Friday, July 3, 2015

My madeleine: Donald "Boone" Gould the piano man

Full disclosure: I'm a total music snob. I tend to not like popular music much. Especially popular music that came out during my tumultuous childhood. Late-Seventies/Early-Eighties pop songs are my madeleines. I experience involuntary memories of traumatic childhood experiences every time I hear a goddamn Styx song. That's what I get for growing up in a dysfunctional family that constantly had Top-40 radio playing in the background.

So when I say this is the best version of "Come Sail Away" I've ever heard, I mean it. Nowadays, I generally switch stations whenever this song comes on the radio. Like Lebowski hates the fucking Eagles, man, I hate fucking Styx. But this man, his performance is admirable. This man's version makes me want to keep listening. I love this man's version of that fucking Styx song, man:



Maybe I can finally get over my aversion to Late-Seventies/Early-Eighties popular music by refocusing my thoughts associated with it to this amazing story. Donald "Boone" Gould is the pianist playing in the video above. Gould is a homeless vet who treats the community to a daily five-song set list on the sidewalk pianos provided by Sarasota Keys Piano Project on Main Street in Sarasota, Florida. Sly Dylan posted a video of Gould's performance on YouTube, and it instantly went viral. Here's the interview Dylan posted the morning after, when Gould was informed that a video of his performance had 100,000 hits in one day. Fans quickly set up a GoFundMe campaign for him.

Next came an interview with ABC7 in which the reporter states that a local piano bar, Surf Shack, has offered Gould "a tryout as a potential act".

Aww! Everybody loves a potential happy ending!

But Gould's story is not a completely happy one, as no good stories ever are. As the great Bob Ross said, "you need the dark in order to show the light."

After his discharge from the marines, Gould married and had a son. But when his wife died in 1998, he "just lost it man," and he "began to follow a destructive path that included substance abuse, which in turn led to the loss of his then 3-year-old son to Social Services."

This is why I like this man's version of the fucking Styx song, man. I can relate to his story, and to his telling of it. 

Most artists I know practice their gifts of artistry for its profound psychological healing properties. I know I do. This blog is my therapy. My mom learned to make potholders when she was in the psych ward. My brother, Pat, taught himself the guitar and played songs with a fervor only passionately damaged individuals understand.

Will and I are getting ready to adopt a child through the state's foster care system. We're preparing for the incredible emotional roller coaster we are about to embark on. We understand that children who have been through our broken foster care system have intense needs--emotional, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical--that many other children, like our Katie Bug, children who have not been through our broken foster care system simply don't have. We are psyching ourselves up for this tremendous parenting challenge.

In the courses we are taking as part of the adoption process, we have been discussing how difficult--and important--it is to have empathy for the biological parents. Parents whose custody rights of their own children have been severed. Parents who are expected to hand their own children over to other parents. Can you imagine how difficult that would be? Can you imagine how hurt you must be to lose your own child to The System? Holy shit.

And yet, you hear these stories--real life stories, actual cases from the foster care system. Stories of abuse and abandonment, neglect and illness. Emotional, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical abuse done to innocent children. Holy shit.

As an adoptive parent of a ward of the state, you must learn how to have empathy not just for the abused child, but for the abuser, too. It's hard. But it can be done. It helps to remember that most abusers were once abused themselves. How can you parent well when you are suffering?

For example, my brother, Pat. He was abused by our grandmother, and he turned around and abused me when I was very young. Who knows who abused my grandmother? Child abuse runs in families. I spent a lot of time in therapy, reading self-help books, and journaling about my experiences growing up in a dysfunctional family. It helped me to figure out a way to stop the cycle of abuse after I had my own child. I have this constant voice in the back of my head, reminding me to try something different. Do not do to her what was done to you. I have been successful at overcoming early childhood trauma by acknowledging it and wanting something better for my own child.

But what if I hadn't spent all that time in therapy and reading books and pouring my inky heart out onto paper? What if after my tumultuous childhood I jumped into a career in the marines, and when that was over, I jumped into marriage and parenthood? And then something tragic happens. My spouse dies. I'm suddenly without the love of my life. I'm a single parent of an exhausting three year old. How would I cope, stuck in life's murky mess?

I can see how people "lose it". My mom had a nervous breakdown not once, but twice. In the Late Sixties, back when housewives got shock treatments if they disobeyed their husbands. In my early twenties, I swallowed a bottle of Paxil and ended up in the ER, being force-fed some black stuff that summoned the blackness from within me with a vomitous force. Pat's told me stories of times he's struggled with wanting to take his own life.

Mom was lucky. She didn't lose her kids when she lost it. Her mother took them in during both of Mom's hospital stays. And I'm sure the stress of having your daughter in the hospital and taking care of her four young children might make someone "lose it," too.

Pat didn't have kids. By the time he found the love of his life she was past her baby-making days. They both died of alcoholic liver failure within four months of each other.

I didn't have children when I downed that bottle of anti-depressants. What would have happened if I did? Instead, I got my shit together. Oh, don't let me fool you. I have bad days. Lots of bad days. But I also have many good moments within those bad days, and I try to focus on them, which turns them into good days. I also have tremendous social support. I met my amazing husband, Will, who is the more psychologically-balanced yang to my psychologically-scarred yin. Together we've raised our eight-year-old daughter. Together I honestly think we can provide a good home for another child who needs a family.

When the day comes and we finally add a child to our family, I'm going to tell him or her this as often as they want to hear it: Your parents love you. Your parents need help learning how to take care of themselves. It's not your fault that they couldn't take care of you. Now we can take care of you. And we can love you. Your parents can't take care of you, but they love you, too.

His GoFundMe campaign page states that Gould is now searching for his 18-year-old son. I hope his adoptive parents have told him his parents love him.