Country newcomer Jay Allen has been struggling for the past few years watching his beloved mother face early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She just 53 years old, but the disease is advancing and taking his mother’s memory and personality with it.
Jay tells Rare Country, “As the oldest and as her only son, that was kind of a big pill to swallow. It took me a long time to figure out how to face it.”
In order to deal with the pain, Jay wrote a song about his mother, titled “Blank Stares.” The song begins with a voicemail his mother left for him, and you hear her lose her train of thought and just hang up a few moments into her message. He then goes on to sing about how he lives for those lucid moments where she remembers him and little bits of their life.
One of those moments happened last year when Jay’s dad brought his mom to Nashville. They went out to a local honky-tonk where singer-songwriter Eric Heatherly was playing a set.
Jay says, “Once he started playing, she started tapping her foot and smiling. I was like, ‘Mom, you want to go out and dance or something?’ She was like, ‘Yeah!’ I grabbed her hand and we started dancing … and she grabbed me in really close and she hugged me and she took a deep breath, and it’s like she came to for a second. She said, ‘Jay, I’ve missed you so much. I love you.’ I started tearing up. The next day, I just couldn’t get that out of my head. There’s a few other moments while they were here where she kind of had that ‘come to’ moment.”
The next day, Jay went to write some songs with his co-writers. He decided to open up about the situation with his mom, and that’s when they wrote “Blank Stares.” Jay sees it as a gift from God to help him connect with other people who are watching their loved ones struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I have a strong faith,” Jay says, “and I feel like that was a God moment where he’s like, ‘Man, here’s your purpose.’ I feel like ‘Blank Stares’ is my purpose just to fight against Alzheimer’s and hopefully help my mom.”
Since he released “Blank Stares,” Jay has heard from hundreds of people who identify with his story. Not long ago, Jay got the chance to perform “Blank Stares” live on Sirius XM The Highway just before going back home to Iowa for his sister’s wedding. As Jay and his girlfriend drove back to Nashville after the ceremony, she read him some of the Facebook messages he’d gotten about “Blank Stares.”
Jay explains, “We were just reading them and crying for, like, two hours driving back from Iowa. You realize you’re not the only one. You’re not alone. There are a lot of people out there dealing with it. It’s really cool just to feel like you’re a part of a community fighting against this thing.”
All proceeds from “Blank Stares” go to Abe’s Garden, a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients.