2021 will be remembered, by me, as the year I put down the guitar. Possibly for good. My hands, racked with old injuries and arthritis, make playing my guitar a study in pain.
Understand, the banjo was just something that happened. My dream was to play the guitar. The shiny honking huge Dobro 33H has been a part of my identity for most of my adult life. People talk about paying their dues, but I suffered to work past my handicaps to make music. The case of my guitar wears a patchwork of scars from my adventures.
I will not lie. I mourned for a bit. It does seem unfair from a certain perspective. If I played classical music or something deemed serious by the arts world, there would be some kind of medical assistance available specific to my trade. Unfortunately, as with my learning disabilities, hearing loss, and epilepsy, I am on my own to sort this out.
As this was happening, the diabetic neuropathy in my feet started going out of control. The pain is around the clock and indescribable. A shifting swirl of every unpleasant sensation my nerve endings can conjure up. It can be difficult to maintain my composure, and it is almost impossible to sleep.
One of the worst things an epileptic can do is miss sleep. With the pain keeping me awake, I have a couple of seizures a week. The postictal stage afterwards can last from hours to days. I have had a couple of bad falls, so my aching joints are taking a beating.
As I was sorting all of this out, Meatball, the feral Main Coon we adopted last year, was always by my side calming me down. The big beast weighs over 17 lbs. He drapes himself across my chest at night and purrs like an outboard motor until I fall asleep. I love him more than chocolate.
With my parent’s support and two cats for company at night, I started rethinking everything we were doing. Social media is just too much for me, so I pulled out. I can’t stand the ‘please like and subscribe’ shameless commerce of YouTube, so we got out of there as well.
Building patrickcostello.org took months of work. It turns out, trying to put together a massive website while in screaming agony and your brain in a blender from seizures is not at all easy. While the site still has some flaws, I got it up. Now I need help getting things running smoothly.
While I was working on the new page, I started experimenting with a bottleneck and found it a good workaround for my hand issues. It is hard to say at the present moment, but it feels like I am on to something.
To take the slide banjo even further, I commissioned a solid-body electric banjo. This was my second attempt, with the first being a good design botched by not one, but three builders. Well, attempt #2 cost me an expensive deposit and yielded me nothing. A five hundred dollar deposit is a lot of money for me, and I was tempted to quit.
When the guy who learned guitar with his teeth and mastered slide to compensate for hand issues is ready to give up, you know things are bad.
Unfortunately, the sound in my head won’t let me quit. We took the neck from the first failed electric banjo and, as I write this, a gentleman in Delaware is Frankensteining it to a Strat body. I should have it soon.
Rocky showed up at the end of summer. Screaming up in a tree, right before a big storm. He is a ginger tom, and a wonderful pain in the ass. He is smart, sassy, and gentle. I did not want a third cat, nobody in the house did, but he has proved to be a joyful addition to the family.
We have several exciting projects that will begin being released soon. As hard as this time has been, I have to admit working side by side with my dad is a remarkable gift. Maybe I am being forced to slow down and strip away extraneous stuff so that I can focus on the blessings surrounding me every moment. Even nights when the neuropathy pain is unbearable, I am aware of how lucky I am.
I still have to get to Johns Hopkins to fix my bilateral BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid)—but I cannot make that trip until the seizures are under control, and that cannot happen until the pain is under control. So, I am stuck with limited hearing. That makes playing slide extremely challenging, but the added difficulty also makes it more fun.
My main goal for the upcoming year is to save up for a wheelchair. I can walk around the house, and I can get around short distances with my cane, but I have not been to the Bayside in so long. It wouldn’t be safe to put my epileptic self on an electric scooter, but I could push myself down to Jenkins Creek and Brick Kiln. I miss my seagulls.
So, bring on the new year. We have new books, videos, and a big surprise in the works for the coming months. Dear Old Dad will be offering lessons soon, and I will do the same as I am able. I can’t wait.