I developed a huge crush on Boz Scaggs when I first heard “Near You” from his 1971 album Moments. In 1994, the song “Lost It” from Scaggs’ album Some Change seemed particularly poignant to me. I listened to the song repeatedly as if I could not get enough of the sound of the guitar playing Spanish blues, Scaggs’ voice, and the lyrics. Recently, I got to see Scaggs perform with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald in Interlochen, Michigan, as the Dukes of September. As the sun set and the stagehands finished preparing for the main event, I felt at peace. This was my first concert since my seizure and the discovery of my brain tumor. I wondered if the strobe lights or the loud music would affect me.
Research has shown that people prone to seizures need to be aware that certain triggers can cause additional seizures. During the opening song, a song I cannot remember, I noticed the dimming sky on my right as the sun began to set, and the open theatre, like a giant tiki bar, seemed to set the stage for trouble. I began to feel sick, the same feeling I had before I had a grand-mal seizure, also known as tonic-clonic, during the Zombie race in October 2011. The sky changed from peaceful to menacing as the strobe lights began to affect my vision. I considered telling, Jim, my husband, we should leave immediately, but I convinced myself I could get through this; after all, I was on powerful anti-seizure medication. I began looking away from the strobe lights and towards Green Lake off to my right where several boats had parked to listen to the music. As the first song ended, I felt greatly relieved: Nothing had happened, and I had figured out a coping mechanism: Look away from the strobe lights. Relax.
The Dukes of September played a mix of songs that included Motown hits, country, and songs from the bands they had been in. Scaggs sang a variety of his hits, and Willie Dixon’s “The Same Thing,” but he did not play the song I really wanted to hear: “Lost It.” I wanted to hear the acoustic guitar and Scaggs’ silky voice as he sang about “those ancient Spanish blues” and sang the words that had been stuck in my brain since 1994: “I saw myself awake, but still dreaming.” I was that person; always awake and always dreaming.
When my mother started showing signs of Alzheimer’s years ago, I became aware of her stories that seemed as if they were dreams, but also seemed to have a place in reality. There are those dreams we have where we imagine our future, but what about those dreams we have when we start slipping towards the past, seemingly moving away from the present and into those places in the past, that brought happiness and the promise of the future?
My father is now in hospice care at the nursing home where he resides. He is “awake, but still dreaming.” Prostate cancer, congestive heart failure, and vascular dementia are shutting his body and mind down. He imagines that my mother is alive, although she died in 2008. He tells me stories about Dodge City, Kansas. He refers to my thirty-year old son as “little one” and seems surprised when Matt shows up for a visit, fully grown, the years of being little far behind him. He tells me stories about Pekin, Illinois, a step even farther back in time from Dodge City. When I ask my father about one of his buddies from the nursing home, he tells me a detailed story about Cal pushing barges near Pekin. Lately, the Illinois River has become a vein in my father’s heart, and the subject of his dreams as he continues his excavation of memories. I wonder about the mix between dreaming, memory, and wakefulness. Will this happen to me?
I am not dreaming now as I realize it has been over two hours since the concert began, I am dancing, a weird sort of happy dance, clapping my hands, singing along with Scaggs’ “Lido,” and looking down when the strobe lights are too much for me. I know the band will not play “Lost It.” It’s a slow-burn of a song, and now the crowd wants upbeat songs they can sing along with or dance to.
Later, as Matt drives Jim and me towards home, I stare out the window at the night sky filled with stars, and I realize I want to hold onto this moment for as long as I can. But if this memory should slip away from me at some point in my life, I will dream of it and tell you this story.