As you all know by now, my grandmother has been a huge influence on this album.
She is my guardian angel...
and I have never felt her more strongly than when I was working on this whole thing.
besides The Parting Glass, I really wanted to do another song that 'represented' her in some way. And, while this song might not reflect on our relationship in the most 'unicorns and rainbows' kind of way...it absolutely encapsulates (at least the end of) our relationship in an extremely honest way.
Ya see, Timmy....
My grandmother and I have always had a very special bond.
I don't know why this is.
There are many reasons I suppose.
The main one being that my grandmother was psychic.
And not in the every-irish-family-has-a-fucking-psychic kinda way.
I mean, my brother would suprisingly go into the hospital for something at 10:00am and at 10:02am she's on the phone, greeting my mother with,
"What's wrong with Michael!??"
And they say that psychic power, while in all of us-
seems to 'skip a generation'.
And maybe, grandma and I bonded from literally, the moment i was born-
on a level that only dogs can hear...who knows.
I was born with my left eye crossed inward.
And the first thing my grandmother said when she saw me was not,
'Oh what a beautiful baby'
'Does she have all ten toes?'
The first thing my grandmother said (with a new england accent of course) was,
"Aya. She's gawt the eye that looks within."
as apparently being cross-eyed is an old celtic sign of psychic ability, since you are able to look out and in at the same time.
Ergo, ever since birth really, grandma and I have been tight.
That is until.....
she started to lose her marbles.
it started when I was in high school, and unfortunately my dad was also losing his marbles at the same time. Since dad was a more immediate crazy-drain, in addition to the raging hormones and life and death angst that every teenager deals with-
I kinda used up all my 'dealing with insanity' energy on Dad and had none left really to give to grandma.
So, I stopped talking to her on the phone when she'd call-
granted, those conversations were more and more becoming about how 'they' were coming to get her-
and not the more enjoyable Hallmark grandma/grand daughter talk of...
We also stopped visiting her on holidays.
It was just too hard a prospect to leave one crazy house-
only to drive seven hours to go to another one.
Finally, I stopped sending her birthday and christmas cards altogether.
And so we grew apart.
And as I was a teenager, I'm sure i was less than graceful as to how far apart I actually put us. Honestly, it's all a blur but again, Dad's crazy was front and center...and her crazy was a whole bunch of states away in Massachusetts.
I was a sophomore in college when I heard that my grandmother had died.
And I'd had the most intensely vivid dream two nights before (which was when she'd first had the stroke and gone into a coma). It was so incredibly vivid that I'd written it down, which was not something I was in the habit of doing.
in the dream...
I was in an extremely crowded town square-
like, Tokyo crowded.
Ahead of me, standing out of reach at the opening of a church-
was a black man dressed all in black.
But i knew this man was good.
Which struck me as odd as he was for some reason wearing the 'bad guy' couture line from a Billy Idol video.
behind me, I felt the crowd pushing me further towards an albino man dressed all in white.
And i knew this man was bad.
I reached out for the 'good black man' to help save me from the 'bad white man' I was being forced to by the crowd.
I felt myself forcibly backed up against the bad white man-
again, I looked to my good black man but he was gone.
I felt the bad white man grab something around my throat.
That's strange, i don't really wear jewelry, let alone necklaces.
Reflexively, I grab the necklace from the front-
and to prevent the bad white man from choking me with it, I rip it off with my hand from the front.
I look in my hand and on the necklace is....a bird?
Ok, this is really whacked out now because not only do i not wear necklaces, i fucking hate birds.
They freak me out.
Squawky, bitchy things.
i turn around to confront the bad white man, and there is the good black man in his place.
he smiles at me, a really warm smile-
and then I wake up.
When I write the dream out i actually sketch the bird...
and while i knew somewhere, it was an 'obvious' bird-
my general hatred for the entire species still left me confounded as to what type of bird it was.
My mom, brother and I all meet in Fall River, where my grandma lived with her second husband- an absolute brute of a man- to discuss a memorial, etc with the rest of the family.
Suffice it to say, it was a frustrating, infuriating and heartbreaking series of events over those three days in Fall River that left my mother in particular rather broken and guilt ridden.
I was desperate to do something to ease her mind.
I spewed out every single piece of New Age garbage combined with contemporary Christian bullshit I could at her...
"She's in a better place."
"She's not mad at us for not being there for her in the end."
"We'll light a candle for her and tell her how much we love her."
"She understands now."
"She's at peace now."
"She no longer thinks they're 'coming to get her' now."
"I'm sure she forgives us. She must."
and most importantly...
"She'll send us a sign that everything's ok. I know she will."
Because as hard as it was for me to be dealing with a crazy father and a crazy grandmother-
my mother had been dealing with a crazy husband and a crazy mother at the same time.
So if we're gonna talk about how hard it was for somebody, that whole dynamic?
My mom wins.
On our way out of town, it was of course, a massive thundering rainstorm.
We were all physically and emotionally exhausted....
and now, couldn't see two inches beyond the windshield.
We passed a sign that said,
"TITANIC MUSEUM THIS WAY ---------->"
and my brother-
being an absolute FREAK about the Titanic (way before it was even remotely cool to be)-
begged us to stop.
It was fucking pissing down buckets-
already 3:45pm and we had a 7 hour drive ahead of us.
Clearly, we weren't going to....
"Sure.", my Mom says.
Without consulting the rest of the car.
And as if on cue....
the rain stopped.
Like God just went up to the big ole faucet up there in heaven and shut it off.
and when we turned the corner towards the museum, a car pulled out leaving a parking space right in front of the exhibit door.
Admittedly, while I was amazed by all these things-
I was still 19 or 20 years old and was not allowed, by the youngsters guide to being a bitch to reveal it to anyone.
We went into the exhibit and i skulked, and moped, and pissed about...
just hoping the fact that the place was supposed to close in fifteen minutes would be enough for me to get away with such ridiculous behavior and not get too severely reprimanded for it.
as it happened, the owner had 'nothing better to do' so he kept the exhibit open for another hour as my mother and brother lllllliiinnnggggggeeeerrrreeeddddddd over everything.
Again, somewhere I appreciated how fantastic this was for my brother, who was obviously- dealing with a loss as great as mine...
but would never dare show it.
I could and would do everything in my power to make my mom happy right now, but my brother? Who I absolutely love with all my heart?
a quick glance once again through my handy dandy 'youngsters guide to being a bitch clearly states that as a sibling,
"he can suck it."
mom and mike are ready to leave and just as i think we're out the door...
my mom goes to the fucking GIFT COUNTER.
I'm literally out the front door when I hear my mom yell after me,
"Do you want anything?"
"No, ma. I just want to get on the road, please."
"Are you sure?"
"Oh Jesus Christ.....YES, i'm SURE!"
"What about this?"
I stomp back to the gift counter, eyes rolling, arms flailing..
when I see what she has in her hand.
It's a necklace.
With a bird on it.
down to the chain...
the EXACT NECKLACE i'd dreamt about.
I have never done a more swift emotional 180 in my LIFE.
"Ma!!!! Why did you pick this necklace?"
"Well....i.....don't know....it...i really don't....know..."
"Ma!!!! That's GRANDMA TALKING!!! SHE FORGIVES US!!! IT'S THE SIGN!!! I TOLD YOU!!!!"
Now, everyone is just completely shocked.
Two seconds ago i was central casting's wet dream for THE BREAKFAST CLUB and now I'm a shoo-in for UP WITH PEOPLE.
I run out to the car-
rip open my bag-
pull out my notebook-
run back into the store-
flip to the page-
find the drawing of the bird-
and put the necklace on top of it.
it's as if I'd traced it.
it fits perfectly.
all of a sudden...
these words are spewing out of me.
I'm explaining the dream...
and how there's good and bad in everyone-
and even when you feel like it's got you by the throat....
the guilt can choke you worse than the action...
you can set yourself free...
like a bird...
like grandma is.
After a couple of seconds...
i'm assuming after the shock of seeing me actually smile and speak multi-syllabically for the first time on months...
my mom began to cry.
but it was 'good' crying.
it was good.
And as i watched my mom actually believe what I was saying....
somewhere i thought, I wish...i could believe what I'm saying...as much as she is.
Because that's one of the craziest parts of the whole thing.
The whole diatribe that I spewed out to my mom?
About good and bad and freedom...
didn't come from me.
At least it didn't seem like it-
it came from grandma.
i hadn't put any of that shit together-
about the black man being good and the white man being bad-
but they're all the same guy really-
and things aren't what they seemed..
i mean, come on.
I was 20 years old.
I was barely making sense of the most recent 90210 episode.
so somewhere, grandma was speaking through me...
and I was still a spectator.
as NUTS as that sounds....
and yes, I'm aware it sounds nuts.
which actually means...that i'm most likely not certifiably crazy...
stay with me.
cause there's more.
I went back to school...
still conflicted and wracked with guilt.
I saw my grandmother everywhere.
I saw her in the opera I went to on campus where a young girl who couldn't have been more than 21 years old somehow looked exactly like my 65 yr old grandmother onstage- granted forgiveness to another young singer who looked exactly like me.
i saw her in TV commercials-
where wayward children are given a slight scolding but always forgiven by their loving mother who looks just like my grandmother did in her engagement photos.
I saw her on the street-
soothing a small child who's obviously misbehaved...
i heard her voice-
saying forgiving things....
i refused to believe it was her because...
And Lord knows, I'd had plenty of crazy in my life and I was absolutely NOT going to get on that train. It's too hard on everybody ELSE.
A week later, I was making some extra cash by playing cocktail hour piano at a local Marriott. On a break, I was just walking around and stretching my legs when I saw there was a random 'psychic fair' in the building.
I figured, it would be an entertaining time-killer so I started to walk around.
It was your basic psychic fair crap-
crystals, tarot cards, 'fortune-tellers', new age books....
so after about ten minutes, I started to head back to the bar for my next set.
That was when a woman literally grabbed me.
And then she said it.
What every new yorker who's ever walked down 9th avenue on a summer night has heard,
"Come here. I have something to TELL you."
sure you do.
"Lady, I'm a college student just trying to get by. I've got no money so..."
"No no no no no no.....this is for free. I have to tell you something."
"Your grandmother just died."
"She wants me to tell you something...."
"She's been trying to talk to you for weeks......"
oh god. i don't want to hear it. she's going to tell me how horrible i am. what an awful grand daughter- no, HUMAN BEING i was for not sticking it out with her through the crazy. For being too weak to handle two of them at the same time.
I was cruel, because i had no skills to be any other way.
But regardless, I was cruel.
And...it was a very very hard lesson learned.
I said impatiently,
"Well, this is weird because....as a psychic....i usually have to point out the signs from the beyond...and explain those signs....but you. You see the signs and you even understand the signs....your grandmother is telling you to BELIEVE those signs. That is the messaage. "Believe"."
and she reached for the seagull necklace around my neck....
How does this relate to this Randy Newman song?
it's about someone who has been loved by someone...
and it was beautiful...
that person changed...
they 'went away'...
in the end-
they came back.
which was...is...how it is with my grandma and me.
She loved me-
she 'went away'-
and then she came back.
that's what love does.
It always comes back.
because, it never really goes anywhere.
My grandma was sane-
then she was insane-
and is 'sane' again.
I was loving-
then I was cruel-
i asked forgiveness...
and was able to be loving once again.
But neither of us ever stopped loving the other.
And we never will.