I was in the bed asleep, in what had been my bedroom from the time I was fifteen until I was ousted from it by Miriam, the German exchange student who left cigarettes in the dresser drawer and made fun of my posters of John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. (I was 18. And had posters of John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. Instead of, say, whoever was sexy in 1988. What is wrong with me?!?)
We were back home for my brother’s wedding and I was nervous. We were broker than broke and I had to hand-knit my top and hand-crochet their wedding present. The night before I had spent large chunks of the bachelorette party dancing by myself to disco hits from the 70s at a bar where the men had been drinking since the 70s. I have this sickness which compells me to act upon my free spirit in dance bars and Karaoke lounges.
So it was an August morning and I had no money, a bad case of exhaustion and a Bob & Tom t-shirt as a “prize” for “best dancing”.
That’s all my husband said. But it seemed like enough to me. The whole world was changing too fast as it was. I didn’t know where I belonged or whom I belonged with. I was torn between my childhood home and my life in Nashville. The Grateful Dead had always been my version of adulthood, representing a freedom and an escape into music. I had used the Grateful Dead as a way to ease my way from one close-knit family into a larger one, a way to make it easier to leave home. I had found my husband through the Grateful Dead and we spent what version of a honeymoon our broke selves could afford at a Dead show.
So here I was already conflicted and then Jerry died. I felt at that exact moment that life was telling me there were no more shelters, no more bus stations. It was time to get on with things.
My soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s father was suffering from cancer, and at the wedding as he gave her away I was struck with this core knowledge that he would also be gone soon. I spent most of that wedding crying uncontrollably. Everything was change and loss and I just didn’t want to acknowledge it.
I spent that fall and the first part of the next year in a haze of broken. My husband and I separated for eight weeks while I cast about in search of something to land on. In search of my right mind. I eventually found it, and by April things were on the mend. But I came out of that time knowing that I was the grown-up now. There were no safe holes to hide in, so it was best to build my own safety.
Last night I went to a live show with my husband. The first since Warren died. And I have been struck with how much better the music is now that I bring a whole self to it. Now that I’m free to enjoy it for music’s sake and not as a life-raft I hope to sail upon.