“…….Long Ago and Far Away”
I’m 19. She’s a year and a half younger, still in high school. We’d met in high school, known each other for a few years, hung out as friends. Got closer and closer. I tried very hard, very often, to “accidentally bump into her” in high school. “Pretty sure that’s called stalking these days” I would joke for years to come.
She came over one day. She danced. A dance she had made up for a class at school. She danced this dance to a band I hadn’t had too much exposure to, but they were her favorite band in the world. She loved them as much as I loved Metallica. I would end up a fan of this band as much as she ended up a fan of Metallica. We would go to as many concerts as we could when either band came to town over the next 15+ years.
To touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal.
If you wanna kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel
On your knees, boy
……….I fell in love to this song…..long ago and far away.
I married her 4 years later.
And as with any relationship that takes up more than half your life, there were hundreds of musical memories. This is due in no small part to the fact that she was a musician! Not professionally, but she played piano since she was a little girl and, if needed, could play sax and I saw her play a flute once or twice too. Being married to a piano player meant I listened to All The Songs She Ever Practiced. And There Were Many. Ok so that last one isn’t piano playing, but that dude plays the piano, and that skit reminds me of her. From church hymns to Broadway tunes to classical pieces, I heard a lot of piano in the almost 20 year relationship. There’s this creepy theme that she never quite got around to learning. Or this fun one which was mostly mastered and a joy to watch her play. Oddly enough, she couldn’t play ChopSticks tho.
Stepping away from her piano playing, there are still so many “music moments” over 18.5 years. There’s the song that we first considered “our song.“ There was one of many songs she’d always sing when it was on in the car. The Metallica song that James forgot the lyrics to at a concert we were at. Here is actual footage of him messing it up in 2004. There were Many Times We Saw Tori Amos In Concert. The song she sang pretty well, considering Spanish was not her native language. The cover song that I always said Jimi covered better. Oh and the misheard lyrics that became an ongoing joke, from the acclaimed 1989 NIN hit, “I was a papaya“!
Then there’s All The Other Musicals We Went To. I still think of her singing the song of the same name from Rent whenever I see the words Santa Fe in any context, anywhere. There was that time we were actually on Broadway in NYC and were onstage with the original cast of the 2008 revival of Hair, singing along. And how cool it is that this particularly song quotes Shakespeare in the background. And the song from Hair that she sang every time I would get a different song stuck in my head and wanted to stop singing that particular ear worm. Oh and the three Call And Response type songs we’d do. The song she sang in a musical in high school. Pretty Much All Madonna Songs. Some Selena but in particular this one. When she danced to the Time Warp at a Halloween/Birthday party. Even Nickelback is a thing, because of how wordy this song is. The fact that pretty much any version of Summertime reminds me of her singing/playing it.
The face she’d make and the way she’d sing the words “psycho social” in the song of the same name by Slipknot. This version of Bad Company. The way she’d yell, “AMEN!!” at the appropriate time in Green Day’s “Holiday.“ Pretty much all Jack Johnson. This Jason Mraz hit, which is fine now but took a year or more to be able to hear in its entirety again. The way she literally jazzed up this well known song used in the movie “Big” and made it much cooler. I can still hear her version in my head, all these years later. Hell even a commercial or a skit or a late 90’s TV show! This lil diddy because she thought the guy was hot. This, same reason. (And we did enjoy the movies.) That one song from the club. Oh and this wordy song too. Rob Zombie cuz even though Metallica was my influence, I never expected a classical pianist to rock out to White Zombie. That time we saw Idina Menzel in concert, before she skyrocketed with Frozen! Even a comedian had a song that would get quoted a lot in my marriage.
18.5 years. And many, many more music moments that I’ll always remember fondly.
“What a Wonderful World”
I’m 22 years old. This was the (relatively) early days of the Internet and the world wide web. Back then your only option was AOL. Netscape was still around. Certainly Facebook wasn’t a thing. (Hell, was Zuckerberg even outta diapers back then???) If you wanted anyone to see anything, your only option was e-mail. And spam existed even back then, as there were many occasions when I received an e-mail telling me that Bill Gates wanted to share his money with me “if you only forward this to 10 of your friends.”
One day, I got e-mail from a friend. The e-mail had pretty pictures of cars and tunnels and rainbows. And it said, “You’re driving down the street and a song comes on the radio and it reminds you of me. What song is it?” So I replied with some song, and forwarded it to the required “10 of my friends” and forgot about it. Slowly the responses came back. One in particular stands out. And which song reminded her of me? She wrote back with these words:
“I see trees of green, red roses, too,
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a Wonderful World.”
Cut to early 2009. This version of that song played over and over during my friend’s memorial. ❤
“I’m smiling next to you…..”
But first let’s backtrack a little to just before her death. Early February, 2009. It was becoming clearer and clearer that her time with us was coming to an end. “No technology exists in 2009 that will stop this cancer from coming back over and over” the oncologist would say a few days into the month. It was devastating. To her mom who would lose her daughter at 32. To the man who raised her lovingly as his own daughter. To her big brother who would soon lose his only sibling. Her family, her friends, everyone that loved her.
And it would devastate me too. But I would always have my memories. Starting from high school, on through our 20’s. Losing touch for a few years but then picking up right where we left off, as if nothing had changed. Late night texting sessions, 5 hour lunches, knowing what it’s like to be “living the rock star lifestyle” (which meant we were both up at all hours of the night in pain for our own separate reasons, and would sleep the day away sometimes.)
In the last couple weeks of her Earthly existence, I often found myself singing a particular song to her. It all started one day when she was sleeping. Mom had gone down to grab a quick bite and asked me to stay for a bit just to make sure everything was ok in her absence. There Crystal was, sleeping peacefully. No sign, at least not at that moment, of the fluid in her lungs that caused coughing fits for minutes on end. I approached the bed and sat beside her. The song I sang, one of my two all-time favorites, it just……fit. I take her hand and begin:
“Hush now don’t you cry….wipe away the teardrop from your eye.
You’re lying safe in bed….it was all a bad dream spinning inside your head.”
I keep singing, softly stroking her hand. I didn’t mean to, but I had woken her up with the singing. I stopped and asked how she was doing. She looked at me and smiled that wonderful smile that I first saw 18 years earlier and said, almost in a whisper, “beautiful.”
Wouldn’t be the last time I’d sing that song. For her comfort. And mine. ❤
“All the promises we break….”
I had just turned 35. My wife and I were at yet another U2 concert. I’d really grown to be a fan. You know how sometimes you love a band and really enjoy certain songs, but then something traumatic happens and you find you can’t listen to that band or those songs anymore? Well, that’s not the case here. This song. And this song. And this one. Oh and this sweet song. Even this one brings a smile to my face, and this one. I really dig this one. They are all good. And seriously who doesn’t like These Two megahits?? Being married to a huge U2 fan, I even liked some of their lesser played songs. They come on in the car and I still Rock out To these. Ok. So you get the idea. “uno, dos, tres, catorce! Hello, hello…..HOLA!!” I like U2. The latest hit is cool too.
But that day, at that concert, one song was ruined forever for me. I haven’t heard it since then and hopefully never will again. Thankfully it’s one of their lesser known hits so radio stations don’t really play it too much anymore.
We’re at the concert, both standing up, having rocked out to whatever was before it. Then the music slows down. Took me a few seconds to figure out what it was. I start to tear up. So does she. We’re holding each other, sorta lightly swaying back and forth, crying. I will probably never know exactly what she was thinking, what was going on in her mind as the words resonated with us in (probably) very different ways. Dozens upon dozens, maybe hundreds, of happy wonderful moments happened over the course of our relationship while a U2 song played. But that day, one of the saddest moments of my life was at Bono’s hands and his haunting lyrics.
“All the promises we make from the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you.”
The tears flow. The song nears its end. Chorus comes up again, with one important word change.
“All the promises we break from the cradle to the grave.
When all I want is you.”
And we knew. Two years in weekly marriage counseling just wasn’t enough. We knew.
We separated a month later, with divorce soon after. 18 1/2 year relationship. 11 1/2 year marriage. Still the hardest thing that’s ever happened to me.
…..I guess it’s fitting that I fell in love to a U2 song while another U2 song marked the end of my marriage.
I embedded this link without listening to it. Still can’t hear that song. ….Kinda hope I never do again.
I’m 36. It’s late October. My friend, one of my best friends, had just had a baby. But things weren’t so good. The baby was fine. Mom was not. She had developed pre-eclampsia, which is normally something that can be handled relatively easily these days. But for reasons that we still don’t know, the situation just got worse and worse. Organs failing, liver releasing toxins, platelets being destroyed. White blood cell count was sky-high, she was intubated and sedated in hopes it would help her fight whatever was going on.
Y’all know I’m sort of a medical expert, what with my life as a person with a disability, but this thing had me confused and scared most of the time, with phrases I had never heard before. HELLP Syndrome. Acute Fatty Liver. TTP. All life threatening, all possible explanations. Plasmapheresis was another word I became familiar with, as that finally started to help. She was released a month later, just before Thanksgiving. But was admitted again just after Thanksgiving with pockets of infected fluid around several organs.
The whole thing was just a terribly sad, very painful experience. For her parents, her boyfriend, her new baby who couldn’t be with his mom, and for her friends and family. Not knowing whether she would make it or not, then thinking she’s out of the woods, only to be admitted again.
Of course she had many visitors. I’d stay when asked…and sometimes when not asked, I’d still stay 😉 And I’d get constant updates, whether it be from her Caring Bridge page or from her parents.
But all I really wanted to hear, what would be really healing for my heart, would be to hear Shakira. Yep, a Colombian crossover’s music would make my day. Because that was the ringtone I had for my Nicaraguan friend. Before everything happened she was a black belt in tae kwon do, she was into many styles of dance, and she dabbled in belly dancing. And Shakira just makes me think of her, particularly with the dancing. While I did see her in the hospital a lot, she was sedated. Or barely awake. And as I mentioned, updates came either from her Caring Bridge or parents/boyfriend calling from their cell phones. Finally one day when she was home and settled–after the initial hospital stay, after a fundraiser for her that she couldn’t attend, and after being readmitted–I heard my phone make a wonderful sound:
“I’m on tonight, you know my hips don’t lie and I’m startin’ to feel you boy
Come on let’s go, real slow. Don’t you see baby asi es perfecto…..”
“Hi my friend, how are you?”
That was a good day. ❤
She does have some lasting effects from her ordeal, but she mostly made a full recovery, has a wonderful man at her side, a beautiful little boy, and recently got back into yoga and also completed Tough Mudder. I wanna be like her when I grow up. ❤
“Hey son, that’s a bathroom.”
About 6 months ago, I’m in the car with my mom just spending the afternoon together, as a good Mexican son should do. 🙂 And I’m flipping through radio stations. Some random song is ending on the local heavy metal station and then I hear the first note, that’s all I needed to hear, but then it’s verified by the next two very distinctive, very recognizable notes. And the song plays on, and I turn to my mom and with a silly grin on my face I say, “Hey mom, did you know that “sanitario” means bathroom in Spanish??” And my mom says, “Hey mijo, I think the word you’re looking for is “manicomio.” And we laugh and continue to enjoy the music.
I told you that story so I could tell you this story. 🙂 I’m 13 years old and that song comes on the radio, again in the car with my mom. I just ignore it when my mom complains about the “loud, screaming music.” But then I thought a better approach was to explain to her what the song is about. So I start to tell her, in Spanish, “Se trata de un hombre en un sanitario.” “It’s about a guy in a sanitarium. And he just goes nuts in there. Because maybe he belongs in there, but maybe he doesn’t. Or maybe he was fine, but being in there made him go crazy.”
“They keep me locked up in this cage, can’t they see it’s why my brain says rage?”
She hears that. Then this:
“Keep him tied, it makes him well. He’s getting better, can’t you tell?”
So as I’m explaining, she laughs. “What??” And that’s when she says the line that is burned in my brain which 25 years later, still makes me laugh. 🙂
“Hey mijo, I think the word you’re looking for is “manicomio. Sanitario is a bathroom.”
And that’s how my mom became a Metallica fan. 🙂
And it’s not just Metallica I explained to her. Tons of songs over the years. Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy”, System of a Down’s “Chop Suey”, and on and on. In the case of S.O.A.D. she asked, “Hey mijo, what does forsaken mean?” So that stuck, and we always call that “the forsaken song.” 🙂
The Forsaken Song
“Hey mijo, what is this song about today?” 🙂