I Am Yours by “Derek and the Dominos” from the album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.”
The days after Andrea passed away we had to go through everything. I have been accused in the past of trying to just erase the problem, not deal with it, and erase all indications that there were problems that we were dealing with. I didn’t respond to those claims because it was just so ridiculous that I couldn’t see responding without losing my temper and just cold-cocking the critics. What they did NOT take into account was the fact that we had to move. We could neither afford the house we were in nor would the bank allow us to stay. We had to get rid of the house and move somewhere we could afford. So whether I wanted to deal with getting rid of Andrea’s old clothes or empty out the closet in a slow, emotionally delicate way, it wasn’t possible. Realistically it was stupid to move a bunch of clothes and other items when I wasn’t going to keep all of it.
So within just a week or two of the funeral, with my Mom and Dad’s help, I went through everything. We didn’t keep old, tattered clothes. I did keep fancy stuff, things that might someday fit Hannah, but we got rid of all the stuff that was far too bug and far too depressing to have around. There were a number of things we did keep: the jewelry.
Around my neck I wear one such piece. You might think it’s an expensive piece of silver or a diamond, maybe her wedding ring or the myriad of Tiffany pieces I gave her over the years, but you’d be wrong. It’s actually a medallion I never knew she owned. Apparently she’d been given a St. Anthony medal as a kid and either never wore it or put it away somewhere after she got older. The thing is, she never seemed to lose her connection to that particular saint. Around the edges of the medal are the words “St. Anthony, send me help and guidance.” When she needed it, she prayed to Anthony. He never seemed to leave her hanging, either. Now, I’m not preaching religion or trying to convert anyone. But when we had something missing, something critical, she always seemed to find it after saying a silent prayer to him. Now, bear in mind, Andrea found solace and help from Anthony. I, however, never got help from the saint.
So why do I wear the medal? If I never got any help or signal, sign from the man why would I wear it? I should think it’s pretty obvious. I need some peace. It gives me some calm to know that she’s no longer fighting her own demons. She’s not trying so hard to prove herself to anyone. She very well might be being guided between whatever planes of existence by the man who seemed to speak with her when she needed peace.
I have said before that I don’t seem to get signs, signals or hints of Andrea’s presence. That both makes me happy and maddens me. It tears me in two to think about the fact that she’s happy but that she’s happy out there somewhere without me. When you get married you never think much about the line “’til death do us part.” In today’s society we think of marriage as such a temporary or throwaway institution. I see marriages that last nearly no time, or people who think of this as just some sort of little thing, never realizing that someone like Andrea will take it so seriously.
I wear this medal because I am proud of the fact that I was married to Andrea. I am even more proud because of the fact that so many people thought we didn’t stand a chance. Andrea and I, you see, were only dating, officially, for a few months before we were engaged. I had had enough experiences, enough intense, amazing time with her, to know that going back to being alone without her was something that I was unwilling to risk. We went on that first date, that first concert, and spent nearly every waking hour together. We worked together. We were an amazing pair. We went out, ate dinner, stayed in, enjoying every waking moment with each other. We didn’t want anyone at work to realize we were together because there were so many examples of people who had done it wrong – gone out at lunch and come back flushed with their hair all messed up, or disappear in the middle of the day, get angry with each other and break up making working together impossible.
I remember the day everyone figured it out. Every year at the station where we worked the staff had a Christmas party. Nothing fancy, no massive dinner or anything, just an opportunity to get together and say Merry Christmas. A few friends knew we were together, but not everyone. We walked into the bar where we were all to meet, the “Elbow Room”, hand-in-hand. We walked into the place, sat at a table together, and you could have seen everyone’s tonsils. Particularly given the proclivity I had as a director to lose my temper and yell and criticize. But Andrea wouldn’t put up with it. She stood up to me, even if she was wrong, with that big shine in her eyes that made me melt. I could see it in her face and hear it in her voice. She was amazing.
By this point, we’d already talked marriage. We loved each other, we truly did, and being together was the joy of my life, even then . . . even now. So when Andrea was heading off for Spring Break, now engaged to me, I told my friends that we were getting married, before she came back, partly because I didn’t want people freaking out, and partly because there was a piece of me that thought they’d believe she’d found someone else and decided to marry them while home in California. This surprised everyone and started the tongues wagging, telling each other we wouldn’t make it.
Here I am, eighteen years later, wondering that same thing. Technically, I suppose we did. But I didn’t want out of that contract. I didn’t want “’till death do us part,” I wanted to full ride. I didn’t want an escape clause.
Why? I’ve said before, she made me better. She even did it when she hated the thing she was helping me with. When Andrea and I were first married, she had to come to terms with living with a musician, even a part-time one like me. I was in a cover band that played music I didn’t love, performing in bars I disliked getting paid less than we deserved. One night, like a scene in a movie, we played a crappy old bar in Bellevue, Nebraska. It was a little old dive place, paying crap, our gig four hours long. Andrea was with a friend, sitting at a table drinking too much, getting buzzed to the point she thought it was fun to smoke and look “sexy” with a cigarette hanging off her fingertips.
A lightning storm had hit, hitting some part of the building. We were in the middle of a song and half the stage lost power. Only my amplifier had power. I looked out in the audience and our crowd was getting restless, moving for the door. Andrea gave me a look like “do something!” and I kicked into an instrumental section from an old Allman Brothers song, one that had drums and guitar only, and the drummer picked up on it. The crowd, turning around, seemed to take to it. My friend, smoking and drinking with Andrea, was a drummer and he loved it, having similar musical tastes. He was getting into it, as was the crowd, until power was restored. The bandleader shouted “Born to be Wild!” and counted off the song we’d played a million times and the crowd seemed to dissipate a little.
At the end of the night, we’d had to load all the gear back into the band leader’s van. I was going to meet the guys for breakfast, as it was 3am already, and Andrea grabbed my arm and told me to wait. It started to rain, the thunder and lightning crashing around us. My friend got into the car, Andrea in the back seat.
“Your wife is amazing,” he said. “She confirmed what I thought – that you didn’t think I wanted to play drums. But she told me something we both already know. She saw me drumming on my legs in the bar when you hit ‘You Don’t Love Me’ and we both realized something: that song, that music, is something I want to play. But more than that, Andrea realized you need to play it!”
They were right. There, in the dark, rain pouring, the lightning flashing, thunder crashing, we made a deal, while having had too much to drink, that we wanted to start our own band. In that car, until 4am almost, we made up our own first set list, thought about our own gigs, where we wanted to play. It wasn’t here, it was in nicer places, it was with crowds who appreciated our kind of music. Half of the setlist was from the album Layla. The rest were from blues and rock albums we both had in our collections. Andrea had shown us both that our talents lie in our ability to just play whatever we wanted. We could do this, it was simple, we just needed to start rehearsals.
The drummer headed home. So did we, but we didn’t sleep. She looked me in the eye, that mischievous twinkle there, smiling. Driving home she moved to the center seat, kissing me on the way home, telling me how amazed she was by the night. Without her, I would not have started on my own. I wouldn’t have moved on in my career. I wouldn’t have written and recorded my own material – material that the first band wasn’t interested in.
Now I make decisions that we would have made together. She would help me to see what direction we were to take, the words I needed for the page. In the last few months, I have had to find a new home to lease, get a new job, even look at our finances, all without her there to help guide me.
But she’s there. I wear this medal, the silver plate wearing off to reveal the brass beneath, the words fading with each month, but it won’t come off my neck. They can wand me at the airport or courthouse. There’s an ancient Persian poem, from the tale of “Layla and Majnun” that is simple, but brilliant:
I am Yours
However distant you may be
There blows no wind but wafts your scent to me
There sings no bird but calls your name to me
Each memory that has left its trace with me
Lingers forever as a part of me
I felt that way when we were together, in love. But I only now understand the significance, the horribly tortuous feeling whenever the wind blows a scent similar to hers. When a woman walks near and without thinking I sense a similar feel or scent and have to resist the pull of my hands to reach out and put my arms around her.
The medal isn’t religious, though that is the connotation, not to me. It hangs there, pressed against me, reminding me. Pulling that memory forth. Send me help, St. Anthony. I don’t need to find a lost article, no car keys, no phone. Find the memories, bring the wind and waft the scent.
The medal helps her to linger forever as a part of me. It hurts, it’s hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.