Last week was a major challenge on all fronts, stress-filled and terrifying. But I’m thrilled to report that Charlie is doing much better this week. Maybe he’s just a big Wilco fan. His improvements coincided with a very fun visit from my family in Chicago. My sister and her kids are traveling with Jeff on the current Wilco tour. I went to three amazing shows at the beautiful Wiltern Theatre. I also attended a “Tonight Show” taping featuring Wilco and a late-night recording session with a big rock star I’m not sure I’m supposed to mention (but look closely in the video) who invited Jeff and the rest of Wilco along with my nephew Spencer to play on his latest project. After eight weeks of basically going to and from Cedars-Sinai, it was a bit of a shock to be out with massive crowds four nights in a row. Every morning I’d tell Charlie all about the night and sing him my favorite new Wilco songs. He loved them. The new CD comes out next Tuesday and it’s fantastic, if I may say so.
As always, all three shows were completely different, but each one was so great that it brought tears to my eyes to see how much joy the band’s music brings to so many people. On Monday and Tuesday it took some adjusting to suddenly be out in the world after so long. During every word of every single song, I could only think of Charles and Oliver. Jeff’s lyrics took on new meaning for me as I listened with different ears. I had moments where it was almost too much, and I’d look around at the thousands of people and feel resentful that they were all leading such normal lives and probably had passels of perfectly healthy kids at home and not a care in the world. Then I came to my senses. There were probably as many tales of struggle and challenge as there were people in the cavernous Wiltern. Two couples that I know through blogging who well understand the pain of losing a child were there. I was so glad to finally meet Heather and Mike Spohr whose beautiful daughter Madeline is missed by countless people all over the world. Heather wrote a very poignant post about the show on her blog and I talked NICU talk with the couple before the music began. Vicki Forman was also there. I've known Vicki for years but only met her in the flesh when she came to visit Charlie in the NICU shortly after his birth and insisted on organizing a website to facilitate people sending us meals a few times a week during those tough early weeks. Vicki is a brilliant writer whose book “This Lovely Life” chronicles her own experience having micro-preemies. Her daughter Ellie died after four days in the NICU. Ellie’s twin, Evan, came home to Vicki and her husband but tragically and unexpectedly died last year at the age of seven. I’m in the process of reading Vicki’s exquisite and searingly honest book now.
It was so helpful having family around this week and I also felt the warmth and compassion of the rest of the band and all of the people associated with Wilco—some of the nicest people in the world (along with the band members’ wives). As I said in a post a long time ago after touring several California cities with them, how lucky that I happened to be related to my favorite band! They are clearly one of the best live acts in the country, I’m not surprised that so many of Wilco’s fans are so loyal and even fanatical about their music. But, as always, I will refrain from trying to analyze the music except to say that it is soul-stirring in every possible way.
On Wednesday we spent the day at “The Tonight Show” taping and had a blast. I admit I never watch late night shows these days except when Wilco is on but I do think Conan O’Brien is a thousand times better than Jay Leno. I may even start taping the show (I could never stay up that late during a normal week). Instead of the NBC lot in Burbank (yawn), Conan's new studio is located right in Universal Studios and we got to go there in between the sound check and the taping. The guys wore their super cool Nudie suits on the show and sang one of my favorite songs from the new CD, “You Never Know.”
Among Charlie’s big improvements this week was getting off the cumbersome CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine and on simple nasal cannulas. Woo-hoo! This, along with his better overall condition, facilitated the return of kangaroo care. Yesterday, before the last Wilco show, I was able to do two hours of skin-to-skin contact with Charlie which was heaven on earth. I felt like he was still with me when I went to the show. It was a great night. During one of the encores, Feist came out and sang “You and I” with Jeff, their duet that’s on the new CD. Loved it and she is a great performer. I was sorry to see the tour bus pull away at 2 am (oy, these rocker hours would have killed me if they lasted another day!). I hope my family members return very soon, I miss them so much already. I also look forward to Charlie attending his first Wilco show. Wilco loves you, baby!
And now, in my role as Charlie’s official videographer, here is a compilation of the week’s fun: