I had a pretty good year up to a point, then it all went into a tailspin. I'd spent the early part of 2013 hustlin' gigs, teachin' lessons, workin' at Scott's Drum Center and gettin ' things together in my own shop. I'd taken some time to visit with my mom, and my 2nd mom Mary, on a regular daily basis. Mary was getting into her late 90's and beginning to show signs of OLD age. My mom, although still a young 75, was beginning to show signs of Alzheimer's. She'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2012 but began showing stronger signs of Alzheimer's late 2012. My brother and I had some instances of forgetfulness from her and we figured IT was coming. We didn't realize how fast It was coming.
Early in April, I talked to Brad at Scott's Drum Center and let him know I needed to step away to spend more time with my Mom. He understood. I'd been working there for 12 years and have been the go to guy for repairs, along with handling regular in's and outs of retail. I felt it was important to spend this time with my mom. Little did I know of the time I was getting ready to spend with her. I went to visit her after speaking to Brad and I spent the ENTIRE afternoon explaining to her who I was. This was the first time this had happened. My mom didn't know who I was. I was was very very concerned and sad. She bounced in and out of reality as we know it for a month or so, but this began the fulfillment of the promise that my brother and I made to her. The promise that we would take care of her no matter how long it would be. Everything I'd been doing in my shop got shelved, put on the back burner. My life was now with my Mom... Oh, and helping Deborah and her Mom Mary.
From April 'til August, I would spend twelve hours a day plus caring for my mom. Since my bro is a really good tech, his employer allowed him to be home a little early a couple of days so I could teach lessons. I would be there in the day so my bro could work and he would be there at night. Then I would go home to Deborah and help her with Mary. Some nights I didn't leave my mom due to my bro working late. She was very confused, especially in the afternoon/evening and some nights she didn't sleep AT ALL. The next several months were very trying. Taking care of your mom that doesn't remember you and hearing her talk about her baby, me, that soon did not exist as her mind went in retrograde. I was with my Mom daily and experienced this phenomenon until she could only speak a handful of words, then 2 words, then 1, then none at all. She passed in early August. She loved Xmas... we played lots of Xmas music while she was bed bound....She died to Silent Night. It was early August, but Xmas to her.
We took care of what needed to be done. It took a couple weeks to tend to. After that, I immersed myself in my work at my shop. My Mom would have wanted that. She was a strong life long supporter and believer in me. She wanted me to do what I desired to do....pursue a career in drumming. Her and my father gave me the start. I have and will continue to be a drummer AND a craftsman. My father was a craftsman... as was his father. It was passed along to me. It's taken me years to embrace it. For so long I pushed it away... I wanted to be a drummer, a musician and finally after years of fighting it, I'm learning how to combine those elements of my life. It has been an interesting journey with many twists and turns, uphills and downhills. It's been an interesting ride.
My new pursuit in the shop didn't go to long. Deb's Mom Mary began her downhill movement. She knew who I was up until the near end, and always wanted to know how my day was and what I'd done. I would explain to her what I'd done that day and she was always very excited and very supportive too. She passed in early October, One week shy of her 99th birthday. In my mind she was 99. Her gift to me was...Never to give up on your dreams and your passions. Her and her husband were living proof. They struggled through their early years and got to a point, in their late 50's, that their business was successful. They worked hard and lived modest and enjoyed the fruits of their labor into their older age... both of them into their 90's. I'm very glad to have met both of them.
Deborah and I continue to cope, as Mary would say, with our losses.
I had a slight upturn in progress with my endeavors starting my business last year. I'd made "friends" on FaceBook with a gentleman in Hew Hampshire that has made drumsticks for 30 years... Jeff Rich of Custom Drumsticks. This was early in 2013. He seemed very genuine, sharing information about sticks and processes, along with being interested in "partnering" in some fashion. We'd discussed possibly him doing all the custom stick work and me making all the "standard" sizes. It seemed like an interesting working relationship. He affirmed a lot of research I'd already done. He even shed some light on some things I'd not thought of. During the time for caring for my mom, he even wanted to sell me his business. I'd considered it heavily, but he decided to sell to another interested buyer closer to where he was. His new partnership went sour and, from what I can tell, he walked away from the venture...bitter. We continued to talk over the internet and were getting ideas together to get LA BackBeat drumsticks into the marketplace. We were forging ahead, so I decided to take a trip to New Hampshire and Massachusetts to meet with him in person, go to Maynard Machine and Tool (the makers of knives for the FH30) and meet with John Witt the owner of Goodspeed. It took a lot to make that meeting happen. Overall, it took a lot for me to make the trip happen. It was a week after Deborah's Mom died. I'm glad I went and Deborah is too. Jeff and I had a wonderful meeting. He showed me around New England telling me history of this place and that. We went to the coast. We looked at hickory. We went to Maynard Machine. We went to the building where the FH30 had lived for a brief period. I enjoyed his company and conversation. I felt closer to him. I didn't get to see him the last day I was there. He had to work that day and was tired and needed to sleep to be rested for his early next day. I dropped off a few leftover groceries at his house the night before Halloween. He sent a nice short email saying how he was happy to have met me. That was essentially the last time I conversed with him.
I am grateful to have gone to Maynard Machine. Jeff made the arrangements to meet with Ray and Ernie. This machine shop has been making tooling and parts for Goodspeed for a long time...especially knives. I was ecstatic to have met these two men. Ernie was especially helpful sharing info I would have never known. This began the dialog for creating the back knives for the lathe. Ray and I started the process and then Ernie and I began going through different revisions of what I wanted to achieve. After several revisions, I was finally satisfied and they started the manufacturing of the knives. I forgot to mention, Maynard had been sold to a larger company and they were going to take acquisition in early January 2014. I got my order placed in the nick of time. I can honestly say that I have some of the last knives that Maynard made. I very happy that Ernie was involved too. He is a true master at his craft. I'm honored to have met both Ray and Ernie.
I am also honored to have met John Witt with Goodspeed Machine. He has been extremely helpful with helping me understand some of the processes of the FH30. He has helped me with parts and also information regarding setup that there is no manual for. This particular machine has certain options that were special for long slender turnings...like drumsticks. Thanks for all the help John.
The holidays came and the blues set in. I missed my mom and Deborah missed hers. I miss her mom too. Work at the shop slowed to a minimum and we spent time with one another and had family and friends to visit. It was good to be around people. I spent the first several days of the new year reflecting on the year that past and the year that is ahead. With all the death and loss experienced this year, I can honestly say that something new is being born. Like a phoenix rising. There is a lot going on... lots of new opportunities being presented and lots of GROWTH for myself and my partner.
I know there are experiences I've left out. I must say that I am grateful and thankful to all those that are in my life. Anyone that knows me, knows that I genuinely care for everyone I know. It's in my nature... nearly to a fault. Thanks everyone for all your support and interest.
Best wishes to everyone in 2014 and beyond!!