There is something other-worldly about this song. The guitar intro trickles in like pixie dust drifting through the air. The shimmering specks land on the closed eyes of a sleeper and transports them to another place and time. It’s a bittersweet imaginary adventure where they enjoy the moment for what it is, but know that it won’t last.
It’s weird. This song takes me to a time when everything was very real, but life still felt like a dream.
My father had started to have trouble walking again. He had had this issue once before when he had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which is fluid on the brain. At that time, my husband and I were convinced it was because my dad was just fucked up on prescription pills. When he got out of surgery it was like someone had flipped a switch. He was walking and moving better than he had been before.
Fast forward 10 years and we were back to the same. This time it wasn’t as bad. It was basically just a stiff leg that was causing him pain. Oh, and the little thing of him repeatedly falling.
I accompanied my mother and dad on his doctor’s visit down to a specialist in the LA area. There they said they were going to do a spinal tap and test the fluid to see what was causing him this issue. They didn’t know then, but I am almost certain it was ALS related. There are just too many coincidences for me.
On the way back from that visit, I told my dad, “What do you want to listen to? Anything in the world, what would you want to hear?” He mumbled out “Jim Croce.”
I pulled up spotify and started playing the top hits, and this was the first one.
I may have heard it growing up but I don’t think I was paying attention to anything adults did. I was pretty self absorbed and really only focused on what interested me. A bluegrass/folk singer would be right at the bottom of the list.
What’s funny is I am a lot like my dad. I share with him an obsession with music and a particular habit of repeatedly playing the same song. There was a story of my father doing this with a tape while on a road-trip with my mom. He would listen through, stop it, rewind, and play it again. He drove my mother so nuts with this that she ejected the tape and threw it out the car window. I don’t know what song it was, but I just have this gut feeling it was this one.
The early Monday morning we had my mother’s appointment to confirm she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, I noticed some big bruises and cuts on my dads arms.
“What’re those?” I had asked.
“I fell two times yesterday,” he said.
I joked and said he needed to be careful and should I buy him a helmet? “Do you need a life alert?”
I should have bought him a helmet. I should have given him a life alert.
That following Thursday morning, while he was using the bathroom, my dad fell and hit his head on the edge of the counter. He made it to the bedroom and from my mother’s COUNTLESS, gruesome retellings (complete with re-enactments) he called for help and began to seize. My mother’s idea of “helping” was running outside and literally yelling “help.” Not… dialing 911. And even when the school bus driver told her do just that, she rushed inside and forgot the number.
I’m pretty sure my mother’s disease will, in the end, claim two lives.
That morning I got a call from my dad’s cellphone but instead of his voice was a stranger’s. She told me that he had been taken to the hospital. I went to work as normal and then informed my boss of what happened. I got my mother and went to the ER.
He was braindead by the time we got to see him.
I called my mooch of a “step-sister” (it’s complicated) to let her know. She cried and told me to play (of all the bands my dad loved) Jim Croce for him. For a brief moment I thought she actually cared and could be a real “sister.” But then she began her grift the weeks following. Didn’t send flowers. Didn’t do anything. She was a “Hensley” in name alone.
We pulled my pop from life support and he was gone in seconds.
That following Saturday evening my husband orchestrated this little get together at a bar to celebrate my dad’s life. (This was also the first time Josh ever hung out with me and Charlie. He was uncomfortable at first, but because of the circumstances powered through.)
We hijacked the jukebox and played Jim Croce all night and drank all of my dad’s favorite spirits in his honor (peppermint schnapps and Coors.) I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I had that night. Nor do I think I have ever been as drunk. Good lord…
“Time in a Bottle” is a sad melody, but in the chorus for a brief moment there is a turn and it becomes hopeful and bright. I live for the chorus. I belt out the lyrics as hard and as loud as I can muster every time.
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go through time with
Like life, the song is mournful for the loss of time, the microscopic moment we all get to experience it. It is loss, it is pain, but there is brief moments in that sea of yearning that are hopeful. They give us enough joy to carry on to the next chorus.