What do you get when two polar opposites get married? My hubby and I. Two people who spend the first year of marriage thinking “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” Last December I spent the evening with my husbands brother in law, chatting the night away and having a drink or two. Our spouses were siblings but it was more than that. We were all friends first. T and Rene’. Me and Suzie. Now Suzie and Rene are both gone but our friendship continues. T and I. The ones left behind. At one point in the evening T told me he was surprised that I married Rene’. I laughed for a few reasons. First off I was married for almost 35 years before Rene’ died so it was funny he brought it up then. But also, I knew exactly what T meant. Suzie was my best friend and she was ecstatic that I was dating her brother. It was tumultuous from the start and finally I just decided it was too much work. The man made me crazy. I dumped him and Suzie started her quest to fulfill her desire to make me her sister in law. This was not completely altruistic on her part. No thought to her poor brother. She had a goal. True sisters. She was relentless. One evening over a large amount of wine we made a pro/con list about her darling brother. Well, the con list was awfully short and the pro list went onto a whole new page. He was a great guy. He had his faults but his core was rock solid. We were married a few months later.
It goes deeper than that though. Everything came out in the first few years. The petty annoyances. The things you can change if you try hard enough. Stupid things. He hated when I left my makeup on the bathroom vanity. I learned to put it away. Years later when my daughter would come from out of town to visit, she would leave her makeup all over the vanity. Made me nuts. He turned me into him. He wanted the bed made. Always. Well I try to do it now but its hard. I haven’t made my bed since I was twenty two years old. He always made it. Now I cry a little when I make my bed because it just reminds me he isn’t here to take care of me. Or make the bed. He couldn’t fold a towel properly if his life depended on it. They are perfect now. As they always were. Rene’ wasn’t allowed to edge the lawn because he always tilted the whipper snipper just a little. And shaved the grass. Oh my God! Was he raised by wolves? We found we overlooked the silly things from the other and compensated by making sure that if something was important to us, we took responsibility for that thing. It caused marital harmony. Or maybe in reality it stopped stupid spats. There are things you can change and things you can’t so in the end you try and adjust.
One day I organized all of our albums and gave the duplicates to my daughter. She had an interest in vinyl. There were very few duplicates. Now this is something that is hard to change. Taste in music. Mainly due to comfort from the familiar. But if you are open, people can blow your mind as they expose you to different styles of music. In the early years I remember my husband laying on the living room floor, in the dark, listening to James Taylor. I was never a fan and I remember once trying to buy a best of CD for Rene’s birthday and I couldn’t remember James Taylors name. I said to the young teen at the cash register “He was married to Carly Simon. James somebody.” To which he responded “Is it James Simon?” Idiot. Shouldn’t you have to know something about music to work in a music store? Well I found it and Rene loved it but I never got it. Until now. I listen to James Taylor a lot now that he is gone. Took me fourty years but I get it. My folks liked the Philharmonic and my first “album” was classical music. Majors for Minors. Get it? I was four years old. Odd people my folks but I am grateful. I turned my guy onto the classics. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. A fave. DeBussy. Claire De Lune. That was played at our wedding. Probably my most loved is Handel. Messiah for sure but his Water Music? Wow. That is my James Taylor. In the end Rene’ loved Chopin. He was a Piano guy. Rene’ also loved Billy Joel. He was a Piano guy too. Get it? Piano man…
Rene’ had a poster from Pink Floyds “Dark Side of the Moon” hanging in his room as a teen. I know because I slept there a lot as a young girl. No, not with him. With his sister Suzie. When we had sleepovers. I wasn’t a fan really. Rene’ went to concerts because I loved them but when Pink Floyd came to a city three hours away, he actually wanted to go. What? And yet, years after Led Zep was over and done, Robert Plant came to town. He is my first love. The one I was allowed to sleep with if given the chance and its not considered cheating. Because it is Robert Plant!!!! Actually my hubby didn’t ever agree with that. Anyways, my beautiful guy called his friend and got us tickets. So he could watch me swoon over another man for two hours. I am sure he didn’t feel threatened but I hear rock stars love the ladies. Sometimes I forget how old I am. But what a guy. I love David Bowie, Harry Nillsen, Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton and JJ Cale. Rene liked John Denver, Cat Stevens, John Fogherty, George Thorogood, George Harrison. Everyone loves George Harrison though don’t they? Pure genius. I am known first and foremost as a Led Zeppelin fan but only to those who don’t really know me. He loved YES. Fleetwood Mac. You know with Stevie Nicks. I liked Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac. My son’s band covered them a lot. Through the years we went to so many concerts and saw so many Bands that it was almost as if we became one in our love of music as well. Music has that ability. To bring people together. Bond them in a way we can’t explain. He never understood my fascination with hip hop or even rap music but he did pay attention when I heard a new band I liked. I would mention it in passing and the next birthday or mothers day, Christmas…I had a new CD. One evening he was watching a late night talk show and he yelled out to me to come into the TV room. As I stood by the door, he told me that the rap guy I liked was coming up after the commercial. When I asked who the singer was, he replied “You know. Ummm… what’s his name… Bulldog!” To which I replied “Do you mean Pitbull?” He may have the name wrong but he knew it was someone I enjoyed. It would blow his mind to see how far The Weeknd has gone. One day as we got in the car Rene’ handed me a CD. It was “Beauty Behind The Madness” by The Weeknd. I had cranked the song “Can’t Feel My Face” a few weeks prior and Rene’ had taken note of the title and ordered it up. His gifts weren’t always about special occasions. They were in the present. But now when I hear that song it brings me back to that day in the car. As we took turns turning the music up (me) and down (him).
The education of music for our kids started early. While we were driving, when a song came on the radio, it was a game to see who could name the song first. As the kids got older they seemed to know everything. If the answer was too easy, we would ask the band name. In time they knew those as well. So then the question was name the album the song appeared on. That was harder. My oldest daughter once won a contest on the radio. She named David Bowie’s song “Lets Dance” with one note. Not surprising really. The album was released a month after she turned three and we bought it for her soon after. She loved that song. The DJ was amazed. Through the years our children started to share their favourites with us. There were concerts aplenty through the years. Sometimes a song would come on the radio and I would say to my hubby “Remember this concert?” To which he would reply, “That wasn’t me.” Before he and I became we, I went to many many concerts. Back in the day where you lined up in the city to buy tickets in person. Whoever went to pick them up bought as many as they were allowed or could afford. They knew everybody would want to go. Some bands I saw many times. I was fourteen when I saw Bachman Turner Overdrive. Actually mostly heard them. I was in a toilet stall holding my girlfriends hair as she threw up, then we just sat on the cold floor as we listened to the band through the walls. They were vibrating. I was eighteen when I saw Burton Cummings at an outdoor concert on Prince’s Island. The couple getting naked on the top of the semi trailer stole the show until security urged them to stay dressed or leave. I was around fourty when I finally saw Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman reunited in their original band, The Guess Who. As we age we still see the bands but the players change. I was sixteen the first time I saw KISS. My brother and boyfriend were quite drunk before the concert began. I drove. Twenty years later I am in a luxury box with my hubby and some Natural Gas Marketing acquaintances seeing KISS. Once again I drove. Six middle aged men crammed into my tiny car yelling Yahoo, we navigated the city streets and I safely transported them from 1977 to their wives back in 1997.
Rene’ and I were having lunch at Denny’s one day, talking about music when I mentioned I had never seen Steve Miller in concert. He looked up tour dates and saw that Miller was touring with The Doobies. Amazingly enough he was playing at the Hard Rock, in Vegas a few nights before New Years Eve. Our daughter was living in Vegas at the time and my cousin’s daughter was coming from Denmark to see Drew for New Years. My son in law played Hockey there and the team was on the road so we called and said we would babysit so the girls could go out with the players wives and girlfriends. Bought the concert tickets, last minute flights and headed to Vegas. Rene’ was along for the ride for two bands he didn’t really know. I had seen The Doobies as a teen in Calgary. The one where the drummer fell off the stage and the concert ended. He was out of it. But then so was most of the audience. I was excited that evening in Vegas. Neither band disappointed. Rene was particularly in love with Steve Miller. Rene loves guitar players. I prefer bass players. They just look cool. They don’t move. Anyways, Rene’ listened to a lot more Steve Miller after that.
We often went to The Blues Can or The Ironwood to watch local bands or some just passing through. There are a few places around town where you can see some really talented artists. Crowded, loud and intimate we saw so many bands and often bought their CD’s. And we danced. Whether it was the living room, weddings or nights on a Mexican beach we danced through our lives. We took dance lessons early in our marriage and Rene’ referred to them as Monday night at the fights. One morning, on a motorbike trip, we were in a tiny town in Prince Edward Island called Victoria by The Sea. It was after nine and all the shops had signs saying they opened at Nine Ish. Yet nothing was open except the chocolate shop. They had coffee on but no food. Apparently the muffins weren’t out of the oven yet. So we sat on the front deck eating chocolate covered jujubes for breakfast listening to the music that was coming through the screen door. It was funky. The gal in the shop came to fill our cups and bring the freshly baked muffins and Rene’ asked the name of the artist singing. Pokey LaFarge was his name. It wasn’t long before Rene’ had ordered the CD and played it non stop when we got home. When Pokey came to Calgary for the Block Heater festival (Our winter blues festival) , Rene was up front and centre to see him. We played Rene’s favourite tune from that album at his funeral. It wasn’t a very funeral like song and the audio technician kept asking the funeral director “Are you sure?” Rene’ would have loved it.
Through the years our love of music seemed to bring us together. After seeing bands in small venues we would often buy their CD’s. One night we saw Yukon Gold. We both really liked them and when I bought the CD I spent quite a bit of time talking to the drummer. He was a really nice young man. Years later we were driving and Rene’ suddenly turned up the radio. That never happens. He turned and said, “Sounds like they made it.” I listened. It was Yukon Gold. I was surprised how happy it made us. Often when a good song came on in the car I would turn to him and say “Dance with me” and Rene’ would do his version of Billy Crystal’s “White man overbite”. People in other cars would probably think we were having simultaneous fits but it was fun. Bopping in our seats as Grandparents are apt to do. We loved the old and we listened to the new. Even our differences had us bonding in a way. Rene’ loved the Eagles. Me not so much. They were a country band in my eyes and that is not my favourite genre. Yet, I loved Joe Walsh. So obviously when Hotel California came out, I bought the album. Joe’s band The James Gang is one of my faves and I loved a lot of his solo vibes. When the Eagles came to town, I bought my hubby tickets. Now I admit the first half was a bit of a sleeper for me but Rene’ really enjoyed it. But the second half of the concert they did play some of Joes tunes and that was why I was there. Standing and singing along. They only played a few songs so they were obviously top hits, which was great. I love Midnight Man and Walk Away which weren’t played but they did do Funk #49. Man that is some great guitar work. I was about nine years old when that song was released. Over 40 years later he released Funk #50. Crazy right? And yes there was a Funk #48. So it was a good night for both of us.
When Rene’ died we chose music for his funeral that he loved but also tunes that made us think of him. Bringing back memories for me and the kids. It was hard because our lives revolved around music. There were so many favourites. The music room is silent now. I miss the sounds of his voice coming through the floor vents as he sat and played. I watch the video he made of himself playing The Dance by Garth Brooks. It is such a poignant memory. I play the piano now and again but my heart isn’t in it. The grand kids love to play the drums and the piano but all of the guitars are waiting to be picked up and loved. I don’t play. My Daughter wanted her Dad’s old acoustic but we are waiting until her brood of four is older and less apt to wreck it. Sam comes by and plays now and again. He plays everything although the mandolin was not his favourite gift. My greatest joy is when the Grands all pound away on various instruments as they shout into the mikes. The whole house rattles. It is a beautiful sound. Uncle Sam has taken up the quest to teach them. Missy has a knack for the piano. She loves to sing. We carry on.
I found Rene’s old I Pod about six months ago. He used to listen to music when he went to bed at night. He had a Bose speaker he plugged into and a timer that would shut off after half an hour. I would read as he drifted off. I went walking one day and brought his I pod along and the music brought me back in time. There was a song called Goodbye Jane by Joel Kroker that I loved and it was the first song to play. It was like a sign from Rene’. Joel Kroker no longer tours. He is now a Psychologist out of Victoria B.C. Crazy right. But his music continues to bring Rene’ to me when I walk. We came full circle Rene’ and I and our love of music brought us closer.
My daughter was a flower girl when she was three years old and I wore a red dress to that wedding. Three years later Chris De Burgh released a song called “Lady in Red”. It became our song and anytime he heard it he would dance with me. Anywhere. He said it reminded him of thta wedding and how beautiful I was. One day my daughter told me what she remembers throughout her life was Rene’ and I dancing together in the living room. When I was sad he would put on Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton and take me in his arms. It just made everything better. Although so many songs bring back memories, I find new music makes me think of him as well. Its like every song is about us. Even if it was written after he left his earthly shell behind. That is because music tells a story. And our life together was a story. The ups. The downs. The in between times. All a part of a story. I am forever grateful to my parents who brought music into my life and then the further influence by my brother Bent the DJ and then my brother Tim the music lover. I couldn’t imagine my life without the beautiful art that is brought to my ears every day. It is medicine for the soul and food for the mind. It brings me peace every day and hope for the future. And I have learned to dance alone. For now. Because I know he watches from above. He waits until we will dance together again.