Five years ago this week, my father was released from the hospital with a new lung, and we drove home from Wisconsin to New Orleans. We aimed for the Mississippi River, speeding past the world’s largest truck stop on Interstate 80 and flashing billboards that advertised the best deals in the Quad Cities. My father told me that he laid sandbags in Dubuque when the Mississippi flooded back in ’65, which was something I never knew. I cannot picture my father in Iowa in the sixties.

I often return to that night in the car. Had I know it would be our last drive together, I would have asked him more questions. But I’m so grateful for one memory from that drive: my father quietly nodding his head to Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” while we rode down Highway 61 just before midnight.

They say George Clinton told guitarist Eddie Hazel to play the first half of the song as if he found out his mother had just died, then play the rest as if he discovered she was still alive. And I’m learning to carry my dead with me, to ask them questions while pacing the kitchen or driving to the supermarket as we wait out this season somewhere in the Midwest.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

Maggot Brain | Westbound, 1971 | More