Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

Struggling

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

I’m not doing all that well right now. Understandable, I suppose. I posted at Facebook yesterday:

“My home phone number when I was a kid was BLackburn 1-5557. When exchanges were dropped, it became 251-5557. Mom once told me that they got the number sometime before we moved from our apartment on Riverside Drive to our house on Kilian Boulevard in February 1957. So that was Mom’s phone number for more than sixty years. Sometime this afternoon, it will be disconnected. . . . I’ve been closing accounts and cancelling subscriptions for a week now. This one hurts.”

I’ve got nothing else to say right now, and too many sad tasks ahead of me yet.

Here’s “Samba Triste” – or “Sad Samba” – by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. It’s from their 1962 album Jazz Samba.

‘Weary’

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Well, the ceremonies and formalities are over, and we’ve laid Mom to rest next to Dad in the Lutheran Church cemetery in Dad’s hometown of Cambridge. And we’re slowly getting back into the rhythms of everyday life: laundry, housework, cooking, watering the garden.

There are still some tasks left, things like getting out “thank you” cards, and my sister and I will begin that tomorrow. It won’t take too long. And we’ll have to take care of Mom’s estate, although that should be relatively easy, as Mom and Dad had things pretty well planned years ago.

And someday soon, we’ll pick up the threads of some of the various themes I’ve played with here over the past year and dig deep into some music. But right now, I’m weary, both physically and emotionally, so I’m just going to go out and water the garden and then take care of some household tasks that have been mostly ignored over the last two months.

Here’s the folk duo of Jim & Jean with “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” It was originally on their 1966 album Changes.

Gregg Allman, 1947-2017

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

I can’t tell you when I first noticed Gregg Allman’s voice, but I know where I was.

That first moment might have been during the autumn of 1973, but it more likely was early the next year. Either way, it happened in the lounge of the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark. Among the small collection of cassette tapes we St. Cloud State students had pooled in the lounge were the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat A Peach and Brothers & Sisters, as well as the first Duane Allman anthology, which had on its fourth side a few other tracks from the band.

The lounge was the epicenter of life for those of us living at the hostel – a group I joined in late January 1974 after living for about five months with a Danish family – and music from the tape player was one of the constants of time in the lounge. And although I no doubt heard one of the tracks by the Allman Brothers during my brief visits to the hostel in the months before I moved there, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t until I took up residence there that I sat still in the lounge long enough to truly listen to Gregg Allman’s voice in front of the band he and his late brother had assembled.

This matters of course, because Gregg Allman died last Saturday in Savannah, Georgia, from liver cancer. To music fans, his tale is familiar: The Florida childhood, the early recordings with his brother, Duane, as record companies tried to shoehorn the brothers’ talents into boxes, the formation of the Allman Brothers Band and the world success that followed, then addiction, pain, missteps both personal and professional, the resurrection of the ABB (albeit without his late brother and the also deceased original bassist Berry Oakley, and later, original guitarist Dickey Betts), illness and so much more, right to the end.

If anyone wants to write a Southern gothic rock opera, the story is there for the taking.

As interesting as the story is, I’ll leave it to others; here’s Rolling Stone’s piece on Allman’s death and life. To me, what mattered was the music, especially those albums I heard in Denmark and acquired soon after I came home, those and the other early works I soon collected as well. The music I’d heard in the lounge, I knew – and still know – note for note, having been immersed in it nearly every evening for something more than two months. The stuff that was new to me – most of the group’s self-titled 1969 debut, 1970’s Idlewild South and the 1971 Fillmore East album – took longer to work its way into me but it did so eventually. And I have some of Allman’s work – both with the ABB and as a solo artist – from the later years into the 1990s, as well, although I don’t know that music as well.

So, like much of the music I listened during the years from, oh, 1969 into 1975, the Allman Brothers Band’s early work, with Allman’s voice, gruff, bluesy and tender by turns, leading the way, is part of my foundation.

Still, I try not to let the music I love get trapped in time, to let it belong only to one year, one decade, one moment. That’s hard for any music lover, I think, but it seems especially hard for me, given my fascination with how music and memory entwine. I don’t think that Gregg Allman’s work – as the voice of the ABB and on his own – is frozen like that for me, locked in the Pro Pace lounge. “Dreams,” from The Allman Brothers Band, popped up on a CD in the car the other day, and as I drove, I was listening to a song that mattered right then, not just to a memory. I thought about that as I drove and listened, and I was pleased.

And “Dreams,” from 1969, seems to be a good place to close this awkward appreciation of Gregg Allman.

Complications & Fries Again

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The vacant corner lot up the road is being developed. Fences are up, dirt’s being pushed around, and a concrete platform for utility meters has gone up. A sign along the Highway 10 frontage road says that a self-storage place is going in. I’m glad to see something’s being done with the corner – the East Side needs more commerce – but I was hoping for something less prosaic. After all, the corner lot used to be the site of a place that mattered to me. Here’s a post I wrote about the place back in 2009.

Just up the road from our place, right next to U.S. Highway 10, is a vacant building. Sometime in the last year, the auctioneer came by. They sold the booths and the counters, the grill and the deep-fat fryers, the hydraulic lifts and the gas pumps, the tool cabinets and all of the things that made the little building a gas station and restaurant for as many years as I can remember.

It was called Townsedge, and that was accurate enough in a practical sense. For many years, when folks would come into St. Cloud from the Twin Cities, Townsedge was the first gas station or restaurant they saw. They’d pass by a few other places – the marine shop, the masonry place and a used car lot or two – but if folks on the road had the usual travelers’ needs, Townsedge was the first place they saw where those needs could be met: Fill your tank, check the oil, buy a pack of smokes, sit down in a booth for a few minutes and have a cheeseburger straight from the grill, with a couple of pickle slices on the plate and a basket of fries on the side.

It was the kind of place you don’t often find anymore, and that’s truly a shame. There was another place like Townsedge across Highway 10, Fred’s Cafe, a classic American truck stop, and both Fred’s and Townsedge did well for many years. When Fred’s went out of business – that happened during the years I was away, but I think it was in the early 1990s – a chain convenience store/gas station took its place, and I’m sure that took business away from Townsedge. And when a franchised burger place opened up a couple of years ago about half a block from Townsedge, that pretty much told the tale.

After Dad retired, my folks went to Townsedge for coffee a couple of times a week, and after the Texas Gal and I moved here in 2002, I’d walk over and join them every once in a while. As we sat, I’d look around the place and gauge the ages of the customers. I’d see a few single moms with kids, but not many. Most of the time, I was the youngest person in the place (except for one or two of the waitresses). Once Dad was gone and Mom moved, I had no reason to go into Townsedge anymore, and not too long after that, I saw the “Closed” sign in the window as I drove by one day. And eventually, the auctioneer came by.

Places come and go, but Townsedge – as it was in the 1970s, not as it was in its last years – was a special place for a couple of reasons. First, the fries. The French fries at Townsedge – golden and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – were among the best I have ever had. I’ve been to a few other places over the years whose fries were better, but when I was in high school, Townsedge had the best fries in town, and the little cafe was frequently the last stop during an evening spent out with friends.

Then there was the evening in early December 1970, during my senior year of high school. The St. Cloud Tech High School choirs had performed in concert, and a young lady and I were going to double up with another couple for burgers and fries at Townsedge. For some reason, the other guy had to cancel, so there were only three of us, my date and me on one side of the booth and the other young lady sitting across from us.

I dropped a quarter into the jukebox terminal in our booth. I have no idea what I played, but one of the other young folks elsewhere in the cafe had cued up the week’s No. 1 record, and that’s what we heard first. My date sang along for a few moments with the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” We all laughed, and I realized that my life right then was about as complicated as it had ever been. None of us mentioned it, but all three of us – my date, the other young lady and I – knew that if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been sitting on the other side of the booth, next to the gal whose boyfriend hadn’t been able to join us.

Then the waitress brought us our burgers and fries, and life moved on.

And here’s “I Think I Love You.”

One Survey Dig & A Note

Friday, May 19th, 2017

I’m guessing that as my senior year of high school wound down in the spring of 1971, I wasn’t listening much to KDWB out of the Twin Cities. Here’s the top fifteen from station’s “6+30” survey during this week in May 1971:

“Sweet & Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” by Lobo
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Daddy Dewdrop
“Love Her Madly” by the Doors
“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean
“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Power To The People” by John Lennon
“Me And My Arrow” by Nilsson
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“If” by Bread
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Be Nice To Me” by Runt-Todd Rundgren

Why am I thinking that KDWB wasn’t a major part of my listening habits? For a couple of reasons. First, much of my listening was late evening (from 9 p.m. to whenever I fell asleep, probably about 10:30), and that came from either WJON down the street or WLS in Chicago. I think KDWB had been relegated to daytime listening at home – and there wasn’t much of that during the school year – and to whatever time I spent driving, and that wasn’t a lot, as I didn’t yet have my own car.

And then, there are two records in that top fifteen that I don’t recall hearing as much would have been likely had I been listening to the Big 63. Even though it was a national hit (No. 7 in the Billboard Hot 100), I don’t recall hearing the Donny Osmond single a lot. Maybe I just tuned it out. And then there’s the Runt-Todd Rundgren record, “Be Nice To Me.” Having listened to it at YouTube this morning, I can only say that it’s not at all familiar (and that’s possible, as it went only to No. 71 in the Hot 100 and I’ve never dug deeply into Rundgren’s catalog.)

And there’s one more bit of evidence that KDWB wasn’t getting much airplay around our stretch of Kilian Boulevard: Sitting at No. 21 in the “6+30” from forty-six years ago this week is Boz Scaggs’ “We Were Always Sweethearts,” which seems to have peaked at KDWB at No. 17.

The record’s popularity on KDWB was an anomaly, as the record, which was Scaggs’ first to hit the Billboard chart, peaked at No. 61 in the Hot 100. I don’t remember hearing it back then. If I had, I would think I would have remembered it when I got around to hearing it on the Moments album in later years.

It doesn’t matter, really. But “We Were Always Sweethearts” is still a good record, and it’s a good way to close this little bit of survey digging.

A note . . .
I’d planned for some time for this week to have been the week when I resumed a regular schedule here. That plan went away Tuesday when Mom went to the hospital with what turned out to be a couple of small strokes. Things seemed pretty dark Wednesday, but by Thursday morning, she was sitting in a chair, eating on her own, telling my sister and me things we had to remember to take care of, and singing along to a playlist of Lutheran hymns I pulled up from YouTube on my phone.

As I write, the plan is for her to return this afternoon to her place at Prairie Ridge. (That’s the memory care facility attached to Ridgeview Place; she’s been in memory care for about a month.) We’ll have some hospice protocols in place for her; more strokes are likely, and she doesn’t want to go back to the hospital and undergo the ensuing tests. She’s ninety-five and she’s tired, but she was entirely present yesterday as she and my sister and I talked about her care with some staff members from the St. Cloud Hospital.

And strokes or not, tired or not, she made it very clear to us that she intends to keep her appointment to have her hair done today.

Sixty Years On

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

It might have been in March, it might have been in May. It likely was during April, but after sixty years, there’s no way to know.

So I’ve not known when this spring to mark the day in 1957 when two boys – five and three years old – ventured across Kilian Boulevard on their tricycles to meet the three-year-old boy whose family had moved into the white house kiddy-corner from theirs during the winter.

That new boy in the neighborhood was, of course, me, and the boys heading my way across the intersection – and I can still envision them pedaling down the middle of Eighth Street as it crosses Kilian – were Rick and Rob.

Over the years, folks have asked me who in my life have I known longest outside my family – it’s the kind of question you get in parlor games or on long, dull drives – and I’ve never been able to really answer. I don’t truly remember who was in the lead on that tricycle trip from across the street. I think it was Rob, but I’m not certain. If it was, then I’ve known Rob longer than I’ve known anyone except my family. But he holds that spot over Rick by no more than two or three seconds.

Truth be told, they hadn’t set out from their house just to welcome me to the neighborhood; they were off to hit the candy counter at Wyvell’s Store, the little neighborhood grocery another block west and half-a-block north from our place. I remember talking with them for a few moments, and then I watched as they made their way on down Eighth Street, turning their trikes into the alley halfway down the block and then onto the dirt path leading to the next corner, a path on the margin of someone’s lawn that had been worn by years of tricycles, bicycles and feet, all looking for a slight shortcut on the way to the neighborhood store.

(I haven’t purposely looked in years, but I’d bet that if I took a brief excursion from Kilian down Eighth today, I’d see that same dirt path through the edge of that yard. When we were kids, an elderly woman lived there, and a dim memory tells me that she was grandmother to the kids who lived in the next house along the way to the store, but I’m not sure. The lot is empty these days; sometime after I left home, the house there was badly damaged in an explosion, and what was left was torn down. I’m not sure if the lot is unbuildable, but it’s been years and it’s still vacant. As to the store, I’m not sure how long it had been Wyvell’s or who had owned it before then. Sometime around 1960, an older couple bought the store and it became Tuey’s Grocery, and then, right around 1965, it was sold again and became Norb’s Superette. Norb hung in there until sometime in the 1990s, when he retired and the store’s interior was remodeled to make it a house. Its exterior, though, proclaims clearly its origins as a neighborhood store, one of many such that used to be found along the streets of St. Cloud.)

And that was how I entered Rick and Rob’s lives, as a brief delay during a trip for candy. Not too long after that, I would guess, I joined them on a trip to Wyvell’s as well as heading across the street to play at their place, in the best yard for kids in the neighborhood. (Their dad was a manufacturer of fences and playground equipment, and their yard was, in effect, a testing ground for prototypes, with swing sets, teeter-totters, small merry-go-rounds, monkey bars and other climbing stuff.)

As we got older, Rick and I paired off more often and Rob went his own way with other friends. Rick and I were closer in age – five months apart – while Rob was nearly two years older than I. But there were plenty of times over the years when the three of us did things together, and there were times when Rick wasn’t around for some reason, and Rob and I hung out.

In the first couple decades of adulthood, we saw each other rarely. We were busy setting up our lives, I guess. Rick was a member of the wedding party when I married The Other Half in 1978. I was a member of the wedding party and read a portion of Scripture when Rick got married in 1982, and Rob has told me I’d have had the same duties at his wedding in 1983 had I not been living in Missouri. But our contacts during the late 1970s and through the 1980s were limited, although we did have a couple of table-top hockey tournaments during the latter half of the 1980s. (Those tourneys were when Schultz joined us; he and Rick had kept in touch since high school.)

I entered the nomadic phase of my life in the late 1980s, not settling down until 1992, when I began to see the brothers together and separately again, but those meetings were sporadic. It wasn’t until the Texas Gal and I moved to St. Cloud that I began to organize get-togethers twice a year, with table-top hockey and baseball being the ostensible reasons.

And reconnecting with Rick and Rob, and with Schultz, whom I knew during our high school years, is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I’d hope it’s been that good for them, too.

So what tune is going to match that? Well, nothing precisely, but one that comes close is “My Old Friends” by English singer/songwriter Duncan Browne. It’s from his self-titled 1973 album.

Inner light, inner light, shine brightly on my old friends.
May they go on, never fall, never think that I don’t wish them well.

Forty-Seven Years

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Ben Taylor’s cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio” is from the 2007 three-CD album Song of America. Taylor is the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon.

Three Long-Ago Lists

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Over the ten years I’ve been blogging here, I’ve offered up numerous lists ranking albums and individual tracks in various ways (the thirty-eight week Ultimate Jukebox of 2009 being no doubt the best organized). I’ve recently been reminded as I dug through a box of stuff my dad saved that such rankings and listings didn’t start here.

Among the newspaper pieces of mine that my dad saved over the years were two columns – one from the Monticello Times and one from the Eden Prairie News – detailing lists of favorite tracks. There’s little overlap between the two – the first put together in about 1980 and the second coming from 1995. The contrasts are intriguing, and even more so are the contrasts between those two and a third listing that came between them, in 1988. We’ll get to that intervening list in a bit.

Here are the tracks from the Monticello list, put together, again, in about 1980:

“Layla” by Derek & The Dominos
“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)/A Day In The Life” by the Beatles
“Loan Me A Dime” by Boz Scaggs
“A Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum
“Dreams” by the Allman Brothers Band
“(Sooner or Later) One Of Us Must Know” by Bob Dylan
“Southern Man” by Neil Young
“Miracles” by Jefferson Starship

Honorable mentions:
“Stage Fright” by The Band
“Touch Me” by the Doors
“Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane
“Question” by the Moody Blues
“Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band

(A few years later, I shared that list with a fellow grad student over a beer in a favorite hangout for journalism students at the University of Missouri. “Good list,” she said, “but it’s all white boys.” She was, of course, right: there was no diversity there.)

Fifteen years later in Eden Prairie, likely straining for a column idea as deadline approached and 275 words’ worth of space waited blank for me on Page 4, I packaged my top eight tracks as my prescription for beating the winter blues:

“Layla”
“Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison
“Loan Me A Dime”
“Be My Baby” by the Ronettes
“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan
“The Weight” by The Band
“Hungry Heart” by Bruce Springsteen
“Drift Away” by Dobie Gray

Honorable mentions:
“American Pie” by Don McLean
“Bernadette” by the Four Tops
“Born To Run” by Springsteen
“Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen
“Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman

“Layla” and “Loan Me A Dime” are the only holdovers there. I don’t think that’s an indication that I liked the other tracks on the earlier list any less. It’s more a result, I think, of change in me: In the early 1980s, I was an interested listener who knew a little bit about the music on his record player; by 1995, I had expanded my listening and had begun to dig deeper into the history of the music I heard. The 1995 list was, I think, a more thoughtful list.

Then there was the intervening list: In early 1988, I was asked by a colleague at the public radio station at Minot State University to put together a desert island list of music and then to come to the studios, where we would listen to and then talk about those records for an hour. I have the tape somewhere, but I no longer have the written list of the ten tracks I chose. I actually recall only four of the ten:

“Layla”
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
“Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
“Us and Them” by Pink Floyd

Two of those last three now strike me as odd, and one of them just hurts. The Pink Floyd track remains a favorite, being a time-and-place artifact of my days in Denmark. It has its place among the 3,700 or so tracks in the iPod, but to place it in the top ten now seems strange. The CSN&Y track – it popped up the other day on a cable channel – is fine, but its elevation to my top ten in 1988 is even more baffling. It doesn’t even make it into the iPod these days.

Then there’s “Unchained Melody,” which led off my desert island tape in 1988. It was the No. 1 record for my love life at the time, a life-altering relationship that was luminous and enervating while it lasted but one that left me devastated and flailing for years when it ended. Nearly thirty years later, when the record pops up on an oldies station, I still hear only echoes of grief.

So, where to go for a tune after that admission? That turns out to be a question that’s easy to answer. And it’s a little surprising to learn that in ten years here, I’ve never once mentioned Aretha Franklin’s “Don’t Play That Song.” It went to No. 11 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970, and it topped the magazine’s R&B chart for three weeks.

‘Still Holding On’

Friday, April 28th, 2017

I’m still upright, but it’s been a difficult week with some health challenges and lots of family obligations, as we get Mom settled and take care of some of her business affairs. But I’m still holding on, as Chris Rea sings in this track from his 1998 album The Blue Café. (And things are not nearly so dire for me and mine as the world sounds for Rea in “I’m Still Holding On.”)

I should be here tomorrow with a Saturday Single, trying to bend the world back to what passes for normal around here. Take care!

A World Diminishing

Friday, April 14th, 2017

About two weeks ago, the folks who run Ridgeview Place, the assisted living center where Mom has lived since the spring of 2006, got in touch with me and my sister: It was time, they said, to talk about Mom’s care. When we met a few days later, my sister and I learned that the staff thought that Mom’s ability to be focused and present had been waning noticeably for a month or so.

That matched what my sister and I had been noticing, and we agreed that Mom would be safer – and, we hope, happier – down the hall at the memory care facility called Prairie Ridge, a secure facility on one floor with rooms that are in effect efficiency apartments. When my sister talked to our mom, Mom agreed that it was time. And we began to plan:

We rented a storage unit for the furniture and other things for which she would no longer have room. We hired a moving company. We filed changes of address for the post office, the newspapers, the telephone company and the cable company (with more, of course, to follow as mail comes in with its yellow forwarding labels). We collected boxes, large and small. We got measurements of the new apartment and began to decide what would fit where. And we began sorting.

Mom had some concerns. What would happen to her grandfather’s small table? As it turned out, my nephew took it, which pleased her. And then, would she be able to keep the writing desk? It had been her father’s, and after my aunt’s death in 1990, the desk had been brought from Lamberton in southwest Minnesota to St. Cloud. Yes, my sister and I determined, there was room for the writing desk and its attendant chair.

But there was no room for the buffet, a massive dining room chest that had been a storage place for china, a silver service, and an odd mix of necessities ever since 1957, when it had been left behind by the previous owners of the house on Kilian Boulevard. We sorted the buffet’s miscellaneous contents, and this week, the movers packed for storage all of its china, as they did the fragile pieces in the glass-fronted china closet.

A few days before the movers came, my sister and my mom were looking at the pieces in the china closet, some of which dated back to before Mom was born in 1921. (The china closet itself is likely that old, but we’re not exactly sure; Mom and Dad got the piece sometime in the 1970s, if I recall things clearly.) And my sister told Mom that if there were a few things she wanted to have with her in her new place, she needed to decide before the movers came. My sister later told me that she tried gently to make it clear to Mom that once the movers packed those things away, Mom would likely never see them again. She said Mom seemed to understand.

I brought a few things home (but just a few, having been reminded by the Texas Gal that our long-term goal is to diminish the amount of stuff in the house, not to augment it): Some household goods that we’ll use, some items that my Dad saved that we’ll likely offer to the St. Cloud State archives, and three pieces that I’ve long known would come to me – a metal candelabra I bought for my parents in Moscow, a pewter plate I bought for Mom in Flensburg, Germany, and a reindeer antler letter opener that I bought for Dad in Kiruna, Sweden.

My sister took boxes of things home to the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove to pass on to a local charity; I hauled boxes of books to the St. Cloud Public Library for the Friends of the Library to sell at its bookstore; more books and a deluxe Scrabble set went to the library at the assisted living center; my nephew took a set of dishes, an antique dresser, the aforementioned antique table and the buffet (which pleased and relieved Mom); and bit by bit, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, a lifetime’s worth of possessions was trimmed down for a third time.

We first down-sized Mom’s belongings in 2004, when she moved from Kilian Boulevard to the patio home in Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. We did so again when she moved from the patio home into Ridgeview Place. This week came the third time. I imagine there might be a fourth, if the time ever comes for full nursing home care.

But we’ll think about that later. For now, she’s safe, and my sister said that yesterday, everything was pretty well in place and that Mom reconnected during snack time with a few other women who have previously moved from the assisted living portion of the center to the memory care unit. She was tired and a little confused, my sister said. We’ll see how she does, but she’s safe, and she’s in an environment where folks know how to take care of her.

When I told my sister two weeks ago that the staff at Ridgeview Place wanted to discuss Mom’s care, my sister was in Chicago, visiting her grandson, who will turn two this summer. The contrast, my sister said, is striking: Every couple of months, she spends time with a little boy whose world is expanding in great chunks day by day, and every three weeks or so, she visits my mother, whose world is diminishing day by day. And my sister and I stand in the middle, connecting generations heading in opposite directions.

Here’s Michael Johnson’s cover of “Old Folks,” a song written by Jacques Brel, Gérard Jouannest and Jean Corti. Mort Shuman wrote English lyrics. Mom’s lived through the first portions of the song, and she’s alone now – as she has been since 2004 – with the clock keeping her company. Johnson’s version was on his 1973 album There Is A Breeze.