(This quote was attributed to Maxime Lagace Not sure if this is accurate.)
I was in the supermarket the other day, all masked up, and the REO Speedwagon song, Keep on Loving You was playing as I entered the store.
Wow, that brings back some memories. I was working at a restaurant, The Sign of the Beefeater, a family place in East Detroit. It was my first job, a fun one, a place where I made a lot of new friends. My friend, Amy, if my memory serves me, asked me if I wanted a cat.
“Yes!” I replied, knowing full well that my dad was not going to go for it. You see, when my dad was a kid, he was at relatives’ in Peterboro, Ontario. These relatives had a large working farm. My dad was playing on one of the tractors they had when the family dog, a Pinscher, became overly excited and bit my dad’s ear off. Well, not totally off, but off enough. Since that day, anything furry with 4 legs was not allowed near him.
But this was this different. This was a cute, little solid gray kitten, who was clearly not able to rip off any human body parts. I brought my new friend home while my dad was still at work. Smartly played. My mom and brother were on board as they had wanted a pet in the house for some time. Long story short, my dad arrived home, huffed and puffed for a few days, and was won over in a few short days. That cat followed him everywhere. It was weird,but it also showed me a sign of him that negated some of my feelings that he was cold and distant.
I don’t remember how long she was with us. A year, maybe two? I do know that I came home from work one night and the 3 humans were in the dining room. “Amy died tonight,” my mom softly disclosed. It was a heart attack. I had named our cat after my friend. Points for loyalty, not so many for creativity.
I got out of the house, unable to understand what was happening inside of me, but knowing that if I stayed, I would die. I went to a local bar where they served underage kids and got trashed. I drove to my aunt and uncle’s home nearby and slept off the booze and my pain in my car in their driveway.
“Keep on Loving You” was playing on the radio when I left my house that night and drove to the bar. Since that day, that song, and my first cat, Amy, were forever linked. And the magic of music is that this point in time—losing my first pet—will forever be linked to this song. And music has accompanied other significant points in my life: meeting my husband, all things Linda Eder; my dad passing, Ships by Barry Manilow; my mom passing, Out of My Heart, by BBMak; Maya as an infant, Mambo Italiano, by Bette Midler.
I can close my eyes when I want to bring up any of these memories, whether or not a trigger song is playing. And when my eyes are closed and any of these memories (or others) arise, I am not alone. Yes, there can be pain, there can be some shame attached. But there is growth and there is the deeper developing of coping strategies and skills. In grad school I was turned onto Jung and our shadow self. I am aware that there are parts of me that I don’t like, that I have difficulty embracing, but that I do accept as part of me because I know that it’s part of my story. And my story, like all of ours continues to evolve.
So in this time of pandemic and uncertainty, I can sit at my desk, mull over what’s in my head and poorly tap away at this keyboard. I can bring up what I want, who I want to visit, and let them come and stay with me for a bit before I need to get my day going.
Put on a song. Close your eyes. You are breathing. That’s a great start.