Cat Power sings to Saturn 1 Oct 2012
In my rear-view mirror the sun was dipping fast. On the CD player, the sultry sounds of Cat Power's near-perfect 2003 album. 'You Are Free'.
The windows fully wound down, the summer evening air filled me with optimism. Everything would be fine. My mother would live. Cancer would not win this day.
Nonetheless, as soon as I pulled into the hospital car park I rushed to her side. My sister looked at me with a heavy heart.
We didn't need doctors or charts to tell us that things were bad. We knew this simply because of her silence.
You see, our mother could talk herself through the 25-inch vault casing at Fort Knox. She could talk through full anaesthetic and a long surgeon's knife. She could talk through her favourite movie; through April, May and June; through the Gobi Desert and back.
Lying in her hospital bed, she was awake yet totally quiet. Panicking, we decided to call the doctors. Something's wrong, we said, she’s not talking!
And all through those moments pf panic, those beautiful Cat Power songs drifted through my mind. With guitar in hand, Chan Marshall was by my side in those dark days.
As my mother slowly recovered, I I kept that CD on high rotation. It quickly became the theme tune of her illness.
Two weeks after she was admitted, I heard a great surprise. As I walked down the hospital corridor, I could hear her talking the head off a nurse. I cried with joy. My mother, my nutty mother, the great survivor.
But, as much as she could gossip, lecture, advise, ask, pontificate, naval-gaze, chat, yack, spat and converse, she couldn't win a fight with Cat Power.
After my mother’s recovery, every time I played ‘You Are Free’, I was filled with my mother's silence. I was left with a now irrational feeling that my own mother might die.
Those 14 songs were fused together within neurons and synapses that could never be untangled.
The last word, however, was always to be my mother's.
Three years after that cancer scare, the next Cat Power album took me to the edge of the solar system. To a beautiful, deeply human science-fiction novel called Titan, about a man and women on a one-way trip to Saturn's largest moon in search of extra-terrestrial life.
And there, on that Earth-like rock of purple skies and rivers of methane, Chan Marshall sits and plays her sweet guitar. Whilst my mother, standing atop a low dune of loose regolith, chatters away to Saturn's beautiful rings of dust.
There is life on other planets. My mother, she told me so.
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