“Hold of Myself.” – Johnny Hickman.
Cue the music…
In the beginning, that’s all I was trying to do. Get hold of myself. Tough job, that.
Now, eight months later, I’m smiling each day.
We all have much to celebrate.
And so we will. With some very cool music and some very cool friends.
We hope you can join us tomorrow night at the Mercury Café in Denver to hear acoustic performances by Johnny Hickman, Jim Dalton and Olivia Rudeen. The tunes start around 8. Please check out our Benefit Concert page for tickets.
What now seems like many years ago (actually, just a few months ago), four of my best buds – Mark Stevens, Mark Eddy, Mike Booth and Alan Gottlieb – sat down to plan a benefit show for Andrea. The idea was to raise additional money to help pay for ongoing therapies not covered by insurance. Nearly 100 people (and climbing) have purchased tickets to the concert and those donations will indeed be funneled toward future sessions to help Andrea to rebuild her once-independent life. To return to college. To travel abroad again. To hang out with her friends wherever, whenever.
To inch back toward normal.
But since those early show-planning sessions among my friends, this event has slowly turned into something even more beautiful. Olivia – along with Johnny and his wife, Soraya – have become personally touched by Andrea’s rejuvenation. They’ve all pounded the social media drums to pull in the crowd. They became core members of Team Andrea. They are donating their supreme talents to help my kid get better. What better gift?
Some context … Many years ago, Olivia was part of the soccer team that I coached along with Mark Eddy. Andrea was on the squad as were at least two other girls – now young women – who will be in the room tomorrow night. The “T-Rex Girls” never won a single game. (It may have been the coaches…. Ok, it WAS the coaches). But some of the girls and their families have bonded for life. Now Olivia will play her music for her childhood friend.
Meanwhile, I’ve been a fan of Johnny Hickman’s vast guitar and vocal abilities since the early ‘90s. My friends and I have driven thousands of miles to see and hear Cracker – the band Johnny co-founded with David Lowery. Cracker music – a.k.a. “Cracker Soul” – became the soundtrack to my adult years in Denver. Anybody familiar with my friends and me is quite aware of our dogged devotion to this band. We’ve caught them in Aspen, Steamboat, Boulder and countless times in Denver. (I didn’t make it, but some of my buds even saw Cracker in Alaska). We’ve bounced to Cracker music in concert halls and tiny bars. During our many dads-and-daughters trips to the mountains when our girls were younger, we constantly cranked Cracker in the cabins or beneath the pine trees while flipping a Frisbee or tossing a football. During our many fishing trips to Lake Powell, we blasted Cracker tunes off the canyon walls deep into the night as our giant bonfires lit the sky. Some people might call us stalkers. We accept that term. Gladly.
A while back, Mark Stevens, another pal, Ralph Beall, and I drove from Denver to Chicago for two nights to see Cracker in a club in Wrigleyville. After the show, we joined the band for a beer in a little basement bar below. Later, Johnny and drummer Frank Funaro made the critical error of accepting a ride back to their hotel with Mark, Ralph and me. I was at the wheel. I am not known for my keen sense of navigation. We became hopelessly lost. I remember passing the Northwestern University campus and Johnny, sitting to my right, calmly suggesting that – “Hey, just maybe, we’re headed in the wrong direction.” We were gone so long, we actually had to stop for sandwiches before we finally managed to find Johnny and Frank’s hotel at about 4:30 a.m. The next time we saw Cracker, Frank mentioned that the band had given us a collective nickname: “Magellan.”
Ten years later, Johnny is helping Andrea find her way home.
As I said, the concert has evolved into something beyond beautiful. We also gather to raise a glass to Andrea’s rapid, sweat-drenched gains in the gym. Few people I know work harder. Few people I know are more motivated to live life.
If you have followed our blog, you know that Andrea has gained solid ground cognitively and in her memory. Her right arm is finally moving again. She now does two miles on the hand bike during her therapy days. And she has been taking steps – twice inside the handrails at Craig Hospital. Her physical therapist last week told me that Andrea is ready for a much more rigorous walking program: getting outside those handrails, pushing a shopping cart, walking on a treadmill while supported by a large sling. She’s now doing two-minute stands at home, bracing herself on the kitchen counter with just a tiny bit of support from me on her right hip and knee.
Andrea is zooming toward the day when she will be walking without help. Tomorrow night, she will be in her chair with – undoubtedly – a giant smile on her face, and with Nancy and me at her side. (Lorrie is away on business and is disappointed to miss the concert. Our friend, Kevin Olson, will video the event to ensure that Lorrie or any of our scattered friends and family can later see the party online). We hope that Andrea’s mental stamina will allow us to stay the entire evening. If she tires, Nancy, Andrea and I will quietly exit to let you enjoy the show.
Either way, we’ll all be grooving to the beat of Andrea’s astounding progress.