Thursday, July 11, 2013

Danny Boy

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flow'rs are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, I love you so.
And if you come, and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
I pray you'll find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me
And all my grave will warm and sweeter be
And then you'll kneel and whisper that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

My brother Daniel has been on my mind a lot lately. My job is to be his caretaker. I help him with dressing, eating, hygiene, mobility and household chores. I'm with him Monday through Friday from around 8 'til 5.

I get paid (not much, I must say) to watch after him. As he is permanently and totally disabled, my check is from Jasper County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs, which is funded by Medicaid.

In the past week, whenever I've met new people and been asked what I do for a living, my job and its description roll off the tongue easily enough. But the physical sensation, being more or less automatic now, differs significantly from the emotional content of the response. Now whenever I tell someone that I am my brother's assistant caretaker it's underpinned with the feeling that I'm not a very good one. He fell down in the bathroom, hit his head and had three seizures as a result, on my watch

The song quoted above is a favorite of Irish Americans and Canadians, and is set to the tune of Londonderry Air. It's a lovely, aching melody, one that's easy to love. My wife sings it, and has at times used it as a lullaby to get our 2 year old son to sleep. I enjoy singing it for its unusually broad range. But now I can't seem to get through it. 

Certain lines, and of course the title, hold special significance to me. The penultimate line of the second stanza "'tis I'll be there, in sunshine or in shadow," gives me hope. If I can be there, in sunshine or in shadow, always for those I love, then maybe I'll live the kind of life I'm supposed to live.