I was just barely 21, a single mom, and full of dreams when Anthony and I first met. I needed something to pass my time alone before we met, so in the evenings when my boy was asleep, I’d make myself a drink, write and play guitar. I’d sing my own songs, and those musings of others while I sipped on Bacardi and Coke.
Trust me, I’m not that good at it, but I love the sound of the strings and the flow of words. I took pride in my calloused fingers and steel tinted skin. My little hobby brought me to life in my loneliest moments.
I sang for Peter the first time about four months into our relationship. I never felt so vulnerable and exposed. I remember the look on his face, and the twinkle in his eyes. He used to love listening to me pluck away pointlessly; I never did improve much in playing, but he was my biggest fan. He encouraged me to continue playing and I even performed at small coffee houses on folk or open mike nights. He was there to support me.
Then over the years as we travelled more and had our daughter, I slowly quit playing. Barcardi and music gave way to Netflix, and breast feeding. My guitar became my son’s favourite past time, and man, he had a talent for playing that I, to this day, could only dream of acquiring; so I gave the guitar to him.
When we separated, and the love of my life left to live in his vehicle, I was desperate for something to bring me to life again. Something to break up my obsessive worry about how ill he was and how to get him help. I needed something for me, that I could do at home and that wouldn’t cost a lot of extra money. Something to break up the tears.
I bought a guitar and a mutual friend of ours hooked me up with an instructor who, conveniently would come to the house to give me lessons for cheap. I played, and practiced and loved the sound of the twang coming from the strings beneath my fingers. I began to sing again, and for brief moments, I wasn’t consumed by mental illness, grief, thoughts about how to get the psychiatrists to listen, over my ending marriage, his possibly dying by suicide, carelessness or murder, and the anger I was feeling about being left. I was no longer being eaten by the shame I felt when my co-workers and old acquaintances started asking about what was wrong with my husband(I was never ashamed of him, I was ashamed at the time because I felt I hadn’t done enough and was responsible for his well-being).
For a brief time each evening I began to feel free.
For a brief time each evening I could express my feelings and not care about being judged. This was for me.
I continued to play through our moving, between calls to the hospital, between the police and fire department calls to me, between hurtful conversations, with family in and out and running the kids around to their programs. At night alone, the kids asleep, when the pain was the worst I’d play and sing and be free and feel hope.
Then I got the call. May 16, 2016 at 5:02pm.
The music stopped that day.
I hadn’t even realized I quit playing again. The black leather guitar case became a shadowed decoration in my room; sitting in the corner by the door collecting dust. Nights playing and writing were replaced by tears and grief.
Last Saturday evening, I sat alone in my room restless and wrestling with my guilt. I sat at the end of my bed head in my hands just missing him. In my blurred peripheral, I caught the black shadow in the corner, and lifted my head.
The skin of the case was cracking and now blanketed with a layer of dust. I wiped the case down with a damp cloth, carried the case to my bed, took out the wooden instrument and held it for a while.
I swear I could hear him “sing Ker, play for me”. I could almost see him as clear as I did that first time I played for him.
I loved his eyes and lips. He had dimples on the sides of his mouth when he smiled. His green eyes were bright and filled with life when he was happy. Damn I loved that man.
I dug deep. I felt the pain, hurt and guilt well in my chest and I sang for the first time in 11 months. I pictured him there with me, peering up from his book, his eyes welling with happiness. And underneath the release of all that pain, hurt and guilt, there was a well of love, peace and life.
I dug deep, and I felt a little more alive that day. Maybe he was trying to show me this. That each day if I dig deep and “sing”(metaphorically)I can peel back the layers of the grief I feel from his being gone I can see in some way he’s still with me, helping me to remember we were once happy, and in love. Our relationship in someway still exists, it’s just evolving into something different. . .
Tell me about your digging deep? What does that mean and look like for you? Together we can dig deep and ‘sing’ and move through this difficult time.