A couple weeks into our new life I was still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that everything was upside down. It’s not a surprise to any of you, I’m sure, since everything was so sudden and crazy. I don’t think I need to go into the tragic details all over again. Still, there was a small (well, huge, actually) kindness that I had never expected in the weeks after the funeral.
But let’s start with yesterday. Sam, one of my twin sons, was sick at school on Monday. I got the call from the school, again, saying he was in the office, even joking a little about how much I’ve been talking with them lately. They also seemed to think Sam was hamming it up just a little in order to go home. I couldn’t really deny him the trip home, of all the kids he’s the one who complains the least and endures the most. Fortunately, one of our friends was heading up to the school already and she picked up Sam. My oldest daughter was only an hour from getting out of school so she picked him up.
So today I had Sam at my sister-in-law’s house. He may not have been sick but I just couldn’t take the risk. I cannot take the time off right now, there’s a lot of work to be done, and I have to be able to concentrate on my job. So I drove from my house to the far side of suburbia where his Aunt lives and then back into downtown. It’s a long trip, probably 1 1/2 hours of driving in the morning. All the podcasts and stuff I’d normally listen to for the week . . . burned through those on the radio in the drive to drop Sam at the house.
Knowing this, I looked for other material on the radio. Standing out in the middle of the stack was a bright yellow box.
It’s no secret, I know, that the one album I’d take on a desert island with me would be “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek and the Dominos. But prior to my writing a blog or getting on Facebook or other media it was something reserved mainly for someone who knew me intimately, not random people on the street or mere acquaintences.
Yet a couple weeks after the funeral, I got two random packages. The first was a remastered edition of the Traffic Album “John Barleycorn Must Die”, the second, a $100 box set of the 40th anniversary edition of Layla. I had seen them, I had drooled over them, I had thought about them, but never in a million years had I thought about buying them. I asked my brothers, neither bought them. My Dad and Mom hadn’t. Nobody I knew fessed up to sending this amazing gift.
In case you don’t know the story, Eric Clapton, falling madly in love with George Harrison’s wife, starts reading a Persian poem called “The Tale of Layla and Majnun”. It inspires him and he writes one of the most amazing double-LP’s in existence. Duane Allman’s on it. The rhythm section is amazing, and for a kid growing up with unrequited love it’s an anthem of an album.
I listened to it that first day, but hadn’t really listened much since. The reason? Where the album speaks of unrequited love, it applies very well to losing it as well. I listened in misery all those months ago, both marveling at the remix and the clarity and crying at the message because it applied so well to my situation. It was almost a pleasure to wallow in misery. But I had to stop. It’s my favorite album of all time. If I continued beyond that day it would forever be tied to this event, my loss, and I’m stuck with never being able to listen to it again without thinking about Andrea.
But today I took the CD with me in the car. I listened on the way to meet my sister-in-law and get Sam. I hadn’t really listened to the record much before today. It made me think of Andrea, how could it not? But it didn’t make me think about her death or my horrific loss. It made me think about how much I loved her, chasing after her, and the fact that she’s out of reach. It’s much like the Persian poem itself. If you haven’t read it, it certainly isn’t a happy ending, it’s Romeo and Juliet years before Shakespeare, but an amazing poem.
I listened the whole drive, sang along, felt the guitar solos, it was like listening to it all over again.
I also thought back to the person or persons who might have sent me these to me. Someone knew me well enough that they sent not just the LP they knew I would like, but from another band that they had to know me to know I’d like it. Yet they sent them anonymously, not looking for credit, not looking for thanks. Maybe they knew eventually I would get here, able to listen to them again. Maybe they just wanted to give me something for me, that I would want to listen to and be able to enjoy. A ray of sunlight in the darkness that surrounded us at the moment.
Regardless, I arrived with the last harmonics of the guitar on “Thorn Tree in the Garden” and I picked up my son, smiling, thanking his Aunt. I thanked her for the help and she brushed off the thanks like it was nothing. To her it may have been nothing, but to me, it was peace of mind that I could get through my day.
I drove home with my son, another hour drive home, the radio on this time, and realized that I’d gone through my day and managed to get through things without too much stress. We’ve had a hard time up to this point, sure. But we’ve gotten this far . . . father than I thought we would by this point. Like the LP, I’ve learned to listen without pulling me into one day ten months ago. Now, it seems, I can get through difficulties without wondering why I have to do this without her.