm of creating while navigating this new pattern of four weeks here and two weeks there; along with the emotional stuff that goes along with end-of-life and long distance elder care.
So I picked up the needle…that phrase is loaded, eh? I first mentioned this phrase in my post “The Rusty Quilter” that describes my history and re-introduction to quilting and fiber art.
Whole-cloth quilt top basted and ready for straight stitch machine-quilting
That said, I began in earnest my new ‘now’ project totally unrelated to anything other than as a pleasurable creative outlet: the whole-cloth quilted throw; which will be discussed in greater depth in yet another WIP blog post, as yet unnamed.
During today’s immersion in some straight line machine quilting, I listened to an Amazon Prime Classic Rock Song List.
When ZZ Tops’ tune, The Sharped Dressed Man came on full blast in my earphones and into my brain, I remembered my Jo-Jo and his new obsession with dressing snappy for work.
Joe Lilly is the Sharp Dressed Man
Here’s Joe in his Tuesday morning duds, posing in the dining room of my folks’ house, with the telltale cleaning supplies and messiness in the background. One of the fantastic things I got to do while visiting Dad was to make dinner for our kids. Some of Ma’s cooking stuff is still in the kitchen and so I was able to throw together some makeshift family favorites.
Since Joe still lives in the Denver area, he purposely carved out time to stop by after work and/or pick me up for doing fun stuff together during ‘down times’.
One such outing was going to his gig at the Oriental Theatre. Actually, my sorella-amica Lisa and I went to see our sons* at this wonderful venue. Like most musicians, he’s in several bands/ensembles. This one, Heavy Medicine**, added a horn section recently, of which Joe is their main sax-guy.
The Sharp Dressed Man with his Heavy Medicine Bandmates playing the Oriental Theatre, Denver, CO 6/2016
Me and my son – the sharp dressed man
Lots more of this mother-son stuff is in the future with each trip back to visit Dad.
Oh and on the marquee behind us is the name Leon Russell, significant in that another blog post in the queue needing to be finished is called, “The Buena Vista Social Club, Leon Russell and Dad”.
I thought perhaps a little photo collage of my time spent with Dad would be kind of refreshing for anyone interested. Usually I send off a few select photos to those on my ‘little list’, this time I’m sharing them with all of you – on my ‘little list’ and in the blog-o-sphere!
Terry got to visit with Dad two times before he had to leave. The night before Terry left, Joe came over and we had a great mini-family dinner.
Dad at 93 practicing his clarinet (2016)
One day I walked in on Dad tooting the ole liquorice stick…
Dick with his first side by side milkshake (mine is on the left for art’s sake)
After one of many ‘care conferences’ for Dad, I treated baby bro to his first ever Steak and Shake side-by-side milkshake…and as a dutiful sister, promptly got him addicted!
Dad listening to Joe play.
Later, when Joe and I visited Dad, he didn’t feel like playing. He offered both his sax and clarinet for Joe to play instead. While I held up the sheet music, Joe sight-read an assortment of Dad’s arrangements of Jazz-standards.
Joe, Dad and me
Hamming it up for the photo-op
Wondering why Dad is always wearing his cap and jacket? It’s just all part of the mix of getting older I guess since it was close to 90F outside!
Here’s lookin’ at ya!
One day, Dad did decide to shed all that baggage!
Michelle, Dad and me
Towards the end of my extended stay, Michelle came into town for a friend’s wedding.