I remember the night in the summer of 1991 as I sat on the steps with my two-speaker double cassette radio. I was playing my music with Robert as we talked about all the boys we had crushes on. You were drunk out of your mind and joined us on the steps. You slurred your words as you said, “P-wee, play that new song I like, “I Will Survive.” I laughed because I knew you weren’t talking about the Gloria Gaynor Disco classic.
“Mom, what song!?,” I asked. With a half-smile on your face, you explained, “The song about her making it through the day without him.” It then occurred to me you were talking about Lisette Melendez’s “A Day In My Life (Without You).
I wanted to tell you that I first heard this song while learning to drive in your car a few weeks earlier but didn’t want to press my luck. So I just sat there and watched you enjoy the song as you messed up every damn word as you sang along.
That night could have very well been any drunken Saturday night on our front steps. What made that night especially memorable for me was the brief joy I felt in that fleeting musical connection shared over a song we both loved. For about four and a half minutes, we were existing outside of our suffocating roles that were necessary.
By my teen years, our relationship had become a balancing act – you trying to manage your addiction and my trying to manage our everyday survival. we were a kind of team that child services hated. But there we were on that Saturday night, enjoying life.
It has been over three decades since that night on the steps. June 22 marks seven years since your death. The pain has somewhat softened. You show up in my dreams. Maybe next time you do, you’ll ask me to play that song. Or any song. I love you so, Mom.
“A day in my life without you,
Keep your love line close to me”