My song today is ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’. This was a 1959 album by Dinah Washington. It was arranged by Belford Hendrick, featuring her hit single of the same name. The title track won Washington the ‘Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording’ in 1960.
Having been an author for over thirty years of my life, the concept of ‘what a difference a day can make’ in any one of our lives has frequently fascinated me. A day is much more than 24 hours; it represents a time span that can moderate feelings, imprison or free a person, kill or keep alive an individual, marry or divorce a spouse, change lives dramatically for better or worse. One day is an eternity for a dying man who only has a few days left to live. One day, especially if it is one’s last day, can make up a lifetime of unforgettable moments.
One need only consider the consequences of the few illustrations below to see the difference one day can possibly make in a person’s life:
(A) The bride attending a different church of the booked wedding service by some awful mistake and leaving the groom stranded at the altar could lose him forever.
(B) Being filled with joy before one’s wife is due to give birth to a couple’s first child, only to sink into utter despair when the child later dies during a complicated delivery.
(C) Identifying six numbers to put on one’s weekly lottery ticket, only to mark down a different number by mistake, and then discover that your original numbers would have won you fifteen million pounds had you not made that single mistake.
The list of possibilities is endless, and the permutations of good and bad consequences go on and on. Chance and serendipity do not always turn out to be sweet in its reward.
I recall my days working as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire where one of my clients had exhibited feelings of depression for many years. His marriage had failed ten years before I knew him, and his mother had died the previous year to me meeting him for the first time.
After months of working on his poor self-image and his depressive condition, it became apparent to me that his prolonged depression had been initially triggered by the break-up of his marriage and the loss of subsequent contact with his two children to the marriage. Months after losing his wife and access to his children, he also lost his job. He became depressed, started drinking more, then got into arrears in his rented flat and was finally evicted. He then spent nearly four years sleeping rough and remaining in a state of desperation and destitution. His remaining years had witnessed hin sleeping in squats, in disused buildings, on park benches, under bridges and in hostels for the homeless.
The break-up of his marriage was stated to be due to his increasing alcoholism. He said that he only used to have a few pints on a Friday night when he first wed, but gradually when his marriage started to reveal growing relationship problems, his drinking rapidly worsened. Before long, it started to result in frequent marital arguments between himself and his wife; mostly about his increased level of drinking and his aggressive behaviour following frequent drinking sessions when he came back home at the end of the night, drunk. He then started stealing money from his wife’s purse to feed his alcoholic addiction. He even stooped to robbing his children’s bank accounts to get £30 or £40 for drinking. His wife then met another man and the married couple separated soon after. Between his divorce and the following ten years, his alcoholism worsened, and his lifestyle drastically altered.
Nine years after his divorce, the client’s mother died. By this time his depression had worsened to the point of him not caring any longer whether he lived or died. He cried as he told me “I was too f…ing drunk to attend my mother’s funeral!” He had learned of his mother’s death indirectly shortly before her funeral service was due to take place.
#He’d apparently became the proverbial ‘bad penny’, not only with his ex-wife and their children, but his own siblings and father also turned against him after the divorce and his adoption of a ‘sleeping rough’ lifestyle. All contact was eventually lost with everyone he ever loved, everyone that mattered to him; especially his mother whom he loved dearly.
He was heartbroken when he heard of his mother’s sudden death and despite his circumstances of looking like a tramp, he promised himself to attend her funeral. He said he didn’t want to attend the church service as he couldn’t face anyone, but he’d intended to see her buried in the cemetery ‘from a distance’(where presumably his presence wouldn’t be noticed and prove an embarrassment to himself and other family members).
Two days before his mother’s burial, my client was reportedly attacked on the streets. He then ‘went on a bender’ (36 hours of drinking copious amounts of a cheap alcohol substitute and remaining in a state of permanent drunkenness). By the time he awoke in some gutter, his mother had been buried 16 hours earlier.
Following his failure to attend his mother’s funeral, he sank into deeper and deeper depression during the ensuing months and became suicidal. He was eventually made the subject of a two-year Probation Order, subject to him receiving treatment for his alcohol abuse whilst he lived in a local Probation Hostel in Leeds.
It took me about six office meetings between us to discover that ‘guilt’ of a massive order was feeding the furnace of his depression which was now deeply embedded within him. He subsequently broke the terms of his Probation Order, reoffended under the influence of alcohol and was committed to imprisonment for six months. I never saw him after his release as he never returned to the Huddersfield area and his Probation Order supervision contact with me was no longer mandatory.
I have never heard the song ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’ without thinking about this Probation client with the alcoholic/depressive/guilt-laden problem.
Love and peace Bill xxx