For people who have difficulty around death, it is suggested to speak to the deceased as if they were in the room.
It was around my junior year of high school. I was a precocious little turd, with a preference for doing things my own way. In fact, very little has changed, save some gray hair. I was (and continue to be) primarily a guitar player. School served to annoy me and generally get in my way.
For some strange reason my high school offered a guitar class. They even had guitars, albeit not a single left-handed one. It could have been considered training for all my years of guitar shopping. The teacher, an accomplished musician who could play a few different instruments, wasn't exactly an accomplished guitarist, so I was left on my own to learn and do a little teaching here and there.
It was at about this time that I realized I was not possessed of the patience and nerves of a good teacher. If the student did not `get it' the first time, I was in no mood to try again. In fact, I would rather have hit the student with his guitar than sit there and try to teach him. I understand that this is my problem and to this day haven't tried to teach guitar again.
So I had a lot of alone time with my guitar. There is a plaque where I used to sit, memorializing the place as the `leftystrat Honorary Hallway'.
Being the advanced little twerp that I was, I figured out how to rewire and modify guitars, using my own as test dummies. One day, this stunning vision of a blonde senior wandered into guitar class for some reason. From that moment, I was in trouble.
Historically speaking, my success with women certainly did not come from a natural understanding of them. Nor was it my smooth manner, hirsute appearance, rampant sarcasm, or any form of social grace. In fact, there is no discernible reason for any success at all with women, from the onset of puberty to the present.
I simply knew that girls looked really nice and I would love to be able to play with them. Armed with only that knowledge, I needed to figure out a way to meet this blonde guitar player.
Hey - she was a guitar player with a decent copy of a Fender Stratocaster. I too had a Fender Stratocaster. And I figured out a way to get more sounds out of it than the stock setup. Hmmm.....
I introduced myself, told her about my switching system, and about four hours later, she was at my house, watching me operate on her guitar. Later on she said it was terrifying to watch me drill into her guitar.
We became fast friends. She lived fifteen minutes away and spent a lot of time at my house. She was a frequent dinner guest and pretty much a member of the family. I taught her some songs on guitar, which became my undoing. She would sit there and try the same song over and over and over again. After she mastered it, she would continue to play it over and over and over again. This drove me up a tree.
She smoked, which drove everyone around me up a tree. The rule was that smokers had to go outside - no smoking in the house. My mother could detect one part per million of cigarette smoke. I swear she could hear a match strike from two floors away.
One day this girl leaned over and planted one on me. From that moment on, I was slain. An `older woman' was my first girlfriend. This was a huge deal in high school. The poor thing had to deal with a lot of grief because she was gorgeous and popular and I was... not. I was kind of infamous. The anti-popular. And nowhere near the top of the looks scale.
I fell hard, as one does. We spoke each other's language. We understood each other. We finished the other's sentences. Two became one (and all that rot).
Good things rarely last, which is a lesson I learned the hard way with this girl. She moved on quite a bit earlier than I did, to be polite. This was my first love and then my Introduction to Heartache.
Years passed. Women passed. Guitars amassed. Computers came onto the scene and I was an early adopter. Back in the heady days of CompUSA, I ran into her. Still heartsore, it was wonderful to see her again. We exchanged numbers, then phone calls, then hung out here and there. Her boyfriend at the time worked for NASA (yes, a real rocket scientist!). We all went to see ZZ Top for the first time. I think it was the Recycler tour.
A little later on she got married then divorced (as tends to happen). We hung out during a rough time. She was the kind of person who could (and did) disappear for years at a time and when you see her again, it all continued as if there were no gaps. We were friends from way back. It was nice to have a friend with that kind of history.
She fell off the end of the earth somehow after this.
Around this time I started to develop a reputation for Karens. One day I looked around and discovered there were a few of them. My friend was Karen#1. The woman I was living with at the time was Karen#2. Everyone thought it was pretty funny but I learned early that the Karens themselves were not nearly as amused as everyone else with their label.
I ran straight into Karen#3 one day at work. Due to a poorly heated and grounded room, there were literally sparks. We moved in together and married. She is most amused by all the Karens but is still not fond of the #3 moniker.
I'm not sure I remember how but Karen#1 and I managed to find each other. She emailed me her phone number. She had somehow run into another friend of my who sang in a band and took pictures of them. Photography was her passion. She kept asking me to check them out on Faceyspaces. I kept telling her I'd rather cut off my own arm than join Faceyspaces.
Her number sat in my cell phone for a while, reminding me to call her and continue our friendship. I don't have a ton of friends, especially of the ancient dear friend variety, so more was always better.
Time (and life) continued.
My grandparents and I were very close. I was the first grandchild so the sun rose and set out my buttocks. Fortunately I didn't realize this too early.
My grandmother, tired of mid-atlantic weather, moved to Maine. After a few years she was due to turn ninety and the family was all headed to Maine to celebrate. I had a reputation for not showing up at family events and got the requisite stern lecture from my mother: You had better go see your grandmother. She won't be here forever and you will regret it if you don't.
I was kind of agitated, as I fully intended to drive the eight hours to the hinterlands of Maine. It turned out to be a great time for all. She was very surprised to see me (yeah, my reputation was well-deserved).
My grandmother waited a few months then left us. Some said she had done all she needed to do: the party was the cherry on top of it all.
There I was, right at the end of my mother's cliche: I went and I am glad I did.
I got a weird call from my best friend tonight. He sounded hesitant. He went to look up Karen#1 and came across a memorial page. She died. No idea when, no idea of the cause. I was looking forward to introducing Karens#1 and #3.
Unlike the chance with my grandmother, I failed to take the opportunity to renew my friendship with Karen#1.
And I am the worse for it.
Hang onto those who are dear to you: they have an annoying tendency to disappear without permission.