I’ve been listening to David Garrett’s feisty, impassioned interpretation of Isaac Albéniz’s Asturias on and off for about the past two hours.
Mostly, this was because it suited a scene I was writing.
Part of it was simply because I really like it. And sometimes I give in and let myself drown in a piece of music for a while. Not that often, and certainly less often than I should. (It’s one of the few vices I’ve ever really allowed myself, and even then… I don’t play anything anymore, even though I miss being a musician almost every day of my life to the point where it palpably hurts. But that is another story entirely.)
But partly… partly it was because of memories.
And memories are hard for me these days.
The memories here, specifically, are warm, fuzzy, good memories. Sitting in my dad’s study while he was in grad school, listening to him practice classical guitar. Canarios. The Harmonious Blacksmith. Asturias. He would learn to play them again later, after years of career and strife, but in those days, my young father would sit with me in his study and play, and in my mind, at least, all was warm and loving and good, in the way things usually are to three- and four- and five-year-olds (not perfect – I remember other things too – but still good). I would read or draw pictures with his stencils, and he would play. And we would talk, and listen to John Denver. He spent long hours with me – my mom worked nights – and we were best buddies.
I have loved classical guitar ever since.
I don’t play guitar very well – my parents decided I would play the piano (a joke, with my small hands) – but in my head, I know every note of those songs.
Later it would be my brother who played the guitar, who knew the feel of those songs in his hands, but they are forever in my head. In my soul.
And so when I bought Garrett’s Rock Symphonies, Asturias was a surprise. It wasn’t so much that it sounded like my father playing – it doesn’t. My father’s Asturias is more like John Williams, and this version is like what John Williams would probably sound like if you set him on fire and gave him a violin. (Note: Please do not set John Williams on fire. He is just fine the way he is.) But the memories are there anyway, in every note.
My son is just now at the age where I spent a great deal of time with my dad, and I think we have a very similar relationship, in the best sense. We spend a lot of time together, and explore the world together, and I really deeply enjoy the person he is. When I was his age, I felt like my dad really enjoyed who I was too, constantly amazed or amused by some little thing I’d done. At least, that’s how he made me feel.
And so the fact that I’m able to pass on that part of my childhood is all for the good.
The hard part is this – estrangement does more than solidify the future; it also paints parts of the past you’d never anticipate.
I haven’t spoken to my parents in four years now. The details aren’t important, other than to say the last words I heard from my father were to never to contact him again, and I have rebuffed any of my parents’ efforts to contact me, as there were implicit conditions on the continuation of our relationship that were (and are) untenable. And so I had to bite my lip and let it go.
Mostly, it’s been for the better.
But there are moments where it hurts almost unbearably. We don’t live in Munich proper, but out in a suburb next to farms and fields, and so sometimes, particularly if Torsten and I are walking at night, the stars are absolutely brilliant, and we talk about them. And tell stories. My father and I used to lie out on the lawn in Salt Lake and do the same things, and every time Torsten and I do this, I can’t help but remember. And just being with Torsten makes me remember all sorts of things that were cherished parts of my childhood – late-night walks to the 7-11 for Rocky Road Ice Cream bars, making paper-tube marble tracks in the basement, watching sing-along shows (does anyone else remember Tony Salatan?), and listening to my dad play guitar. (N.B. It isn’t that I don’t remember or didn’t love my mom; she worked a lot, though, as I recall, or maybe she just didn’t play as actively with me. I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter. My dad had an enormous impact on me though, and as a young child, it made me feel loved and safe and good.)
The problem with an estrangement, though, is that you find yourself wondering if you even have the right to remember those things fondly. If a decision you’ve made (or that was made for you; it’s a point that can be argued, although I unequivocally and irrevocably set the ball in motion) causes others pain, do you really have a right to remember the good times and smile? Is it even possible to?
Intellectually, I don’t feel guilty about it – sad, certainly, especially when my son asks me about my mama and papa, but it was a long time in coming for many reasons. I feel bad for everybody involved, but it is possible to feel bad about something and also understand it has to be that way. But it’s important to remember that my parents aren’t the people they were at 25 anymore than I am the person I was at 18. Maybe I can still celebrate and miss my young parents without feeling like that means I have to regret my decisions now. (I don’t, for the record, but nothing really prepares you for this situation in life.)
At some point, I am going to have to come to terms with the ambiguity. Life is not black and white, and people aren’t either. I feel fortunate to at least have that piece of reality down. And I am going to have to be able to rejoice in the good parts (the stars, Asturias) and try very hard not to pass on the bad ones, even if one hurts and the other is hard. My son deserves both, and maybe so do I.
Whew. That didn’t quite go where I intended it to, though some of it has been rolling around in my head for a while.
Time to listen to the rest of the album and get back to happy fun novel writing.
Mr. Garrett, please send warning if you do Canarios.