A Hawaiian luau, a child’s fifth birthday party, early Alzheimer’s, a divorce and music; weekends are made of such things. It started with a song… yes, today it really did. Another sleepless night, wired on prednisone and battling nausea I tried to redirect my thoughts to the events of the past two days while listening to Anthony Toner and Foy Vance. These two extraordinarily talented singer-songwriters have decidedly different backgrounds but, their roots come from the North of Ireland and many of their songs focus on the sometime misadventures of falling in love.
Anthony Toner was born and raised in Coleraine and resides in Belfast, he’s been described as a cross between James Taylor and John Prine.
Foy Vance was born in Bangor, County Down, moved to the United States as a child and travelled the American south with his father a preacher. He currently resides in Scotland (although it seems he’s rarely home these days), and has been described as the link between Richie Havens and Stevie Wonder by the Independent.
Personally, I believe they are both talents whose songs speak to the individual, allowing us to interpret the music with our own life experience. Regardless, if you haven’t listened to either of them, I hope you take the time to now as they definitely have something to say to each and every one of us. And now back to the weekend… these are the details of three strong women; a 64 year-old succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, a five year-old birthday girl and a newly separated 38 year old.
“Fun is Good.” ~ Dr Seuss.
The luau was fun! Who doesn’t like to limbo? Or act like a fool trying to learn the hula? I also climbed a rock wall after drinking a blue Hawaiian and according to my husband acted rather silly! My somewhat reserved nature and natural shyness definitely takes a back seat when I’ve had a drink… which is generally all it takes for me to get tipsy! All in good fun methinks… “Fun is good”! As a Generation X-er in a sea of Baby Boomers, I often find myself at a loss when amongst my husband’s friends, although this time it proved to be a benefit! I was determined to have a good time and I did! It made the three-hour drive worth it. The unfortunate part was learning a friend of ours was suffering from early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. I had suspected this was coming, as I had noticed that lost, vacant look in her eyes, one I had seen many times before in others. It’s not something she or her spouse had shared with others, although it has now become more noticeable in conversation. It is a sad thing to witness, as Jean still realizes that she is repeating herself and often re-living past episodes of a life she is rapidly forgetting. The pain of this loss seemed to be etched on both of their faces, however her husband, Harry, is accepting this new twist in their relationship with grace and tries to allay her fears. Jean has recently started treatment and some of the medications show promise and are able to halt the progress of this disease. I hope this is true in her case, as she is a vibrant 64 year-old with many years of life to come. It would be a great loss to all of us if this intelligent, attractive woman were to succumb to the ravages of the disease, forgetting friends and family and the dynamic life she once led.
They both enjoyed the party, spending good times with friends, and I think it was helpful knowing that their ‘secret’ was now out in the open. Knowing first hand how difficult it is to announce to friends and acquaintances, or even total strangers that you are ill; I applaud them in their honesty to share with all of us their pain. Great music, good food, hula competitions and drinks made the evening one to remember for all of us.
After going to church on Sunday morning we were off again for Bella’s fifth birthday party. Bella is the only daughter of my cousin Geri and her husband Dean. She is a little beauty with dark brown curls, big soft doe eyes and a penchant for wearing dresses at all times. The theme of the party was Disney’s “Frozen”, who would have guessed. Bella was dressed to the nines as her favorite “Frozen” character, Elsa (of course ☺) and greeted her guests in the royal manor of any Disney princess. She was a lovely vision in icy aqua and cream, which set off her curly locks beneath her twinkling tiara. The gifts were deposited in a mounting pile in the family room offset by a rather large bulky present draped in snowy white and set off with a big aqua bow. I will say we were all a bit curious as to what was in there, some even more anxious to know than the birthday girl herself! Frisbee, badminton, footie and hula hoop contests were the games of the day and the adults wondered at the amount of energy displayed by all of the kids. Keeping with the “Frozen” theme, my cousin had a menu of “Frozen” Sandwiches, Snowflake cookies, “Frozen Yogurt Parfaits” Olaf Marshmallows, Blue Italian Ices, and pretzel sticks dipped in blue icing sugar with sparkling crystals. Blackberry smoothies and Blue Raspberry Lemonade were the drinks of the day ensuring that every child and most adults had reached their sugar high shortly after starting to munch away! After the meal, the kids all lined up to pin the nose on Olaf and bash away at a snowflake piñata strung up on the basketball hoop. I will say the piñata seemed to be stronger than the children, who enthusiastically supplied it with whack after whack, never making a dent in the stuffing. After cheers and hoots, the dads and older lads started to get involved and made short order of the “Frozen” snowflake and it’s contents… candy spraying all over the court to the delight of every child … even the big ones!
Unfortunately, at some point a few of the little girls decided they would ‘help’ Bella by opening her gifts, leaving the family room a mess with new toys and cards scattered everywhere. With the grace of someone much older, Miss Bella took this in her stride although, it was obvious she was hurt by these ‘helpful friends’. The surprise of opening gifts was not o be hers, big tears started to well in her eyes and make snail trails down her cheeks. But, she held it together and made a fuss over everyone’s gifts even those with obvious missing parts. The big bulky gift turned out to be a blow up punching bag with two mitts… she was a vision in her dress-up clothes jabbing away at the bag getting rid of her frustrations! I couldn’t stop from smiling and marvel at the strength of this little princess, she will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come!
It was soon time to sing “Happy Birthday” and everyone gathered around the beautiful cake of Elsa, a vision in spun sugar almost too pretty to eat… almost! “Frozen” cupcakes were also available and much more portable for active little children. During the singing I noticed another cousin looking upset and realized she was on the verge of tears. Jenna had recently separated from her husband of fifteen years. This wasn’t the first separation, but it was definitely the final one. They had two beautiful children, a boy and a girl who both favored their father. I found Jenna in the hallway sobbing her eyes out and we quickly stepped outside before others became aware. The family gathering was a bit too much for the heartbreak of the broken marriage in Jenna’s life. She felt useless and unloved, a failure because her husband didn’t love her. The only thing I could do was hug her and hope I was giving some comfort to her by reassuring her she was indeed loved. Having been in her shoes once not too long ago, I knew the awful things you can feel and think of yourself. Somehow we never see the good in ourselves when someone we love leaves us for someone else. A broken relationship is often like a death, part of you is missing and you don’t know how you will go on. Some breaks can be repaired, with a lot of work and a rebuilding of trust, and some can’t. It doesn’t make us any less of a person, but we need to grieve the loss and grow into our own. All I could do was sympathize and give her a hug hoping to give her some strength from my own self to carry her through. My wish for her is to know her true worth and I hope she will begin to heal. I have no doubt that Jenna will come out of this a stronger woman than she is now, but she is in a fragile state. It’s heartbreaking to see this 38 year-old woman falling apart because of a cheating spouse. He’s moved on, with a new ‘family’ and she seemingly is left with the “Joy of Nothing” and worries about finances, the children, their house and no partner to share them with.
I leave you now with these two songs… the title track from Foy Vance’s “Joy of Nothing” a relationship song with wisdom in it’s meaning…
“Oh, the joy of nothing is a sweeter something
And I will hold it in my heart
Yes, I will hold it in my heart …”
The second song I’d like to share is called “Well, Well, Well” by Anthony Toner. It’s about changes in relationships, we all seem to have them. Jenna has lost someone and Jean and Harry are losing one another through a disease. I hope they find comfort in something to ease their pain of loss. Give it a listen perhaps you will find something too.
Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling story today. If you have lost someone through divorce or disease, I hope you find peace, the strength to carry on and know that you are loved. Remember, “Fun is Good!” Dr. Seuss said it, so it must be true! Do one silly thing a day… it’s necessary! ☺
As for me, I think I’ll start my day sleepless again! But as always… remember, “It started with a song, (in this case two) and ended with a smile!”
For more on Foy Vance and his music, please visit the following links:
For more info on Anthony Toner and his music, please visit the following links: