Silver Linings.

At a recent visit to the pediatrician the doctor heard something odd. We had to take our daughter to a specialist for some follow-up tests. We decided to make a special family day of the tests. A day at the hospital with a 4 year old is not something anyone really looks forward to.

Before the tests we went to the Front Street Coffeehouse in Salem for coffee and a pastry. If you’ve never been, you should go. It’s the best kind of coffee shop. Funky and idiosyncratic but totally without pretention. Everything that Starbucks wishes it was. Comfy couches, local artwork and an endlessly cool iPod mix. This is truly the kind of place where everyone knows your name.

After ordering our drinks and sitting down on one of the couches I started checking out the fliers for local shows posted throughout entryway. After a time I realized that Erinn was dancing away to the music. She’s beautiful when she dances. In youth kids have no self-awareness. They’re never embarrassed to live in the moment. They hear something that makes them happy; they start dancing. Dancing makes her feel good so she just goes for it. 2 or 3 songs later she’s still at it. It’s Santana playing on the iPod; I’m not sure what album. I ask her if she’s enjoying the music. Of course she’s enjoying the music. She’s been dancing for 15 minutes. “Do you know who this is?” I ask. “No Daddy. Who is it?” “This is Santana” “Oh”. She doesn’t really want me to interrupt her dancing.

A few minutes later, “Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom”. We walk to the back of the shop to the tiny closet of a bathroom. There’s no room for 2 people so I stand Daddy-bathroom-guard outside the door. While waiting, I see that the stereo and iPod are behind the counter near the guy who’s making sandwiches. When Erinn comes out of the bathroom I ask her, “Would you like to ask the man what album this is? Maybe we can get it for you.” So we get the guys attention and she asks. I love that my 4 year old daughter doesn’t hesitate to ask questions. I love that she wants to know who is on the radio and what album is playing. We learned that we’d been listening to Moonflower.

I love Santana. Not the new-millennium, superstar-collaboration, Matchbox-20-duet crap but real Santana. Vintage-1970s Santana. That’s where it’s at for me. Oddly it’s not Carlos’ guitar that gets me. It’s the drums. Weird, huh? Carlos is a guitar virtuoso. I know. But for me it’s those ethnic drums. I just can’t get the rhythms out of my head.

I have to be honest. Moonflower has never been a favorite. Too much cheesy Kenny G-like jazziness. I came to Carlos late too; probably because I never really liked Black Magic Woman. It was always a cliché song and I think I figured everything else was just as cliché. All thanks for my conversion go to the BMG Music Club. Back in the day, when I had the time and patience to balance a half-dozen club memberships and truckloads of free CDs, I ran out things that were interesting in the catalogs. I figured “What the hell”; I might as well get Santana’s Greatest Hits. The conversion was immediate and it was those damn drums. I’m a sucker and I was in love.

We left the coffee shop and headed for the hospital and a series of tests. God, we’ve been lucky in our medical experiences with our kids. Our trip to Mass General for Kids at Salem Hospital was just as pleasant. Amazing nurses, doctors and technicians. The news though; not so great. I won’t write the details but typical cases require major surgery by age 40. This was one of those parent moments. WHAM, everything changes. The details though are much better. Typically no symptoms. Typically no restrictions. In 30 year’s time technology will progress and it’s likely it will be a catheterization; not full-on surgery. Nonetheless, it was news that changes the way you look at your kids. “I wished I could unlearn this”, I thought. It’s something that, though not always at the forefront of my consciousness, is always there. It’s a weird feeling. Akin to the way I felt back when the kids were first born; everything changes right now; things will never be the same. I’m trying not to be too melodramatic but all the same, this was a life-changing moment.

So what do you do when you get bad news from the doctor? What do you say to a 4 year-old, aside from trying like crazy to give the best 4 year-old description of what you’ve learned? “Honey, what do you say we run over to the Record Exchange and buy that Santana album?” I don’t know; what else do people do? Since I was 15 I’ve been going to the Record Exchange and I’ve loved bringing my kids there. We have a picture of Colin sitting on the counter when we went to buy his first CD (the Ramones – Leave Home) and have made trips a special occasion ever since. As we’re walking through the store Erinn points out albums from my own collection. She notices More of the Monkees and some Jefferson Airplane album that I can’t remember. We flip through the Santana vinyl and find a copy of Moonflower. Unfortunately they don’t have the CD as well (I wanted to listen to it on the way home). Instead I pick up a copy of Santana III for the ride home which has become a bedtime favorite.

What do you do when you get bad news? Well, I go to places that I find comforting. That may be a place; the Record Exchange, or an album; the Grateful Dead – Hundred Year Hall. I find that silver lining. In this case, Erinn’s going to be OK and we had a beautiful day together as a family.

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~ by spinthis45 on December 27, 2008.

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