Monday, December 01, 2008

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi (I Promise You, There Are, Eventually, Some Song Lyrics Here)

Monday again, already, huh? Well, at least the work day is now over, and it's time to talk about another favorite song. In fact, it's time to talk about another favorite song about New York.

Back in 2004, when Bob and I were happily immersed in our brief life of living as the rich folks do, and we had our little seminary apartment in New York and our house in Connecticut, leaving New York seemed like something that was a possibility, but way off in the distance. Perhaps we wouldn't leave. Perhaps I'd get a job in the city, and we'd stay, and he'd continue his work in Harlem rather than finding a church. But then I got a new job that allowed me to telecommute, and he graduated, and he decided he really did feel a call to be a full-time pastor, and all of a sudden, a song that had already meant so much to us, came to have even more meaning, as we packed up a moving truck and headed up The Henry Hudson Parkway, out of the city.

When R.E.M. came out with "Around the Sun," none of the critics liked it. Their most recent album has been far better received than their 2004 release, but Bob and I loved it from the moment we got it. Usually when he and I both love an album, we each have our own favorite song. However, this one was different. The first song on the album is "Leaving New York," and we both instantly fell in love with it the minute we heard it. There we were in New York. R.E.M. was touring for the new album. They were coming to Madison Square Garden two days after the Presidential election. We decided we must go see them, and we got our tickets.

Then our lives turned upside down. We'd been out at a Halloween party, late Saturday afternoon, decorating pumpkins at a park in Harlem with the kids Bob mentored, had just gotten back and sat down with a couple of martinis, when we got one of those phone calls everyone dreads. Something was wrong with Bob's father; the doctors didn't think he was going to live; we needed to get to the hospital. We threw bags together, packed up the car (and Lady, who was still alive at the time), and left New York, racing out to Connecticut. We arrived to be told that Bob's father was having a massive heart attack and that if we didn't get him up to a different hospital (one that was a 45-minute-drive away), where they could do the sort of surgery he needed, he wouldn't live for four more hours. We okayed the transport, sent Bob's brother home (with Lady) to get some sleep, and jumped back in the car to follow the ambulance up to the other hospital, where we were informed that he still only had about a 10% chance of surviving the surgery.

Thus began the longest night of Bob's and my life together. We were taken to a little room with a TV to wait, far away from others, in a wing of the hospital that was basically closed for the night, most of the hallways dark and quiet. We prayed; we talked about how unprepared we were for this; we cried together; we tried to read; we tried to watch television; and we looked up every single time we heard a door open or footsteps in the hallway. Finally, five hours after we'd arrived behind the ambulance, at just past 4:00 a.m., the doctor came out, squatted down in front of us as we sat in our chairs, put his hands together in prayer position, and told us that Bob's father had survived the surgery, that he was still in critical condition, but that now, every hour he survived would up his chances of making it. He suggested we go home and get some sleep, which we did.

That was Saturday night. He spent the next three days in the ICU, taking two steps forward and one step back, and keeping us on pins and needles. By Wednesday, he was alert enough to be able to discuss the election results with us (something Bob and I did not want to discuss), and the doctors were having their own discussions with us about getting him out of the ICU and even about rehab choices. We'd come a long way, and now we had a huge dilemma. The R.E.M. concert was Thursday night. Should we be so selfish as to leave this poor sick man in intensive care to go back into New York just for a rock concert?

Eventually, though (right or wrong), we convinced ourselves that we needed to listen to all those around us who had been telling us to remember to take care of ourselves. We'd pretty much put our lives on hold and had been spending every minute we could in the hospital -- that meant more time for Bob, since he basically took a two-week leave of absence that term, and spent almost all day, every day at the hospital, while his brother and I went to work. Not only that, we were very depressed over the election results. We needed a break. We needed to do something fun. When we got the good news Thursday morning that his father was being moved out of the ICU, we felt that was a sign that we were doing the right thing. We packed up again and headed back to our apartment just for one night.

And, it most definitely was the right thing to do. For a few hours, Michael Stipe, et al. put on a fabulous show, kicking the whole thing off with "It's the End of the World as We Know It," for as Stipe put it, "these very strange times right after election day here in New York City." We left New York, yet again, the very next day, a little happier, and definitely in much better spirits than the last time we'd left it. And so began the long process of Bob's father's recovery, but he lived for two more years, and by the time he did die, we'd had a chance to prepare ourselves. We had also, by then, left New York for good.

If you're ever in a car with me, going over the George Washington Bridge, headed back to PA (or anywhere out of New York, for that matter), pop this song in the CD player. Then watch my eyes. If you look closely, you just might see a tear or two.

Leaving New York
by R.E.M.

it's quiet now
and what it brings
is everything

comes crawling back
a brilliant night
I'm still awake

I looked ahead
I'm sure I saw you there

you don't need me
to tell you now
that nothing can compare

you might have laughed if I told you
you might have hidden a frown
you might have succeeded in changing me
I might have been turned around

it's easier to leave
than to be left behind
leaving was never my proud
leaving New York, never easy
I saw the light fading out

now life is sweet
and what it brings
I try to take
but loneliness
it wears me out
it lies in wait

and still not lost
still in my eye
the shadow of necklace
across your thigh. I might've lived my life in a
dream but I swear it.
this is real

memory fuses
and shatters like glass
mercurial future, forget the past
it's you
it's what I feel

you might have laughed if I told you
you might have hidden a frown
you might have succeeded in changing me
I might have been turned around

it's easier to leave
than to be left behind
leaving was never my proud
leaving New York, never easy
I saw the light fading out
you find it in your heart
it's pulling me apart,
you find it in your heart, change

I told you, forever
I love you forever
I told you I love you
I love you forever
you never, you never
you told me forever...

you might have laughed if I told you
you might have hidden a frown
you might have succeeded in changing me
I might have been turned around

it's easier to leave
than to be left behind
leaving was never my proud
leaving New York, never easy
I saw the light fading out

leaving New York, never easy
I saw the light fading out
leaving New York, never easy
I saw the light fading out

6 comments:

Pete said...

What a great song, Emily. And it's even better for your poignant memories. Definitely brought a tear to my eye too. REM also one of my favourite bands.

knitseashore said...

It always amazes me how a really well-written song takes on so many different meanings for so many different people. And the song ages gracefully over time as your life changes, and its meaning evolves to where you are at that point. Very cool.

I didn't know that you and Bob went through such a difficult experience like that with his dad. I'm glad that you did have two more years with him after that surgery.

Heather said...

What an awesome story. You are such a great writer!!! I'm sorry I keep forgetting to post my monday lyrics.

Emily Barton said...

Pete, glad you liked it (and that you're an R.E.M. fan. I used to see them in small venues when no one knew who they were, except friends of my brother's who grew up with them in Georgia).

Ms. Knit, yes, it's really cool the way songs can affect us that way and also grow with time. I didn't realize you weren't aware of all we went through with Bob's father. I guess I kept that pretty quiet at work.

Heather, of course, my thought bubble reads, "Oh, I'm not such a great writer. Anyone could write that." And no need to apologize for forgetting Monday lyrics.

Susan said...

Wow. You take my breath away. REM - a band I know, you are writing about - and you make it relevant to your life. Thanks so much for sharing your story about Bob's Dad in conjunction with the song. It's funny how that happens - the time of my divorce in 1986 coincided with the release of The JOshua Tree - U2- and whenever I hear a song from that album, I am immediately back in university in the cafeteria, where i would often study (and try not to cry). I went back to school at the same time the divorce, and there is something elemental and passionate about all the songs on that album that hooked me completely.
Great reasons to love music, isn't it, that it does weave into our lives and become something more. Lovely post, Emily, even more because Bob's dad survived that surgery. Thank you!

Emily Barton said...

Susan, you're welcome, and thank YOU for your compliments. I can see that with U2's The Joshua Tree. And, you know, I don't think I realized, until I started this music Monday stuff exactly how much music does weave into my life. I know it's always been there, but I didn't realize to what extent. It's a lot like books.