The woodstock soundtrack was one of the first albums I every “borrowed” from my parent’s vinyl collection. I remember staring at the cover and the gate fold of the people skinny-dipping. A lot of the music on those two LP’s made an impact on me, but the song that meant the most to me through all the years is Freedom by Richie Havens.
Richie Havens died today. He was the first man to go on stage at Woodstock and he is no longer here in the world. A lot of my heroes are dead, but this one seems to have really shaken me. He sang with a passion that I will always hold in my heart as one of those things that I wish that I could do.
When I watch him take the stage with a guitar that shows the marks of how hard he played, it is easy to forget that he isn’t singing about an abstract freedom that all of us take for granted. He is singing about a freedom that was newly minted, for the hundreth time, thanks to the continuing fighting of people for whom 3/5th’s is not a person and seperate but equal was never going to be good enough.
He was one of those people and because of that, everytime I hear that song or his voice, I will remember that passion is born of struggle and that, like all things to be passionate about, freedom is perhaps the greatest of all.
It is time to really get to the serious business of christmas decorating.
The 9 foot christmas tree is in the front room and strung with white lights. A lot of the ornaments are out and and ready to go. Nutcrackers are on their way from my parent’s house.
When doing this kind of decorating, I tend to prefer the quiet and more somber christmas songs. Christmas parties with scads of people are the place for upbeat and silly. This is the time for quiet and deliberate.
A little more then a year ago, I was in the middle of some fairly bad circumstances.
I had been traveling for business and had ended up in the hospital with agonizing abdominal pain. I had undergone surgery for diverticulitis and had awoken with a colostomy bag a day later.
When the surgeon came in for a follow-up visit a day later, he told me that he had found a 2cm mass in my colon when he was cleaning up my problems. He told me what I knew as soon as I heard the word “mass” being used in a sentence. If it had been that micro machines car that wen missing when I was a child or a hunk or crayon or chewing gum that had become lodged, he would have said precisely what it was. Using the word “mass” in these circumstances means cancer and he said that the mass had come back malignant in his very next breath.
I know how to deal with cancer. I have a team of people who got me through a run in with Hodgkins Disease when I was in my early twenties. I had a phenomenal group of people around me and I knew I would beat it. I didn’t know how to lose to cancer, but I already knew how to win.
My mother had flown out to Phoenix to help me through the recovery and to help get me home. I was disturbed by the colostomy bag. That is something that very old people have and they necessitate a much closer relationship to ones excrement then I really wanted to have at the age of 40.
I was back home a week later and had my first meeting with the oncologist and setup my first date for chemo. Two days before that day, my wife ask me for a divorce. There had been problems and it wasn’t a huge surprise in retrospect, but it kind of leveled me. I had been through quite a bit and now this was threatening to topple the jenga tower that I felt my life had become.
Once the shock wore of and I made sure that things were going to proceed in a way that insured that I would not lose my 8 year old son, I had to get back on the horse and keep riding.
I got a message from an old friend. Someone that I had a crush on from the moment we had first me over 20 years and never been able to spend enough time with the handful of times that our orbits had intersected. I met her for lunch at a local mexican restaurant and suddenly things seemed a lot better.
Even at the time I though about the difference that one day made.
I went through chemo and didn’t lose my hair. I got the colostomy reversed and managed to not have any horrible embarrassments that would seem to be almost mandatory when wearing a bag taped to your abdomen.
My wife moved out of our bedroom the day she asked for the divorce and moved out of the house 5 months later. I formed my own consulting company and then got a new job at a local company just minutes away from my house.
She stayed with me through it all. The chemo, the sadness, the happiness and the really bad movies and anime I made her watch. She asked for me to fill a need for her and I became a more dominant person. I can only hope that she is as much happier as I am a year later.
I would have survived everything that happened.
I would have gotten through.
I don’t know who I would have ended up being or how happy that person would have been if she hadn’t asked to see me and we hadn’t had that lunch.
What a difference a day makes when you get to have 365 of them in a row.