Several days ago, I hopped in my car to head to an appointment, and my Pandora app automatically connected to the car’s audio. I fumbled for my phone, realizing it was still on Upbeat Indie Radio. I wasn’t exactly feeling upbeat and instead wanted something a bit more gently-aggressive-early-2000s-ish, like Jimmy Eat World Radio. But before I could change stations, a song started. It was "A-O-K" by Tai Verdes, and I just smiled.
My parents and I left the hospital at about noon the day Ramón died. We stepped up to the valet counter, where my mom forked over more money than anyone should ever have to pay for parking, but especially after watching a loved one die. The cashier cheerfully called out, "Have a good day!," despite the fact that I was actively crying.
I was startled when I stepped outside. Having been in the lowly lit, frigid hospital environment for several weeks, the world in this moment felt unfamiliar. The sunlight was intensely bright, and the air was so steamy that it felt as though I was inches away from a roaring fire. I considered taking off my hoodie, but I felt incapable of basic tasks. The valet driver pulled up with my mom’s car. After loading my stuff, I got in and fastened my seatbelt for the first time as a widow.
As we began making our way to my parents’ house, a catchy song came on the radio. I’d never heard it before. I realized how many other songs had probably been released while I’d been confined to a hospital room. The chorus started like this:
Living in this big blue world With my head up in outer space I know I'll be A-O, A-O-K I know I'll be A-O, A-O-K
I was in a complete stupor at the time, but I remember thinking that this was the closest thing to outer space that I’d ever experienced. Despite my general incoherence, I listened to the song and believed that I’d eventually be A-O-K. I just didn’t know when that time may come.
When the song came on last week, I felt happy. Instead of A-O-K being a future event, it’s the space I’ve been living in for quite some time. I have officially declared myself A-O-K.
The second half of the chorus says:
When I see trouble come my way I be makin' lemonade I know I'll be A-O, A-O-K I know I'll be A-O, A-O-K
As I heard this part of the chorus, I laughed out loud because it reminded me of a fond Ramón memory. One summer when we lived in Chamblee, Ramón started making homemade lemonade. He bragged about how delicious it was for being natural, and, I’ll admit, it was amazing.
After a few weeks of relentlessly drinking lemonade, Ramón turned to me one day, a serious look on his face. "It seems like I’ve been gaining weight ever since I started drinking lemonade." I paused for a few seconds, then responded, "Well, you do put an awful lot of honey in the lemonade." Surprise washed over his face. "Oh, I didn’t think about that."
For the next several weeks (and even years after, because I, too, can be relentless), I’d turn to him and say, "Ever since I started drinking honey by the bottle …," only to have him silence me before I could finish. It made me think of this photograph I took of him. Often, when the honey was running low, he’d make some tea in the actual honey bottle. I always loved when he did it.
I planned to post this over the weekend, but I never quite got around to finishing it. In a way, today seems like a more appropriate day to post anyway. Back in October, I received a contract offer from an independent publisher for my book, news I didn’t share publicly. I specifically remember corresponding during a World Series game, thinking just how amazing life was. After some back and forth, I signed the contract in November, with a tentative book release this fall.
Today I awoke to an email bearing some unfortunate news. For several reasons, the publishing company is closing shop in the next few months. I’m disappointed because I looked forward to working with them, and I also hurt for the publisher, knowing this wasn’t the desired outcome. But, as we know, sometimes life events push us in different directions.
That said, I’ll resume the publisher hunt again this week. I’ll also make another post that includes more details about how you, my supporters, can help.
Regardless, in this situation, too, I feel sure of one thing. I’ll be A-O, A-O-K.