The Unexpected Present

When the Sun Goes Down in Neverland

Yuri and Jerry sing

June 16th was Yuri’s birthday. He would have turned 74, young enough to continue being the working musician that he was. He had a lot of music in him. Three years ago, on his birthday, he asked what had happened to him after the first vaccine-induced anaphylaxis shock ravaged his system to its core just as an earthquake uproots and traumatizes its bedrock.

Taking a deep breath, I told him everything—in a nutshell—about the Last Rites given to him and the doctor’s sober “I can give you no hope” announcement. Six weeks in the ICU, missing BobFest, and moving to the decrepit 6th floor, reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His first words after coming out of his deep sleep were “clam chowder,” referring to our Block Island visits on his past birthdays. I made reservations that day.

It wasn’t practical. His muscles atrophied, and he couldn’t walk, talk, or swallow. The rehab recommended long-term care in a nursing home. He wouldn’t have made it then. As his advocate, I presented our case. He survived more weeks of rehab trauma and was then transported via stretcher home. Assessing his physicality at the time, the long trip to Rhode Island was not feasible (a three-hour drive, another hour via ferry, and challenging terrains); eventually, I scrapped the idea.

Instead, we would take day trips to Narrowsburg and the lake he loved. The tranquility of its setting is concealed by an enclave of trees surrounding its precious calmness as guardians of a place of sweet serenity where the stillness of the dragonflies (we named them all Nando) skimming on the currents pushed around by the natural mineral springs left us in bliss.

We would sit on the porch at the family house, the same porch I came home to for this day, his birthday. A pair of woodpeckers swirled from one tree to the next, taking notes of the positive and negative aspects of a new home for their nest. The calls and responses reminded me of Yuri’s songwriting, with a bridge for the tune emphasized by the deep vibrations of a hummingbird’s appearance. Late afternoon melds into early evening, and my memories of our stays at this homestead tumbled out like the dice in a cup from a Yahtzee game.

It isn’t easy to believe he is gone, and I’m writing about Yuri’s no-longer-celebrating his birth day. I face the reality and the mortality of it. His photos animate. There are things I imagine he would say, telling me, “It would’ve been very cool, wouldn’t it, Babe?” “Damn straight,” I imagine him saying, “I’m with the Aliens, a new band, ready for hyperspace. Pipe is packed.”

Gemini. Mutable. Positive. Ruled by Mercury. Brilliant mind. Symbol of the Twins. He wrote that in a song, When The Sun Goes Down, a Kinderhook love song that goes into overdrive. Just like your heart when you stumble and fall in love.

When the sun goes down in Neverland
There’s peace in the heart, though trouble on hand
Peter takes Tinker
Takes her by the hand
Tells her, I love you
Baby, I do
Baby, I love you when the sun goes down.

Well, there’s a star shining over the ocean
Tells me my kin is the sign of the Twin
Don’t know where I’ve been
Always shifted by wind
But I know
Baby, I love you
Baby, I do
Baby, I love you when the sun goes down.

Gemini. Day forces. Positive forces to be reckoned with. It was a perfect day sitting on the porch, the sun going down. Baby, I love you. Baby, I do. Baby, I love you when the sun goes down.

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