“MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
I could throttle that guy—Jimmy Webb—-who wrote those lyrics. I’ve spent so much time in my life trying to solve the mystery of ‘who left the cake out in the rain’ that I’ve about worn out my Dick Tracy badge and Nancy Drew books looking for clues. Why did they take a cake to the park in the first place? Was it an innocent sweetness for a picnic or a hippie generation, drug-laced concoction? Was the cake a metaphor for crushed love? Did the song writer make a bet with a friend; a hit song about a cake, no problem! Was the song about the Vietnam War and the green frosting meant to be the causalities suffered by our soldiers? Did Jimmy compose that song in a music composition class, like the rumors say, or were the lyrics written in a blur of drugs and alcohol with no meaning what so ever? I want that song dumbed down for me, so I can quit worrying about the damned cake in the park!
Puzzling out the mysteries of MacArthur Park was actually good training for living with my husband’s language disorders, aphasia and apraxia. If I hadn’t pondered the cake in the rain every time I’ve heard that song played, would my brain be able to get around something like understanding that “butt fold” translates to “button my shirt?” Would I comprehend that “want piece” is not a request for sex but a man seeking help putting on his shoe? Without MacArthur Park would I know that “Sha-ming!” means Don is doing his happy dance? My hippie era—my search for truth in language—everything in life comes back around again like horses on a carousel. Being a speech affect stroke survivor is like starring in a silent movie and I, the spouse of one, am the organ player sitting in the darkened theater struggling to keep up with the action on the screen.
A synonym, a single word standing in the darkness of a cave with not one candle to aid as it searches for a way outside and onto my husband’s lips. A metaphor, a monster in a cage grabbing for the cake just outside its reach. We search for clues in our pasts—like that cake left out in the rain. Nothing makes sense. Nothing seems fair. And Don is desperately trying to hold on to something that is flowing down like green frosting in the rain. “I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it”—a lifetime of building speech. But Don and I do still have the recipe. It’s in my Aphasia Decoder ring, our shared history. Our walks in the park that allows me to translate many of the thoughts stuck inside his aphasic brain.
My heart mourns for the stroke survivors who are too afraid to wade into Frustration Lake and find their own lost decoder rings sitting at the bottom, in the murky water. My heart mourns for the loss of easy communication. A million people! A million people walking around with their words stuck in the Cave of Aphasia, their ears pressed up against the wall listening for their rescuers to break through the dark before their breath is gone.
I may never learn the true meaning of MacArthur Park. The myths about the song are so old and plentiful that they have become ‘the truths’ from having been repeated so many times. But if I do puzzle it out, I’ll turn to solving another mystery that haunts me on those rare occasions when I’m in the car on the way to having fun: ‘who let the dogs out?’ ©