I thought I was going to let this slip by unwritten this year. I thought this would be the year I’d let it pass unmentioned and unblogged, even though I was still planning on listening to the CD and thinking about him. I thought that in the wake of personal losses of family and friends with whom I am–no disrespect intended–much closer than I ever was to him, combined with local, globally televised events that are still unfolding…maybe this year, I’d let it slide. I thought “maybe with all that, it’s wrong to write about Paul again this year…” But no. As I’m sitting here, looking over the haul from the family Christmas gathering, I realize that it would have been wrong NOT to. Especially since I can’t find the Potter’s House CD I meant to listen to before bed… So…
I can’t remember how long you’ve been gone. How many Christmas Eves ago is it now since you left us? I started these posts in 2007 and at THAT time, I said it must’ve been 5-6 years. God, how have you been dead that long? I still see you smile every time I plug a bass into a Peavey amp. I still hear you playing harmonica while I’m noodling on a blues-scale. I still hear you encouraging me to keep playing and telling me you wished you could play some of the stuff I could play. (False modesty never suited you, by the way…) And I still remember the last time I saw you. That I didn’t know you were already sick. That I didn’t know you were giving me your phone number because you were getting things in order. That I didn’t know your family would spend that next Christmas with an empty chair at the table. That I would regret not CALLING that number for the rest of my life.
I still miss you, Paul. I don’t know why you took me under your wing in the way you did. I sometimes wonder if I made too much of it in my mind…but I know you prayed for me. That you asked me how the things you prayed about were going the next time you saw me. That you didn’t need reminding of what those things were. And I miss you. And it’s still not fair that you had to die so close to Christmas…or so young…or that it’s very likely that I have clearer memories of you than some of your younger siblings that I’ve had the fortune to befriend, since. And it’s still not fair that non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma exists, or that it doesn’t show mercy for having a kind heart.
I heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” tonight, Paul…and when it got to the line “through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow” I got a little bit sad. I thought of you, and I thought of my cousin Patrick, and my friend Becca, and Barb, and Dorothy–who we lost last year, and my grandparents–years before that, and so on and so on… Too many empty chairs at too many tables. But then I realized that line is well written, but it is also entirely misled. We all WILL be together. Sure, on the other side…but I don’t mean just that. I carry you with me every day. I see you and I hear you any time there’s only four strings on the thing I’m playing. There comes a moment every time I play the bass that I wonder how it would’ve sounded with your tone… The “if the fates allow” bit is a meaningless phrase…because we ARE together. And as much as I miss you, I’m so glad to see you when you show up.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Paul.
…and that goes for the rest of you, too.