I believe that there is a soul in the moment of music. And sometimes, once the moment is over that music is really hard to grab again unless you took some really good notes (no pun intended).
Six Minute Century decided to do a version of one my older songs called “Needham Point” on the second SMC album. You would think that this would not be a problem, since I wrote the thing, but it was more problematic than you think. When I composed Needham Point, I never suspected that years later the song would be performed again. I just wrote it because I owned a studio and had some time to kill. This translates to “I don’t remember how to play that bitch.”
It was easy to figure out the main riffs and focal points of the song by ear, but other parts were more difficult. I never could remember exactly what the odd string part was in the beginning, so I had to rewrite a newer version of it. It was the same idea, but not the same part. The piano never made it into the SMC version of the song, despite The Frenchman’s request because I did not have a clue what the hell it was back in the day, let alone now. I just randomly drew some shit onto the digital musical staff and by sheer luck it happened to be cool. My repeated experiments with this method of composition have not yielded the same results.
Anyway, the point of all of this is that I recreated a new version of an old song. It is Needham Point, and has the spirit of the older version, but, nevertheless, it is a different creation than its predecessor.
This can happen to a person as well when a life is shattered. Tears and sheer will make a decent adhesive to attempt to repair yourself, but no matter what you do, the end result will never be what it was before.
My life was destroyed once.
Almost a decade ago.
Harmoney LeAnn Millsap (and you thought I put a typo in the title didn’t you) was born on December 5th in the year 2000. I had just opened the recording studio in Plainview, Tx less than two months before this event. In fact, that was where I was when I got the call that my ex-wife was to be induced due to some irregularities at her doctor’s appointment.
I locked up and headed over to the hospital.
By the time I got there, she was already in the room and being prepped for the drugs that would induce her labor. It was not long after that, however, that the machines that were monitoring the baby’s vitals took a nosedive and created quite a bit of commotion among the staff. It was decided that the baby must be taken out immediately.
This happened very fast. I was told to scrub up and by the time I did so, they were almost done. I got there in time to see them lift up my daughter, but I knew something was not right. Part of her chest looked as though it was caved in, as if her lungs were not fully inflated. She was immediately rushed off to ICU.
At some point during all of this madness, past the point of her birth but prior to us being transferred to Lubbock I was presented with her birth certificate to fill out. This is how her name came to be Harmoney with an “e” instead of Harmony.
Some people think that I did that to be clever, but really I did it because I am a grammar jack-ass who once tried to spell unconscious as “unconchess” and subsequently confused the spell check program so bad it gave up. The point is…yes… I misspelled my daughters name on her birth certificate because my wife at the time was unconscious and I was unsupervised. At least I did not bend to the temptation to re-name her something cool like “Fenali-x3.” I probably would have if things would not have been so fucked at the time.
We hauled ass in an ambulance from Plainview to Lubbock Methodist Hospital. The doctors here were doubtful about Harmoney’s chances at living the rest of the day and one of them decided to go ahead and tell me so. I’m glad that he was wrong.
I have been known by those that are close to me as someone with a rather steely resolve. It takes quite a bit to rattle me. This is not because I am tough, but instead it is probably because I am so busy trying to fix the problem that I have not taken the time to realize how fucked I currently am. Most people accept the fuckdness of the problem first and then attempt an unfucking maneuver. I just go straight anti-fuck, even prior to knowing what the fuck I am attempting to unfuck myself from. Sometimes this ends poorly. Sometimes I end up fucking myself. Sometimes it is all for nothing and things just stay fucked.
In Harmoney’s case, there was nothing I could do. She was fucked and Daddy could not help. It was the worst feeling in the world. I cried. I don’t do that very often. My good friend Thomas remarked later that, after seeing this, he thought to himself “Wow…he is human.” There was no fixing this. At least not something I could do.
The doctors decided to fly her to Medical City Hospital in Dallas, Tx. My wife and her cousin would join me a week later after she was released from the hospital.
The next three months would be rather intense. The two main doctors could not agree on Harmoney’s condition. One was sure it was Truncus IV and the other thought it was Tetralogy of Fallot. They never did agree.
In reality she was diagnosed with a rare condition called DiGeorge Syndrome (also known as 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome) which was a missing piece of chromosome 22. This creates several problems for people. In Harmoney’s case she had a severely fucked off cardiovascular system, a basically worthless immune system, and a digestive system that would result in her spending her life being fed continually directly into her intestines while her stomach was drained.
The heart was the scary one. She only had one artery growing off her heart (for all you non-cardiologists out there…you need two of those bastards). Strangely, the rest of her body was fed oxygen by three hundred or so blood vessels that had grown off the central artery. Nature finds a way I suppose. It was pretty wild.
We would go see Harmoney in the NICU several times a day, but no one is allowed to stay in there. That is the place for really, really sick little ones. I do remember the day she got off of the breathing machine and was able to breathe on her own. That was awesome. Later on we would be able to hold her a little bit each visit.
Despite the fears of that doctor from Lubbock, Harmoney lived. In fact, three months after her birth she got to come home. That was a huge victory for us.
The rest of her life was spent in the huge battle of keeping her alive. This was harder than you might think at first. We had to get rid of our dog and keep the house as germ free as possible. We had to limit or visitors to mostly none. She had a severely compromised immune system and a simple disease could take her out. We had to give her tons of medications several times a day. These would be laid out on a large labeled sheet and the doses injected into her feeding tube at the appropriate hour. She was on a heart monitor, but with some of the meds we would still use a stethoscope to ensure that her heart rate could take the hit the initial introduction of the drugs to her system would induce.
We set Harmoney up in the living room so I would sleep each night on the couch and get up every few hours to check on her and give her the medicine. I would work the studio and deliver pizzas by day while my wife took care of Harmoney and Kaydance, my other daughter who was not even two yet.
Some mornings I would wake up to find that Kaydance had climbed into the crib with her sister.
Harmoney had a better disposition than most people. Though she never did speak, she rarely cried. In fact, she seemed to be happy most of the time, despite being prodded, poked, invaded, and uncomfortable. She had every reason to be pissed, but never seemed to mind. I guess she was just making the best of it. There is a huge lesson there that all of us would benefit a bit by learning.
She liked to pull out her feeding tube which was a huge pain in the balls. When she did this we had to drive her to Lubbock (an hour in the car) to have it put back in. I think she did this on purpose to get out of the house for a spell. Can’t say I blame her.
We brought her down to Houston once to Texas Children’s Hospital. They were going to try a radical surgery on her. The plan was to gather up those three hundred blood vessels growing off the artery and make her another artery out of them. Hours before the procedure the surgeon backed out. I guess he was afraid that he was going to kill her if he tried.
I was pissed. I felt that they should have gone for it. My attitude caused a huge rift between me and my wife and her family. The way I looked at it though was like this. In her current state she had an almost 100% chance at not making it to grade school age. If they did a surgery that even had a 95% chance at failure but a 5% chance at success, this seemed like a good plan to me. I would have been happy to trade a 100% chance at my daughters death for a 5% chance for her to live. If it went south, I did not think that she would be much worse off than she currently was. It was going to go south eventually if we did nothing.
We came back from Houston empty handed.
Anytime we went to the hospital or doctor’s office we had a book on Harmoney’s condition that my wife had made. It was amazingly detailed account of her condition and procedures. It saved her life many times. Nurses, for some fucked up reason, would always want to give her immunizations while she was in the hospital. This became such a problem that we would never leave Harmoney alone in the room when she was in the hospital. One of us would always be there. This was mostly to keep her from being immunized, which to her body, would be no different than injecting cyanide. Most of the doctors, however, were very appreciative of the book and thanked us for keeping such good notes.
Harmoney was a fighter. She fought for months, which was so very amazing considering her life expectancy was only a few hours. The unfortunate thing about fighters though is that, eventually, they lose.
19 months after her birth my little fighter lost.
It is still the most vivid memory of my life.
We were young and had bought a single wide trailer to live in, and I was outside mowing the lawn. I remember coming inside and looking at Harmoney who was swinging in her swing, and having her smile at me. I turned around and within seconds my wife was screaming.
I turned back around and Harmoney was flopped backwards like a rag doll in the swing. My wife called 911 and I rushed over and yanked Harmoney out of the swing. She was not breathing.
I laid my daughter down on my living room rug and tried to remember all that we were taught at the special child CPR classes we had taken. Give her some air, chest compressions …count out loud. Sounds simple right. It might as well have been quantum physic word problems written in Arabic.
It was horrendous. My spouse was hysterical, my other daughter was screaming, I can’t even remember how to count to ten for these stupid chest compressions. In the distance I hear the sirens and I can only hope to whatever God there is or is not out there that they are coming for us. The entire time I’m doing this I’m trying to hold back a huge weight of despair and hopelessness. It had been hovering over us like a sinister dark cloud for the last 19 months and had just now decided to unleash the hurricane.
She made a sound during one of the chest compressions, and for a second I thought I might actually save her. Sadly, I would learn later that the sound was caused by me pushing the air out of her diaphragm. It was too late.
The paramedics got there and relieved me of my CPR failures, but they could not revive her either. The hospital was only a mile away so we were there in a flash.
I remember the sounds of them hitting her with the shock paddles in an attempt to jump start her heart. I remember her wonderful pediatriton, Dr. Soreno, coming out crying after they failed.
Remember those three hundred blood vessels I told you about earlier. Well, as Harmoney grew those things would break. On July 13, 2002…the last one keeping her alive broke and that was it.
I had Thomas and his family take Kaydance to McDonalds or someplace to get her out of there. A short time later the funeral home came to get the body.
I remember thinking that she looked odd to me in her little coffin because she no longer had her oxygen hose. I guess it is like someone that used to wear glasses for years and years suddenly getting contacts. They look different.
We buried my baby three days later on July 16. I would later realize that I buried quite a bit of myself along with her. The best parts anyway.
One day, while laying flowers on her grave, Kaydance asked me “Is that where Harmoney is?”
“Will you dig her up so we can play?”
That still, to this day, is the hardest question I have ever been asked.
Almost ten years later I sit back and reflect on everything Harmoney taught me. I was angry and bitter for many, many years but somehow that subsided. In fact, I consider myself to be a pretty happy, positive guy now.
But in truth, it is a lot like my song that Six Minute Century has done. I am a living cover version of my previous self. I can’t remember how I thought and lived pre-Harmoney. But I have come up with a faithful rendition of that. A newer version of an older idea.
Harmoney taught me that you can be happy no matter what. You choose your attitude. She was fucked, yet she did not give a fuck. I try to adopt that way of thinking for myself.
Harmoney taught me to be fearless. They say that losing a child is the worst thing that can ever happen to you. This is true. This also means that nothing in life that happens to me will ever be as bad as that was so it is all downhill from here. I faced that, so I can face anything.
Harmoney taught me that life is short. Do not wait till tomorrow to pursue your goals. My friend Dr. Jones asked me the other day when I played him a recording of a song I had composed “How do you find time to do all this stuff?” The answer that eluded him was simple. You do not have the time to NOT do this stuff. A slight change in the wording…a huge change to the lifestyle.
Harmoney’s life and death destroyed me. But then it rebuilt me. I have grown not only to accept my scars, but to be comfortable with them.
Gone, but never forgotten.