Sunday, May 27, 2012

No. 739 – Had to Cry Today

Performer: Blind Faith
Songwriter: Steve Winwood
Original Release: Blind Faith
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None

I’m going to bend the timeframe a bit here, but it’s my blog, my rules, right?

Blind Faith was a band that flew below my radar until I was in my mid-30s, which is a pretty remarkable achievement considering I the familiarity I had with Cream, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. I wasn’t even exposed to Blind Faith until I got the Clapton Crossroads box set at Christmas in 1991.

But one day in 1998, I decided to pull out Blind Faith, which was from Debbie’s CD collection, and give it a spin. I liked it from pretty much the opening notes of this lead track all the way through.

Debbie had kin who lived on the Ohio River in Manchester, which is about as close to going back in time as you can get short of visiting an Amish community. I half expected to go into the town drugstore and buy a pack of 1955 TV Bowmans. Debbie was born and lived there a few years before moving to Columbus when she was a kid, and she still had uncles, aunts and cousins who lived there.

In spring of 1998, while I was listening to this album almost in an endless loop, we made a trip down to see everyone, and I’m pretty sure that that was the last time I was there before we broke up. I associate this album with driving to Manchester, thus bending the time-space continuum, because the real memorable trip there happened the year before.

Debbie’s mom turned 80 in 1997, and Debbie decided she was going to pull a fast one on her. For various reasons, Debbie’s mom hadn’t been back to her hometown in decades—mostly because she had suffered a stroke years before we met that left her paralyzed on her right side, so going anywhere on her own was impossible.

Debbie had asked her mom several times if she had wanted to have us take her to visit after Debbie had re-established contact with her extended family, but she always said no. It wasn’t as though there was any bad blood, as far as I remember; Debbie’s mom just had no interest in going back to Manchester.

But she had no choice if she were kidnapped, and that’s what Debbie set out to do. She insisted to me that her mom wouldn’t know where she was until we got there, and she would be glad once she did get there. OK, I decided to be an accomplice to her little scheme. Debbie called the family, and they all said they’d be delighted to host a surprise 80th birthday party.

So we went over to pick up Debbie’s mom on a warm May weekend day in Debbie’s new Accord, which was large enough to maneuver her mom into the car. I handled the heavy lifting—and driving—and we were on our way to an unknown destination to see her granddaughter, who was living in Portsmouth. Debbie’s mom wasn’t the dullest knife in the box and noticed a few things here and there that led her to ask, ‘this is the way to Manchester, isn’t it?’ Oh no. It just looks like it.

When I made the final turn, and she realized we were in fact in Manchester, she began to cry at whatever bad memories she had, but the same instant, we were at the aunt’s house—I can’t remember her name now—where the surprise party was, and a whole army of folks were at the door, opening it and helping her out of the car and hugging her. By the time I got out of the car to help, Debbie’s mom was already smiling and laughing—and very glad to be there, just as Debbie said.

We had a great party. There must have been two to three dozen people in that house, and she reconnected with a whole bunch of people, swapping old stories and occasionally waving a good-natured finger at me and Debbie for sneaking her down there against her will. When it finally was time to break up the party hours later, she asked us to drive her around town, so she could see some of the changes since the last time she had been.

As far as I know, that would be the last time she went to Manchester and saw any of her extended family. (Debbie’s mom died a couple of years after we broke up.) But Debbie and her family, and I guess me to a certain extent, made sure that that last time was a good visit.

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