Sunday, September 17, 2006

Self-Absorption on Only $35 a Day

I wrote this about four years ago maybe. It's obviously written a long time ago, because I don't help other people anymore.

It goes a little something like this:

Last night for our activity, we went to help Sister P. clean her house. Sister P. is a widow, and she has trouble keeping her balance, so there are certain things which are very hard for her to do around her house. We all drove out to her house, and the first thing I noticed when we went to sit down in her living room was this picture on the shelf of a guy in full-on 80s butt rock garb. He had some amazing hair (not like a wanna-be mullet or anything, this was the real deal, permed to perfection, it must have taken years to get it this way), drumming gloves, holding a pair of drum sticks with his arms folded. I mean, this picture was just totally tickling me, and I clowned it a few times, in an attempt to say something funny to the people I was working with. Then, I found this photo album type thing on the table, and I looked through it, and it was a bunch more of the same amazing stuff. There were pictures of the same total percussion drummer dude, and it looked like he was in a band that practiced in the basement we had just cleaned. There were pictures of him in front of this red drum set, but it was one of those drum sets that also had those electronic drum pads mixed in with it. I was totally laughing, because there was this singer guy with red leopard-print tights, with his foot up on the bass drum, looking like he was hitting some screeching high notes. There were several pictures of various people wearing Stryper t-shirts, and then there was even one photograph of two of the guys with one of the actual members of Stryper.

When there was no housework left to be done according to the lists she had made for us, people were just hanging around, and Sister P. said that she loved to hear the sounds of young laughter. She told stories about how her sons friends used to come over all the time, and she would let them bake things in her kitchen, because even though stuff would get messy, she at least wanted to know who her son was hanging out with, so that she could know who the good kids and the bad kids were. She said that they would make these cakes, Chaos Cakes, and they would put plastic toys inside the cake and then put a bunch of salt in one corner of the cake to play a trick on one of their friends.

When some girls started laughing at the pictures of the young men in tights, and Sister P. was in the same room, I then started to get kind of uncomfortable, like maybe she might have noticed that people were laughing at these pictures of what had to have been her son. So I said "So, Sister P., was your son in a band or something?" And then she got really excited, and started to tell me all about it. She said that the name of his band was like Fortress or something like that, and that they were a Christian rock band. He was in the band all throughout high school, and he even missed his senior prom, and he almost missed his own graduation because he was always playing weekend shows with his band. The weekend of graduation, he had a big show in Philadelphia, which was the home base of the record label his band was on, and so they really had to go to this show, but the guys in the band took turns staying up all night and driving so that he could get back to his own graduation ceremony, where he would graduate with honors. The band practiced in the basement, and some of the members lived as far away as Illinois, but they would drive to Bloomington every weekend to practice and play shows.

It was kind of cute to know that Sister P. used to be a rock mom. Her son was the drummer in the band, so the band had to practice at her house. Sister P. said that the band got to play at a big Christian rock festival in Illinois this one time, and the manager of the record label told her son that when he was interviewed by the Christian rock press, if he was asked what his religion was, he was supposed to say that he was Protestant or something. Well, he wouldnt do that, he insisted that he would say he was a Mormon if he was asked. Apparently, this eventually mounted into some serious friction, and he was forced to part ways with Fortress, or whatever the name of the band was. Having been an honors student, he was easily able to enroll at Indiana University upon graduation from high school, where he majored in business, because he wanted to be able to read the record contracts that were going to be presented to him when he got out of college and was ready to join a band again. While attending college, he met a special girl and they got married in the Chicago Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While he had maintained his dreams of joining a new Christian rock band and hitting the road as soon as he got out of college, shortly before graduation, he came to his mother with a realization. He said that he had been moved by a quote he had discovered while reading recently, a statement from Mormon prophet David O. McKay which said "No success in the workplace can compensate for failure in the home." Sister P. insisted that she had been pounding that quote into his head since he was a child, and that he was quite delusional in thinking that he had discovered this rather famous quote himself. To him, that meant that if he was going to have a family, he needed to put it first, and no matter how much success he had out on the road teaching Christianity to the teenagers of the world through Christian rock, none of that would really matter if his family at home was all screwed up because he was never home.

After graduation, he took a job in marketing at a pharmaceuticals company in Arizona. He and his wife had offspring, and on the shelf in Sister P.'s living room, there was a picture of him playing with a baby. This was the only picture up of him where he didn't have long hair. He kept his long hair all the way through his wedding, and all the way through college. In his graduation picture, his hair was still long, although it lacked the butt-rock perm curls of his previous years. He looked kind of like Fabio, actually. Sister P. then went on to say that her son (this whole time I have never said his name because I dont really remember what it was) died a while ago from a rare reaction to some kind of prescription medication. There was a set of bongos on the shelf, next to some of the pictures. From the pictures, I gathered that he was her only son.

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