Music and Mourning

No matter how old I get, I still remember things so clearly. I forget what I had for lunch, but I remember going to Gene’s with Amy and Kim like it was yesterday. I can begin thinking about someone or something I did, and I am transported back to any moment. Sometimes it is something horrible and I have to drag myself back to now. Sometimes it is the sweetest memory and I hate to leave it. I can be transported by a song. Music is something I have to be careful with. I can hear a snippet of a song and find myself thinking of a slow dance in high school, couples skates at the Roll-Arena, drinking Malt Duck on Gunbarn Road. Michael Jackson and Prince always remind me of Amy and Autumn. Riding around listening to songs and knowing every word, every nuance of the song. I watched Places In The Heart the other day and the song In The Garden was playing. That song has a melancholy effect on me. It reminds me of being at church at Lindberg Road when I was young. Those hymns didn’t mean much to me then. Now they make me reflect on what the words really mean. They also lead me down the path of young girls in youth group talking about boys and plans for church camp.

I also have songs that make me happy/sad. Anything by Santana makes me think of my dad. He loved Carlos Santana and listened to him all the time. He loved America and Blue Oyster Cult. I will catch a song on the radio once in a while, and it makes me smile. I always sing along. I love those old songs now. However, they always create a longing for him. I also have songs that make me mad, sad, sick, bitter. Music has a momentous impact on my emotions. I can be just skipping along in life, not really thinking about anything, and a song will come on the radio. It has the ability to make me instantly angry. In the same manner, I can be feeling down and Kennedy or Belle will play music for me and I am instantly uplifted. I don’t know if everyone is like this. My children are, but is that because of me? Kyler listens to country music from the 80’s and 90’s. It makes him think of when he was small and he loves the nostalgia of it. It makes me want to wreck my car into a tree. See? Same music, same family, two polar opposit reactions.

I am careful now, when I am going through something emotional to limit what I listen to. I know it will stick with me. I can ruin a perfectly wonderful song simply by listening to it at the wrong time. Maybe I’m crazy? Don’t tell anyone.

My Amy sent a text to me yesterday, telling me that an old friend of mine had died. I met Chris at church, after his father’s funeral. His Grandparents went to Lindberg Road with me. I saw him sitting across the row from me and I went after him with all the Tracey Haines-ness that I had. His grandparents were thrilled, my Mother was not. Chris lived with his Mom, step-dad and his little brother. I became friends with all of them. Chris and I would go together and break-up, then get back together and break-up. This went on for years. The last time I saw Chris, I had just had Kade. I was walking through the foyer at church, carrying Kade back to the nursery to feed him and I ran right smack into Chris. I had been sweet talking to Kade because he was fussy, I had my head down and ran right smack into him. Chris’s girls had visited church several times with his grandmother, but I had never seen him. I looked up and he said ‘Hi Tracey’. I was glad to see him. We stood and talked for a minute. Catching up on kids and life and families. I excused myself when Kade began to get fussy again and that’s the last time I ever saw him.

Chris’s grandparents and I still saw each other at church every Sunday. Ellen loved my babies. She always said I had the prettiest babies she had ever seen. Periodically she would catch me up on what Chris was doing and she would talk about his girls. I felt like I knew them through her. She was very proud of all of them. His grandpa, Warren, always had a smile for me. He had a stroke and it was difficult for him to talk, but we always exchanged hugs. Ellen and Warren have long since passed. I attended both of their visitations but I never saw Christopher. I lost touch with his Mother and with Chris entirely.

Then yesterday I got news of his death. It has made me so sad. I haven’t seen Chris in 23 years. I have no idea where his life took him. I don’t know if he was a grandpa. I don’t know who will be standing around his casket mourning for him. I don’t know if he was a happy man or not. It’s so surreal how you lose someone in your life. The space gets bigger and bigger between you and them until you can’t see them any more. I still consider Chris my friend. I will miss him even though I haven’t seen him for nearly half of my life. Once I connect you to my heart, I can’t un-connect.

After Amy’s message, I thought about the crazy times I had with Chris. I thought of songs. I have two that connect me to Chris. Two songs that no matter where or when I am, I immediately think of him. One was Open Arms by Journey and the other was Goodbye to Romance by Ozzy Osbourne. Odd, I know. But there is a story here.

On my 18th birthday, I was going through a very rebellious period in my life. If my Mom said grass was green, I told her it wasn’t. I was very difficult at that time and I have spent a good deal of time trying to make it up to my Mom. You never forget being awful to your Mother. Anyway, I spent my 18th birthday at Christopher’s house. Toni, his mom, invited me. Chris had a new girlfriend and I was so jealous. Now remember, I just showed up at their house and Toni invited me to stay. Chris was NOT happy. I didn’t care. I decided to wreak as much havoc for him as I could. Teach him to get a new girlfriend on my birthday…

Toni invited a crowd and a crowd showed up. She bought me a little pink cake with pink icing and pink roses. I loved pink back then. She also bought a lot of beer. I didn’t drink much but I gave it a go that night. I remember very little of that evening except seeing Chris’s new girlie sitting on his lap and me storming upstairs to his room.

Chris had an old reel ro reel stereo. So you had to push a little button and the reels would spin and take you to the song you wanted. When you pushed that button, there was a little ‘reeeepppp’ sound that was a ‘fingernails on the chalkboard’ sound. I went upstairs, put Ozzy on and listened to Goodbye to Romance. Over and over and over and over and over and over…..lots of overs. I had it blaring, the volume up as loud as I could get it. Chris had these humongous speakers, almost as tall as I was. The house was shaking with Ozzy crying over saying goodbye to romance. After about an hour of this, I went tripping downstairs to go to the bathroom. I remember someone asking me how many times I was going to play that flipping song and me screaming in his face, as many  flippin times as I wanted to. Not my finest moment. Keep in mind how stupid some 18 year olds are…

I woke up the next morning and as quietly as I could, gathered my things to get the heck out of Dodge. Although I couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, I knew I had made a fool out of myself. I put my coat and shoes on and started looking for my keys. I couldn’t find them anywhere. Maybe I had left them in the car? So I went outside to see. This is in January. In Indiana. It was FREEZING and there was two feet of snow on the ground. I looked up and down the street for my little blue Camaro. It wasn’t there! I looked around the corner, thinking maybe someone had to move it for the snow plow. Not there! Oh my goodness! Someone had stolen my car!!! I ran back in the house, dropping all of my things along the way, stopping to pick them up, now covered in snow. I opened the door to the house, hurried inside and ran right into Chris coming out of the kitchen.

I yelled that someone had stolen my car!! He laughed, “No, your mom came and got it.” Freezing in place, “My mom?? How did she get here? Where was I? Why did she take the car? Did she know I was drunk? Holy crap! What is going ON??????” So Christopher explained to me that while I was upstairs, singing Ozzy at the top of my lungs, refusing to either turn it down or change the song, my mother came to the house. Christopher came upstairs and told me my mom was downstairs and wanted me down there now! I told Chris to tell her I was “having an attitude adjustment’ and refused to come down stairs. Apparently the entire party got a huge kick out of this. Mother did not. She asked for my car keys, they were readily available on the coffee table and Chris handed them over.

I didn’t even know how to react. If you know my Mother at all, you know this didn’t go well. I eventually broke down and called her. She came and got me. We rode home in stony silence and I got grounded from life for a long while. I always tell my children, ’18’ means nothing. I knew. I proved it to myself in January of 1985.

These two songs used to make me nostalgic. I would sing the songs, my kids know the songs and they know my stories. I use my youthful stupidity to hopefully let my children know how NOT to act. Did it work? I hope so, but you’ll have to ask them. I won’t be able to listen to those songs anymore. They will remind me of a friend who isn’t here anymore. Someone I won’t ever run into at home at Pizza King. Someone I won’t ever get to show pictures of Karter to. Someone I won’t ever get to ask if he has grandchildren and if he likes being a grandpa.

People in life come and go. Friends, lovers, even family. Life moves forward and a lot of the time, people don’t move with you. For this reason, I like Facebook. I have re-connected with people I never thought I would hear from again. I get tired of people asking me to share this photo and Jesus will bless me or share this photo if you hate child abuse and the picture of a bruised baby. I just scroll by. Sometimes I un-follow. For the most part, I appreciate the ability to see how you’re doing in a fairly simple manner. I don’t get to do that with everyone. I will mourn for Chris and his family. I hope he had a good life. I hate I never got to tell him about mine. I pray  he rests in peace. I’m going to go now, get on FB and talk to some old friends, maybe listen to something that will make me think of playing Barbies with Tammy Dodge at her house. Maybe Bobby Vinton. I hope I see you soon.

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