Dreams of Alan have me swirling with memories this morning, thinking of listening to music in his room when we were kids. I’d always hear it coming through the wall between our rooms, his bass keeping time with the crackling vinyl. More often than not I’d go down the hall to his room, go in and just lay on the floor listening or thumb through his albums. He never cared or at least would never say so and really we always welcomed each others company. He was kind like that. Most of our lives, what we had that was steady, what we could count on, was each other. Things he said when he was dying made me realize just how much he knew what I missed as a girl not having our mother. He would say about his own son, “I’m glad he’s got Janet, kids need their mother. We obviously know they can live without a father.” This broke my heart in so many ways. Knowing how much he lost, having a dad there, but never truly present and how much he discounted or didn’t realize the importance of what he would be as a father. He would have been the best father ever.
Those days watching him play his bass– it’s not like the memories are present with you all the time, I’d mostly say I’d forgotten or can’t recall. At 48, the memories of a kid are faint. When they come into my awareness now, they come in clear, vivid and sacred. Equally torturous and divine. Memories seem to be coming faster now that I’m allowing myself to write. Unconsciously, and somewhat knowingly, I can say that is what has kept me from writing– the memories that are unearthed, buried deep and sometimes not dealt with. So many memories, too many ghosts.
Back to Alan, and that bass. I can see him leaning over it, sitting on the edge of his bed, bass in his lap. I can see his fingers on the strings, moving with such art, such grace. That’s not something I thought at the time, yet when I see it now that is what it is– grace, a gift, a talent, an art, a passion and a love. He gave it up at some point, a lot of life happened, and that’s often life– we give up what we love for what we have to do. Yet when he was diagnosed with cancer, he and I were in a music shop one day and he wanted to buy a bass and an amp to play in the church band. He didn’t have the money and said he couldn’t do that to his family right now, so I bought it for him. I can remember him hugging me with gratitude and he said, “This reminds me of what Grandma always said to us. ‘If you have it, share it.’ You’re so like her Jenn.” I’m glad she instilled that in both of us. I’m not about position or possession and honestly love to give.
He would tell me how he knew I didn’t understand his connection at church and how it wasn’t really the church but the people, he felt part of something and supported. He’d say how he felt up there on stage, with the others playing in the house of God. Sitting there on a stool, to weak to stand most times, this horrible disease wrecking his body and his mind full of fears. There he didn’t have all that for a while. It was him, and his bass, his talent, his gift… and God.
Neither of us grew up religious and even in the end we had a lot we talked about with religion and such, he knew I came from a different place, and that was ok. In those moments I could see what it gave him though. Comfort, hope. Things you need when you are losing everything else.
My smile now comes from going back to his room. It sat at the corner of our L-shaped house, had two windows on each corner wall. Seemed the sun always shone through them, as it did Alan as well. His twin bed against the one wall and a line of albums against the other, along with his record player, amp, checkered vans, skinny ties and the infamous Cheryl Tiegs & Farrah Fawcett posters. Ha! The details are sketchy but I can feel the music, the laughter, the sometimes tears or anger coming from me, about life, about our circumstance. The stuff he would always make ok with his smile, his words, so common in my ears still. “It’s going to be ok Jenn… you’re going to be ok.” Selfishly that’s what I miss the most. The one person in the world that could tell me everything was going to be ok and with every fiber of my being I knew that to be true, because he said so, and he loved me, fiercely.
When I think of Alan and music, I hardly know where to begin. With a massive amount of great tunes, fabulous albums, iconic bands, obscure weirdness and soul soothing melodies combining the depth of all he loved, all he shared with his little sister. The concerts he went to, the ones he took me to, yes, the older brother taking his little sister to see bands he thought I’d like. He knew how important music is to life, to your sanity, to your thriving. What a gift he gave to me through his passion of song. There are friends of his that stand out to this day. His best friend Geoff that would come spend the night frequently at our house. I had a mad crush on him! We are talking the serious kind of crush that only a 10-13yr old can have. That shit is real! lol I’m friends with him on FB today and now he’s like a soul-brother to me. Maybe that’s odd, maybe that’s off but there are a few of his friends that I’ve pseudo-adopted as my group of brothers, whether they know or care I don’t know but it gives me peace somehow. A connection.
Faint memories of walking through the snow to get to his friend Fletcher’s house. Or was it walking home from? I don’t know, but the memory is there. Maybe because Fletcher was another major crush! I mean, he was so cute. Is so cute still, yep I’m connected to him through the miracle of social media as well. Now I can look back and totally see it. He was a drummer! There are two types of crushes rock-chicks have. You’re either a lead singer, lead guitar chick or you’re a drummer and bass chick. I’m a drummer & bass chick… swoon! I’ll claim it’s because we’ve got deep roots, we’re grounded and we have that rhythm of life that’s undeniable. Props to us bass & drummer chicks.
It’s not all about crushes though and I’m simply being a little more light-hearted here and stirring up the fun memories that make you smile. Alan would want me to do that, because yes… it’s all going to be ok.
A nod and thank you to those guys that are still in my awareness and social media if not in my actual life. His best friend for many, many years, Michael. His biking buddy and so much more. Michael is a gift, was a great gift always to Alan and especially when he was fighting the good fight to live. Michael was always there for him and several times for me there at the end. There’s Matt, the childhood soccer buddy and good friend who’s out in Colorado somewhere raising a gaggle of amazing women and biking across the mountains, where I’m sure Alan occasionally rides by his side. There’s Scott, the concert friend and much more. I’m sure who now I probably most align with in our love for all things Sci-Fi and his vast love & life of music. Today he’s rocking the airwaves on Rockfile Radio, meeting the Gods of rock and I KNOW Alan would be over-the-moon digging it all and they would still be great friends. I’m sure there are many more lives out there that Alan touched.
I said at his memorial, which was over 13 years ago now, that if you met Alan you instantly liked him and if you knew Alan, you loved him. He was that kind of guy.
I’m sharing this here, getting raw, vulnerable and always authentic. To me, this is part of the healing and grief has no time table. The deeper the love the longer the grief. My life is very happy and full. Alan would be, is, very proud. His little sister is still rockin’ in the free world and now sharing her brilliance and madness alike with anyone who may benefit. If you’re grieving I send you love and peace. Your grief is unique, it is all your own. I can’t tell you anything that will make it better. I’ll simply encourage you to keep breathing, keep loving, be gentle and kind to yourself. When you can, put on some music and move, cry, feel it all. -Wash, rinse, repeat.- One day it will get easier and that huge hole will be filled with so much light it’s as if their passing was, in some way, a gift. It made a crack, it’s let the light in. They will always remind you of deep love and that never goes away.
Maybe once in a while you will get a feeling, a glimpse or a dream that takes you back there with them, in the happiest of times and that, my friends, is part of the magic. It’s life and we are here to live it fully. I send you love light and hopefully some kick-ass tunes.