“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” - George Bernard Shaw
Today is Jacob's birthday. He would have been 18 years old. He is 18 years old.
Jeremy and I always mark Jacob's birthday in some way. Every year it's different. This year, I'm writing this.
I could go on and on about how crappy this deceased child having an 18th birthday is.
Jacob was a gift while he was here. That much is true.
If a day like this is hard, days leading up to the birthday are a marathon. This is especially true because this period of time falls during the Christmas season. I call this the old one-two punch.
Thank god I'm not alone. Jeremy gets it. Not only does he understand me, but he experiences it himself. He's great company.
The 18th birthday has special significance. I remind myself that it is a number, nothing more, nothing less. But I'd be lying if I said that number didn't mean something. Jacob could vote. He'd be legally an adult in many respects.
He would have made it through childhood.
I found myself looking for some silver linings during the period we commonly refer to as Christmas break or even the oxymoronic Christmas vacation. This silver lining came in the form of musician Lucinda Williams. She has a new album out called Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.
Lucinda Williams holds a special place in our family. Her album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road was one of the soundtracks to our lives with Jacob. Jacob especially loved Lucinda Williams.
Jacob did a lot of living in the two and a half years he was here. It may have been a short lifespan, but it was not a small one. One of Jacob's favorite things to do was to listen to music and dance.
Jeremy believes that babies and young children do not need to be talked down to musically. Having raised three children with him, I have to agree. From the time he was born, Jacob was listening to grown up music.
Jacob's relationship with music was special. He seemed to come into the world wired to appreciate it. Jeremy noticed this and provided him with a rich musical palette. Car rides, doctors appointments, meals, and play times had musical accompaniment. Jeremy made a mix tape shortly after Jacob was born to soothe and comfort him. It was a staple of his bedtime routine.
Jacob was a beautiful dancer and had a finely tuned sense of rhythm. Sometimes new music made more sense to him initially than it did to Jeremy and I.
Listening to Car Wheels On A Gravel Road brings me back to playing in the living room with Jacob, long sleepy car rides back from the clinic, my pregnancy with Hannah and dinner times with Jacob making up for lost time in the growth department.
Only an album that incredible could do that.
After Jacob died and I was expecting our third child, Jeremy and I selected names for a boy and a girl. If we'd had a little sister for Hannah rather than a brother, her name would have been Leah Lucinda. We had a Noah Preston. His name has special significance too.
Over the years, Lucinda Williams released more albums, but Car Wheels On A Gravel Road remained my favorite. With its artistic merits and rich family history that album was automatically going to be a tough act to follow.
Earlier last year, I listened to Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. I wasn't inclined to like it. It was hard to listen to. Since Jacob died, Williams voice has evolved and changed. It's more gravelly. My initial read was that there was something predominantly world-weary about her latest work.
Maybe I wasn't in the mood for world-weary. Maybe I wished that Lucinda Williams stayed the same as when Jacob was alive. Maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever it was, I told Jeremy in no uncertain terms that I did not like this album.
2014 was almost over. Jeremy and I took Hannah and Noah to the country to celebrate Christmas. Jeremy and I were sitting at the dining room table.
Jeremy was watching a Tiny Desk Concert on his iPhone. What is that? I asked him wrinkling my nose. Lucinda Williams. I sighed. I wanted to like it. I just didn't.
That was the first song. I had to acknowledge that it went over really well with the Tiny Desk audience. There was raucous and appreciative applause. That band is tight, I said.
Then there was a second song. Listening to the second song was what changed everything. It was different from the songs I listened to with Jacob. But suddenly, it was just as good.
Her voice changed. She changed. I changed. I loved it.
This is incredible, I said to Jeremy.
Changing my mind like this felt like a whole world opening up. Once I listened to that one song, the rest of the album fell into place. I asked Jeremy to let me watch the Tiny Desk Concert on his phone. Look at her! I said. She looks wonderful.
I had a lot of things to say to Jeremy about Lucinda Williams after that. People should just stop listening to Adele when they break up, I said. It's funny, but true. I think that they should listen to Lucinda Williams instead.
I'll always remember the play times we had with Jacob with Lucinda Williams’s angelic, clear voice in the background. Just as etched in memory will be the time I had with Jeremy, falling in love with her again in 2014. I wasn't leaving Jacob behind. I brought him right along for the ride.
This post is part of a series about things l have changed my mind about. You can read my other writing on this theme here: