Well, kind of.
At 4 a.m. on Saturday, my daughter, 7-year-old granddaughter, and I hit the turnpike to drive from Boston to Delaware to visit my ailing mom.
Before we left the driveway, the 7-year-old was back asleep and stayed that way for almost three hours.
As I drove in the blackness of too-early morn, my daughter and I conversed quietly in the front seat. The dark shapes of homes and trees – then the lit-up highway signs and speeding cars and trucks – passed by like shadowy strangers.
We reminisced about her Nanny – my mom – whose strong feisty personality is dimming. We laughed softly as we shared a story or two of Nanny’s powerful presence in our lives, and then my daughter slowly, slowly, drifted off to her own dreams.
A friend had recently given me a CD that I would never have chosen myself: John Denver songs sung by other musicians.
I pushed the silver disk in its slot on the dashboard, and the sweet voices of Brett Dennen and Milow began to sing:
You fill up my senses, Like a night in a forest, Like the mountains in springtime, Like a walk in the rain, Like a storm in the desert, Like a sleepy blue ocean, You fill up my senses, Come fill me again
(Songwriters: DENVER, JOHN (DEUTSCHENDORF)/DENVER, JOHN (DEUTSCHENDORF); Annie’s Song lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., WARNER CHAPPELL MUSIC INC, Reservoir One Music)
I was transposed by the lyrics and the melody. Back in the day, I suppose I sang to John Denver, but his music was eventually made fun of by many: too sappy, too romantic, or even too spiritual perhaps.
His music wasn’t “cool” anymore.
But here I was, my mind filling with wonder and pain and happiness as I thought of my mom, of my loved ones, and of my life so far. My senses were filled to the brim.
My daughter stirred and, guiltily, I turned down the music. I could just imagine the reaction I’d get from her if she caught me listening to this stuff.
Her head lolled back.
I was safe!
As the car hummed along, I swayed to Take me Tomorrow (song by Dave Matthews) and listened to Denver’s lyrics ask :
“Hey everybody, tell me how do you feel? Are you satisfied with your life, do you think it’s real?”(Songwriters: DENVER, JOHN (DEUTSCHENDORF)/DENVER, JOHN (DEUTSCHENDORF)
A pinky dusk light began to infuse the car with hope. Daughter and granddaughter gently snored, and I basked in the enclosed safe space of family and dreams, memories and joy.
Then, Train, yes, TRAIN, began to sing, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.”
How I wished I could bring sunshine to my mom. And then the most profound line of that song hit me like a fluffy cloud floating in a brilliant blue sky: “If I had a day that I could give you, I’d give to you the day just like today.” (Writer: John Denver; Copyright: BMG Ruby Songs, BMG Rights Management (Ireland) Ltd; “Sunshine On My Shoulders”)
A tear trickled down my face. What a gift, to give our loved ones, and most especially, to give a sick loved one — a beautiful blue-skied, glorious day.
My daughter woke up as the song list changed to Denver’s “All of My Memories.” (Somewhere to build me a faith, A farm, a family, somewhere to grow older, And somewhere a reason to try, Somewhere to lay down and die.”)
She looked at me, a bit worried, and asked as only a daughter can ask a mother: “What the heck are you listening to?”I smiled and changed to an FM station of her choice.
While the sun shone down on our shoulders.