My hand is hungry for yours. I try to feel what it felt like…my hand in yours. I seemed to know from that first time we shook hands goodbye on July 4, 1999 at a Thai restaurant with a group of people after church that something about that felt so right. And then there was that time walking down 42nd Street to Port Authority after we’d been dating for maybe a month and I tripped and you helped me up. We kept holding hands for a block after that. It was the first time.
I remember a close friend in college telling us that her parents’ church had played a game with some of the older couples and blindfolded all of the wives and had each one guess by touch alone which pair of hands were her husband’s. I’m not sure what the application was, but I always thought I would certainly know yours. Soft but strong…beautiful.
The counselor tells me I should do some preparation- maybe write- as a way to process before the concert tomorrow so it’s less painful when I’m there.
It feels like this concert/memorial should be taking place a year after Dan’s death, but it’s not even three months. I feel like most of the people there will have a year’s worth of distance, but for me it is fresh. I can’t smile yet at memories or photos. I am not there yet. I can’t really listen to any music either- Dan’s music, music we listened to together, music he played with other bands- it goes right to my wound. But tomorrow night I’ll sit and listen to artist after artist pay tribute to you.
I realized the other day that it has been a long time since I saw you perform, and in the past two years, I probably only saw you twice…once at the Beacon and once at Radio City. I almost didn’t make it to Radio City this past fall because I needed a babysitter but my parents were out of town. In the end, I asked you if it mattered, and in your quiet way, I could tell it did. So, I ended up driving Audrey and myself into the city and dropping Audrey off at a friend’s apartment. You and I slept over there later that night. I didn’t have it in me to put on any special outfit- just wore my regular “mom clothes,” pants, a long tan sweater you’d picked out for me, and a cranberry colored shirt. Still, I touched up my make-up and combed my hair, and put on my red leather coat you liked so much and my friend told me I looked great. It was exciting to go since I haven’t been out much since Audrey was born. I was still nursing and had nursed Audrey to sleep right before I left. It felt strange and exhilarating to be walking around Manhattan alone.
I felt special going to the ticket booth to give them my name. It was always fun being on the guest list. I think I had missed a little bit of the opening band because I had to get Audrey to sleep, but I found my seat which ended up being next to the violinist’s parents and wife. We chatted and his mother told me that I had to support you. She asked me how old Audrey was and when I told her, “Wow, she’s still really little. That’s hard.” “But you have to support him.” “I know how it is,” she said leaning over away from her husband, “I had a Japanese husband who didn’t help at all. It can be hard, but this is what he has to do and you will be his support.” I was in tears when she spoke this to me because it’d been so difficult since I had Audrey and you started traveling. But I think the tears came also because I knew that she was right. I saw you come on stage and tune your cello. I wondered if you could see out into the audience at all and see me. You couldn’t.
While I sat there, I was intermittently texting Mercy who was watching Audrey. I’d only left her a couple of times so I was nervous. “I’m not usually a texter,” (and I wasn’t- didn’t even have a plan) I told the girl next to me- one of the sound technician’s wives. “You’re allowed- you’re a mom!” she said. In one text I would be checking on Audrey, “Can you make sure her face doesn’t go in the bumper? We don’t have it so she’s not used to it.” My friend sarcastically replied, “Yes, I’ll make sure she doesn’t suffocate.” I smiled. In another I expressed the bittersweet emotions I felt sitting alone watching Dan living his dream. “Crying I miss Dan and the floodgates are opening- just heard from someone else he’s going to Europe again in a few weeks.” That kept happening the past year. Someone else would know before I did that you were traveling and it would just hurt so much to find out from someone else before you and I had discussed it. We were partners, but it felt like you were starting to make plans without me.
After the show, the last one I attended, there was quite a wait for the VIP pass people to get into the after-party. We were herded around Radio City for a bit, but I realized I didn’t have the right pass. I told you I’d wait in front of the party entrance downstairs. I waited. I can see you coming down the stairs, smiling at me. Because we hadn’t been out in a long time like that, it was special- like the old days. You had an all-access pass for me and we went inside. I think I just drank water and you had a beer maybe. You introduced me to the band and friends. I was so proud of you Dan. Did you know that? But what’s even more amazing is the pride that you introduced me with. Thank you for that. I wanted so badly to make you appear even better. So I did my best to be graceful and supportive.
Afterwards, we came back to my friend’s place on the Upper West Side. She was still up and had an air mattress set up for us on the living room floor with the baby monitor next to it. We were exhausted, but I think we talked for a bit while we lay there about the evening.
The next week I sent a small mass email to all of the people I knew who had prayed for you all of these years. We had been part of a few churches and you career was always the prayer request from both of us. I told them that I had watched you play at Radio City with tears in my eyes the entire time, thinking of all of the years of prayers and supplications to please let you do this. And then there you were. I thanked these people for their prayers, but also, I was just so proud- I wanted everyone to know about my husband. I don’t think I cc’d you on the email, but hopefully I told you later. I don’t recall.
I imagine tomorrow night might feel similar at first- getting ready- leaving Audrey with a friend. I will feel pride again because I’ll be the one sitting in the audience- the who you chose and loved. But I will feel sorrow- because you are gone. I will not be seeing you play tomorrow night but I’ll still be proud. I will be sad when it is over, and there are no more memorials planned for you. I will be sad when I come home to bed alone and it is late, and I am tired.
My moments of profound missing will be your memorial.
I will be