On February 10, 2007, I was sitting in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, A's sister to my immediate left, and several of his closest friends beyond her. We were there together, wearing shirts with his beautiful face on them (a picture I took), in his honor, to attend a Tommy Emmanuel concert. Tommy was a favorite of A's, and a topic of some of our earliest conversations. He told me that he'd just gone to a show at the invitation of a friend and seen this Australian guy who got more out of an acoustic guitar than A had ever thought possible. He gave me the name, I looked him up on iTunes, and was an instant fan. When he died, he had tickets for two different Tommy Emmanuel shows waiting to be used within the next month or so; obviously, he never used them. Which was the inspiration for our group outing to the show in February.
Six years to the week later, this past Tuesday I found myself sitting in the Fox Theatre in Tucson, my new boyfriend to my immediate left, my best girlfriends to my right, and my guitar teacher and his wife in the same row right across the aisle from us, to see Tommy Emmanuel. It was my 8th time, my friend B's second, and everyone else was seeing him live for the first time, and I was excited for them, because Tommy has to be seen to be believed; he's that amazing. I knew when I bought the tickets, the timing of Tommy's first show in Tucson was auspicious, resonating with that tribute show we all attended. But as I sat in the audience among my friends, I pondered the particular appropriateness of this collection of folks with me at this show.
There was my dear friend B, whom I met at guitar camp, a guitar camp I chose in large part because it brought me to northern California, and therefore closer to A. I flew into his town and he drove me to camp that first year, stayed up there with me the second year, and it was she who told me she'd take care of me if I fell apart when I went the third year, 6 months after he died. After he was gone, and she and I became such good friends, I couldn't help but feel that A wasn't the only reason I was supposed to go to that particular camp; I was supposed to go there to meet B, too.
There was her partner, P, who has become another dear friend in her own right, and has taken care of this broken, problematic body of mine for years now, easing my soul in the process with her kind ways and generous heart. It was on a trip to visit the two of them, when I was 15 months out, that I had the first feeling that I was going to be all right. Intellectually, I knew I would heal in time (though what that would look like, I hadn't the foggiest). But they took me out, and they loved me through it, and as I sat on the back of the motorcycle of a friend of theirs, riding past a beautiful lake as aspen leaves floated down upon and around us like confetti, I thought, "Life IS good." And I felt the truth of it in that moment. A always said "Life is good." It was hard for me to see that up until that point, and to be honest, at many points thereafter. But with them, I always come away feeling better: filled up, healed; not just on that trip. They're that kind of people. And now they live in my city and we see each other all the time, so I'm very lucky.
A had been my guitar guru, my cheerleader, the one who got me playing the guitar after I'd completely given up. If not for him, I wouldn't be a musician today; I'm always sure of that, and I told him that often, though he would never accept credit for it. A year or so after he died, I bought a set of guitar lesson DVDs, in a fit of pique, actually, angry that he was no longer here to guide me in my learning to play guitar; one more loss on top of a mountain of them. But I never did anything with them, and ended up passing them on to a friend years later. Two years ago, however, I'd realized I'd run up against my own limitations as a self-taught guitarist, and I needed a new teacher. And I was ready for one who wasn't A. As it turns out, I couldn't have picked a better one. So for him to be there with me at the Tommy show, his lovely wife at his side, enjoying a guitarist that A had introduced to me, and I had introduced to everyone there with me, including my guitar teacher, seemed apropos.
And finally, my boyfriend. I started dating again this past summer, somewhat accidentally, but it wasn't until then that I could even consider it. Of course, being married makes it less imperative to even think about trying, but that aside, I wasn't ready or interested. I have had the two great loves of my life, and didn't expect another; it seemed greedy, somehow. And I love him, but it is very different, as it must be. It is not the same kind of relationship I have with E, or had with A. He is different. Circumstances are different. And I, too, am different. And as lovely as it is, it makes me think often of A, of the things that were so effortless with him, the way we clicked and always understood each other. I still miss that so much. I still miss him so much. I sometimes wish he hadn't been so wonderful, such a delightful human being, and a great man; then maybe everyone else in the world wouldn't suffer so much by comparison.
Still, the fact that I have made another positive, loving connection in this life is all to the good, and certainly beyond anything I dared to imagine in the early, or later, days of my widowhood. I'm sure we all say that, though I should've known better--I was poly before he died, whereas for most widows, this is a new concept, loving more than one person infinitely and equally. And for him to be there at the Tommy show with all of us, it just kind of felt like the circle was complete in a way. Because not one of those people, not the one on the stage, nor the ones sitting with me, would've been in my life if not for A. It is both strange and amazing to contemplate.
So here we are again on Valentine's Day. I was disappointed on Valentine's Day 2006, because A totally spaced getting me a card. He totally spaced a lot of things that spring, and in hindsight, I think the heart disease that would kill him just 5 months later was having an effect on him already; he was moody and snappish and forgetful; totally unlike himself. Out in the backyard this afternoon, I heard a hummingbird making a considerable racket, and I said hello, to A, thanking him for the little winged messenger, and razzing him that he didn't get me a card this year.
Valentine's Day, 7 years later. Nothing, and everything, has changed.