Inexplicably, I was asked to write a regular feature for this venture. The question is, “What do I write about?” Social services? Youth service? Comedy? Tobacco cessation? The Civil War? Being a parent? Just living in Bloomington?
I decided to do all of the above and more.
The conceit is thus: I’ll just put my iTunes on Shuffle and use whatever song comes up as a springboard for whatever the song evokes in me.
Today’s song was “A Well Respected Man” by The Kinks, and this piece is less about the song than when it popped up on my car speakers.
My wife and partner of nearly 25 years passed away last year — June 1, 2014, to be exact. She left me with a 15-year-old daughter, a legal mess I never imagined, and a huge, ugly, black shroud of guilt that ate at me like I ate the casseroles that seemed to arrive at the door almost on the hour for months after she died.
I gained weight.
I drank too much.
I also discovered, much to my surprise, that there was as an entire community here in Bloomington that cared for me. They watched out for me. Helped with my daughter. Helped with all the legal issues. Drove me home when I needed it, and kept me afloat until I could put my feet on the bottom to stand on my own. No one judged me, and I felt, dare I say it, I felt loved.
So I looked in the mirror both figuratively and literally and decided to change. I began to get my life back together, I lost weight, and I found a great woman who is now my loving partner. All the while, I visited my wife’s grave in Rose Hill Cemetery. I changed the flowers. I cleaned off leaves or snow as needed.
And I talked with her. Sometimes about serious things, sometimes about the frivolous, just like she had never left us. At first the visit usually ended in tears and a heavy weight that took awhile to shake, but as the months have passed, these have become less emotional. I’ve also visited less.
Which brings me to “A Well Respected Man.” Yesterday, I went out to replace the flowers and chat. What I found, to my surprise and bewilderment, is that I really had nothing to say. I mentioned our daughter’s upcoming birthday, but that’s about it. I left after only abut five minutes without much emotion at all. In fact, I never even shut off the car.
So I pulled away and “Well Respected Man” came on. I love the song, and I began to sing along, and as I pulled through the cemetery, I was immediately hit with a tidal wave of intense and overwhelming sadness. I broke like a cheap pair of headphones and had to stop the car.
As I sat there, with this jaunty melody playing in the air, I struggled to take in breath as I cried like I have not cried for months.
My mind was trying to understand just why this hit me. Why now? I’d been getting so much better and moving on well, I thought.
Then, I truly had an epiphany.
I was so sad because I really didn’t have anything to say to her.
She really was gone.
I have moved on. My daughter has moved on.
It’s not that we’ve forgotten her, on the contrary, she is a part of us.
But talking to a block of limestone seems pointless now.
And also, I finally realized she has moved on.
She doesn’t need to hear me ramble on, nor can she hear me.
So, The Kinks finished, and I felt I had just come back through the other side of yet another journey through this maze of grief and guilt and living life with the living.
I’m not exactly “A Well Respected Man,” but I felt like I was a wiser and calmer man after the song had finished.
I promise, the next “Shuffle” will be a bit more light hearted.