Message from Coyote

I have a message. Not from my Mom but from a man who calls himself her “kinda” son-in-law, since he was my husband for 15 years before our marriage turned into a forever friendship a little while back – but he is no ordinary family member by any description.

Coyote McCloud is a disc jockey legend in the world of Rock-n-Roll radio. For 40 years, he has charmed hundreds of thousands of listeners from New York to Nashville, spinning songs and interviewing superstars from John Lennon to Steven Tyler and most everyone else who had a top rock record from 1960 to 2000.

But his message isn’t from behind a microphone. It’s from his black leather couch on his “redneck yacht” on a lake near Nashville.

“Tell everybody I’m hoping the Righteous Brothers were right, that Rock-And-Roll Heaven has a helleva band.”

Unlike his humor, Coyote is not well.

“Wouldn’t you know it,” he says. “After drinking the hard stuff since I was 10 years old, I finally quit last Fourth of July and my liver got mad at me and decided to quit working.”

In truth, cirrhosis and its many side effects are hitting Coyote full-throttle, so much so that I have family members caring for Mom for a few days so I can help tend to him. And here on his boat, sitting in a recliner next to him bunched up in a comforter asleep on his couch, I am shaken by the vast difference between caretaking for the elderly and taking care of others with acute illnesses.

Mom’s well-advanced age offers some solace of inevitability. Coyote’s illness does not. Instead, it claws relentless raw wishes for an elusive miracle.

“What time is it?” he asks, rousing from a nap.

“Five o’clock,” I answer. “Time to take the afternoon round of pills if you’re feeling up to it.”

As he slowly swings his thin legs to sit up, Sawyer Black, the little mixed-breed dog Coyote adopted from a shelter several years ago, stirs at his feet. The two of them used to walk up and down the boat dock at least three or four times a day, with Sawyer running circles around Coyote’s footsteps, playing. But these days they spend most all their time on the boat watching the sun rise and set, tossing old bread chunks at the ducks paddling by.

It is a good life, lived day to day, far away from the fast world of radio, with visitors limited to a few close friends and his buddies at the marina who peek in to check on Coyote, often bringing heaping plates of southern cooking that he tastes and Sawyer adores.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Coyote says, “Just tell everybody I’m hanging in there for now and that I’m cool with whatever way the wind blows. Oh, and don’t forget to say thanks for everything and that I love them all.”

Message delivered.