Mouth of the Architect Get Inuitian on “Drown the Old”

  • Axl Rosenberg

Once upon a time in Brooklyn, my Uncle Joe’s daughter and grandkids would throw him a birthday party every year. Now, when I say “Uncle Joe,” I really mean “Great Uncle Joe” — he was my grandmother’s brother. He fought in WWII. A spring chicken, he was not. These annual parties started sometime when he was already in his 80s — I guess someone figured we’d better celebrate while we still could.

So year after year, we’d all gather at this restaurant, and they wheel in old Uncle Joe, and we’d sing “Happy Birthday,” and Uncle Joe would get this look on his face that basically said, “Who are all these people, and how did they get in my room?” I swear to Christ, by the time we got to the guy’s 92nd birthday, he not only had no idea who we were or why we were singing, but I don’t think he knew who he was or where he was.

When Uncle Joe was 95, we got a call that he was in the hospital and probably wasn’t going to make it. We dutifully went to say our farewells. Uncle Joe was asleep when we arrived, and every breath he took brought with it a rattle entwined in phlegm. This, I thought, is the sound of a body slowly shutting down. I could not for the life of me figure out why no one had called palliative care.

“Gee, he doesn’t look good,” one of my aunts whispered to my mother.

I saw my mother’s eyes go wide with enraged befuddlement: “He’s dying.” She might as well have added in a “DUH!” at the end.

Uncle Joe’s daughter shook him awake and announced our arrival.

Uncle Joe managed to keep his eyes open just long enough to say “Thank you for coming” before falling back asleep and resuming his labored, sickly breaths.

We stayed for awhile, and whenever someone new arrived, the process repeated: Uncle Joe’s daughter woke him up, he said “Thank you for coming,” and promptly slipped back into unconsciousness.

After about an hour of this, we decided we’d had enough and were going to leave. Uncle Joe, needless to say, was not awake, and would probably not mind our absence.

My mother gave Uncle Joe a kiss on his forehead and said, “Goodbye, Uncle Joe.”

Uncle Joe flatlined immediately. (My father was in the hospital a year later. He instructed my mother not to kiss him.)

To my amazement, a team of medical staff rushed into the room with a crash cart and commanded us to wait outside. They zapped him and performed CPR for a good fifteen minutes. It turned out that his daughter and grandkids had declined to sign a DNR.

Uncle Joe died anyway.

I’m not sure what made me think of this story just now.


ANYWAY, here’s a new song from Mouth of the Architect, “Drown the Old” (courtesy of Lambgoat). The song will appear on the band’s new album, Path of Eight, which comes out October 7 on Translation Loss. Pre-order it here. Thank you for coming.

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