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Song: Fake Plastic Trees
Artist/Group: Radiohead
Current age: 31

This song always reminds me of my grandfather’s funeral, no matter how much time passes. I still get teary when I hear it, and even writing about it.

I was about a month into being 19 and on summer break from college when I got the bad news. My grandfather had been recovering in his hospital room from lung surgery to try to remove whatever cancer had built up in them, only to die a day later of a pulmonary embolism. After leaving the wake, I remember sitting slumped down low in the back seat of my parent’s car, my brother sitting to the left of me, my father driving all of us up the mountain in the Catskills on a clear yet hazy, diffused sort of sunny day – very light blueish and lemony yellow. I was wearing a floral yellow tube top with a light, short sleeved sweater and matching black pants. My hair was cut shorter than shoulder length. I had my headphones jammed into my ears, listening to my favorite band’s second album as we drove. I remember looking out the window, listening to The Bends, regarding how much bigger the mountains upstate looked compared to the Shawungunks.

As I looked out the back window towards the sky, a large bird came into my view. It was probably a turkey vulture, in hindsight, but at the time I thought it was something more majestic, like a hawk. Right as I spied this bird, Fake Plastic Trees started playing through my headphones. As the song played and the music built, I kept my eye on the hawk. It seemed to be following our car, or leading us up the mountain on our way to the cemetery. It stayed with us the entire time the song played, and once the track changed, it flew away. I remember the line “It wears me out” the most. Such a sad song with such a happy melody. And such an oddly happy thing, the hawk flying with us, on such a sad day.

I imagined it was my grandfather’s spirit guiding us on our way.

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