(“All At Once”) is just about the stages of life, and how you wake up one day and your whole life changes, and it tends to happen very, very quickly. You know, you sort of tend to live in these quiet moments in between these massive moments of change. The change happens all at once. That’s sort of what the song’s about, just being in that moment: the birth of a child, the death of a parent, maybe you get diagnosed with a disease or some terrible accident or something awful happens to you – or something wonderful, some great opportunity happens to you. And your life five minutes before that is one way, and five minutes after is another way. Mikel Jollett
I’ve experienced my share of All At Once moments; if I’m being honest/self-pitying, (which is how I’m feeling today, so please bear with the whimpering self-indulgence), I’d say I’ve had more than my fair share. But then, life doesn’t seem terribly concerned about what’s fair, or whether or not now is a convenient time, or how much you think you can handle. Tragedy is indiscriminate, and fate can be a cruel, cold-hearted bitch.
Another one of those moments struck this week, and this one was a real punch in the gut… in the back… in the face.
It came when I was in Calgary on a business trip, enjoying a long-awaited dinner out with my mom and grandma. I had barely savored the first taste of my appetizer when I received the call: a call I had once dreaded, but long since forgotten.
When my daughter Becca was born, she entered the world with transitory leukemia, a rare condition occurring only in newborns with Down syndrome, in which blast cells that are normally associated with leukemia are found in the blood. They are not cancerous and they clear up on their own within a week or so.
Having this condition meant Becca had an elevated risk of getting real leukemia for the first five years of her life, and had to get regular blood tests to confirm that it hadn’t developed. I tried to push the fears away, but they stubbornly lingered in the back of my mind, except when they rudely shoved their way to the front around check-up time.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the five-year window closed and her risk level dropped to the normal range for children with Down syndrome, which is higher than for typical kids, but still a long shot. It seemed we had dodged the bullet.
And yet, there I was five years later in a Calgary restaurant, processing the news I had convinced myself was never going to come. And now, here I sit three days later beside a bed at Children’s Hospital, my brave, beautiful girl hooked up to a machine, wondering why these strangers keep poking and prodding her, too wiped out to enjoy a Halloween she’d been talking about for weeks.
As leukemia goes, we’re told that we got lucky. She has the most treatable kind, and it was caught very early. While there are never any guarantees with cancer, her prognosis at the outset is good.
Somehow, it doesn’t feel lucky.
From the Department of Things That Don’t Matter At All, this brought an abrupt end to my 90 days of TATE, 48-hours earlier than expected. My scheduled detour to L.A. for The Airborne Toxic Event’s homecoming show at the Greek was abandoned as I hightailed it back to Vancouver on the first available flight out of Calgary. Not that I have much to complain about when it comes to TATE, having been spoiled rotten with six other exhilarating Airborne shows over the past three months. And clearly, missing this final gig was the least of my concerns, given the circumstances. Still, it sucks. Just the first of many things that cancer will rob our family of over the next two years.
But if you’re going to go through shit like this (and we all do), what better band to have in your ears for the journey than The Airborne Toxic Event? The group’s unvarnished, unsugarcoated perspective on the ugly, disappointing and downright terrifying side of life is just what the doctor ordered, at least for me. Many others have shared how the band has helped them through similar battles (see here and here and here and here); now I’ll have a story of my own to add to the mix.
Even more important than the music, though, are the people. First, the band members themselves, who are just wonderful human beings. What other band would take the time to send a message of support to a fan like the one seen above? It is so much appreciated, and just another reason why TATE is the best band, bar none.
And then there are the fans. I’m overwhelmed by the support and encouragement we’ve received from the TATE fan community. Thank you to each and every one of you for your kind words, positive thoughts and prayers. It is so much appreciated, and just another reason why TATE fans are the best fans, bar none.
Many have encouraged me to step back from This Is Nowhere for as long as I need to. And believe me, I will.
The next seven months are going to be a full-time juggling act as my wife and I attempt to balance our daughter’s treatment with the needs of our three other kids (one of whom may be facing major surgery of his own during that time), along with work, school and perhaps even occasionally seeing each other. It seems there will be little time and energy left for such frivolous pursuits as breathlessly reporting on every move a rock band makes.
On the other hand, these months will also include countless evenings spent in a dark, quiet hospital room next to a sleeping beauty, with little else to do but fiddle with a dope machine.
Besides which, I need something in my life besides leukemia and work. That slice of time that is set aside for me will get squeezed and bent out of shape to be sure, but it’s critical that we maintain something of ourselves in the midst of this storm, however small. And there’s nothing I love more than writing about this band that gives me so much to think about, especially at a time like this.
So yes, This Is Nowhere is still alive, if not well. I’m freeing myself of any expectations or sense of obligation to stick to a schedule or stay on top of every single piece of breaking TATE news, so it may be more sporadic than usual. But as time and motivation and inspiration allow, things will keep rolling around here.
“And I feel the water rising around us
Maybe that’s okay
Yeah, I feel the world changing all at once
I guess it’ll be okay”
Here’s the little girl who is already amazing me with her huge courage: TATE’s cutest fan.
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.