Friday, November 22, 2019

Dominican dreams and deaths and dads. And John Prine.

I've had a crazy year, so here I am backtracking slowly, trying to catch you up on my adventures:

Less than two weeks after my mom's funeral, and while recovering from his own cancer surgery, my dad bought tickets to John Prine's All the Best Fest. The festival was still 14 months away, and Dad had a Stage 4 diagnosis.

"That's rather optimistic, Dad, don't you think?" I said.

"Should I buy three tickets or four?" was his response.

"Are you planning on bringing a date?!" was mine.

We bought three tickets.

He died eight months later.

For a long time I wasn't sure what to do with the festival tickets. I knew that my parents would have wanted us to take the trip -- for ash-scattering purposes and dream vacation reasons. 

John Prine was their favorite. They never missed a Louisville show, dating back far into the early 1970s back when he would play small clubs in the Highlands. The first real concert I ever attended was John Prine & Arlo Guthrie at Memorial Gardens (the one where I got an orange Tic Tac stuck up my nose) In their retirement, my parents traveled to see Prine at the Ryman and the Cayamo cruise. We always had a drink with kind Jason Wilber (JP's guitarist) after the Louisville show, and some of those drinks were particularly special. The day of my mom's diagnosis, November 17, 2016, we saw Prine in Louisville. Eighteen months later we were at another John Prine concert in Louisville when we learned Mickey Clark had entered hospice -- and Mom had decided to make the first contact with Hospice for herself. 

I didn't really want to go, but last week David and I made the emotional trek to the Dominican Republic for a 4-day music festival. The lineup, in addition to John Prine, included Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Brandi Carlisle, Todd Snider, Steve Earle, Ruby Amanfu, Lori McKenna, and so many more great performers. Here's where people start to roll their eyes and say you poor thing, sarcastically. Believe me, I appreciated the free vacation, but wow, was it emotional.

The hardest part for me wasn't actually scattering and toasting my parents. It was detaching from work. Music festivals are not relaxing for me because I am self-employed and should have been networking the hell out of that festival. I actually ended up staying away from most of the performances because I couldn't relax during them. Fortunately, aside from coordinating childcare most days, as we'd left the kids at home with a variety of overnight babysitters, I was able to at least force myself to lie down near water -- be it the warm Carribbean or the warm pool water -- and think, write, tweet, be not completely detached, but be, at least, mindful of the present a bit.

All-inclusive beach vacations are not my first-choice, but I accepted and loved it while I was there, despite missing my kids and missing my parents and sobbing everytime he played "Hello In There" (I mean, is there A SADDER SONG OUT THERE???). 

The festival team did a great job with organizing it, and I'm so glad I went on the trip. Even if David got cut by my musical saw at customs when the immigration official was highly suspicious of the saw being an instrument and forced me to play it for him in the airport before letting us in the country. The lengths I go to for my parents and for John Prine! :)

Highlights: 
- the buffets!! So many vegan/veggie options.
- having a "private island" at the pool, which meant we got champagne and a place to lounge with private pool access all day long! I skipped all the shows so i could read a romance novel by the pool.
- getting totally caught up and swirled around by the fierce turquoise waves. The exhilaration of being flipped around in that water was totally worth the fact that I'm still picking sand out of my hair.
- John Prine playing his first record all the way through ... with an encore of "Souvenirs," my mom's favorite song and the one she requested that I sing at her funeral (I SOBBED)
- unlimited virgin piƱa coladas (unlimited alcoholic ones too, but i wasn't really in the mood to drink)
- abundant shade for this redhead! It was 86 and not a cloud in the sky, but I wore a swim shirt and sunscreen and umbrella-d it up!
- Meeting nice new friends from South Dakota while having hibachi one night!
- being upgraded on the flight at the last minute, even though that meant that I was no longer sitting right next to Emmylou Harris (shoutout to Emmylou for flying coach with her band!)
- Watermelon juice!!

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