A Long December, Indeed

Lyrics written by Adam Duritz

I think Adam Duritz, and by proxy, the Counting Crows, are often an easy target for scorn and ridicule. People mock Duritz's whiny tone and his penchant for maudlin melancholia. I have always had a soft spot for them, though, and "A Long December" has long held tenure as one of my favorite songs, period. It always brings out that perfect sweet spot in my emotional wheelhouse -- nostalgic ache. And never more well-placed than in the month of December.

This year, it seems particularly poignant as I end a year with many hard times and memories that are barely memories, and still fresh heartaches. I eagerly look forward to next year and all the exciting adventures it will bring.

A long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last.
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin'
Now the days go by so fast.
And it's one more day up in the canyons,
And it's one more night in Hollywood.
If you think that I could be forgiven...
I wish you would.

There's more than reason. I know next year will be better than this year. I have projects on the horizon. My first, dearest, sweetest cat cannot die. My father cannot die again, either. I also cannot remember enough of what I want to remember of him. I want so badly to do so many things differently. To have documented our family history. The history of our town. The history of every last specific detail of everything he kept inside his head. He knew so much.

Wheres and whens and whos and whys. The deepest cuts of the most obscure singers of the 1950s and 60s. The adventures of the high school buddies and the cousins and the neighbors and the friends from the bar.

I didn't ask. I could have. And I just didn't. I don't know why. I was scared.

I wish I touched him more. Rubbed his back or hugged him or sat next to him. I took him to and from the hospital and made sure he got in and out of the car. I sat next to him while he sat in a wheelchair. But I wish I had just touched him more.

These are the things I think about and regret with every bone in my body and every cell in my flesh as my body is wracked with sobs as I type. And I have my answer to why I have not been able to write, to post -- despite my desperate need to talk about him, to not want the world to forget that my father existed and is now not among us.

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.
All at once you look across a crowded room,
To see the way that light attaches to a girl.
And it's one more day up in the canyons,
And it's one more night in Hollywood.
If you think you might come to California...
I think you should.

That was one of the strange things about it. It was a great summer, I think. I don't really know. I spent a lot of those gorgeous days in the hospital, so my recollection of this summer is lost. I didn't have days on the beach or soaking up the sun.

My days were spent holed up in chilly hospital rooms, wearing sweaters and scarves and long argyle socks, or whiling away the days in the day hospital with doctors appointments and blood draws and chemotherapy treatments. Or just lying around the house, watching episodes of daytime television -- discovering Bones and Castle and making fun of a variety of ridiculous people on The Price is Right -- and napping the hours away while keeping a watchful eye on the other elderly love of my life, my dear cat, Flan(nery).

I was bouncing back and forth between Wisconsin and trying to keep myself in good standing at work -- I didn't have to try too hard, really. My boss is an absolute angel and just basically told me to let her know what I needed. Everyone at work was amazing and helped me get whatever I needed done. I was really lucky there.

Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year.
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower,
About the things you could not show her

This is always the time of year that makes me look back and see what happened, what was the year like, what am I proud of, what do I wish was different? I Avett blissed out, and honestly, those concerts were the highlight of my year. A lot of people don't understand my deep love of the Avett Brothers, but their music is where I feel joy and love. Their fans are really great, too, and I've made some really good connections with some really amazing people.

I went to a three night run in Louisville right after my dad's funeral. I had been looking forward to the show for quite some time, and wasn't sure if it was the exact right thing to do. But my dad died at home, and I was there for every minute of it. I helped with every detail of his funeral arrangements. And I was present for every second of his wake and funeral. I gave the eulogy and didn't even have my voice waver once. I honestly believe I gave everything I had to give. And I needed to go and be with my people. I needed to go to my own church.

I drove seven hours and arrived with about 15 minutes before show time. The first night, the two brothers came out and sang a song a capella -- "In The Garden." We had selected that to be sung at my dad's funeral, too. It was perfect. I was right where I needed to be.

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe,
Maybe this year will be better than the last.
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass.
And it's one more day up in the canyon,
And it's one more night in Hollywood.
It's been so long since I've seen the ocean
I guess I should.

My mom misses my dad something fierce. It's to be expected -- they were married 43 years. I feel awful for her; I can't imagine how terribly she misses her other half. I got back into therapy after my dad died, and my therapist keeps saying how my grief is following me, influencing everything that I'm feeling, doing, being. For awhile, I kind of thought she was overdoing it. But lately, I think I'm coming around to her way of thinking.

I notice that it's everywhere. I am really aware of how much it's got me. How profoundly sad I am. In ways I can't even articulate. In areas I couldn't imagine. In places I couldn't have anticipated. I knew this was going to happen -- a long time ago I anticipated that when my father died, I would be besieged with constant reminders of him and how much he has influenced my life.

But then he was sick and dying and dead and I had too many practical things to deal with and I couldn't let myself fall apart. I had a sense that I would "fall apart" later, but until it all comes to you, any sort of intellectual understanding is just that -- a mind exercise.

You can understand how to drive a stick shift, but until you ease off the gas, engage the clutch and get bacUntil you finally ride a rollercoasterk on the gas again, you will never *really* know. Until you fly for the first time. Until you actually have sex. . You have to really do these things to know.

If it weren't for my mother, I think I'd head for the west coast. I think I'm ready to do something else. But for now, I'm here, and I'm happy this long December is coming to an end.

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