On Saturdays we only play reggae. I set the iPod by genre, select All, and it starts with Augustus Pablo, 1 of 275 songs, and ends with Serge Gainsbourg. It takes all day. When Laurent and his family were here we were drunk by the time the Gainsbourg came on and in the morning switched over to jazz with Chet Baker, followed by Stevie Wonder when we started eating and drinking again.
I realized that night with Laurent that each of us has a piece of jewelry from my stepdad John: Laurent one of his Rolex watches, Benny a turquoise ring, Eberhard, mom and I the signet rings with John’s family crest, two sea serpents on a coronet and a Wyvern. The Wyvern has a dragon’s head and wings, the body of a reptile, and probably comes from John’s Welsh side with all the consonants.
Laurent was the last one with him in the hospital when John died that Halloween, and Eberhard called mom in the morning to tell her. When they went to see him, mom said Eberhard cried and kissed John and held him, and still goes to his grave, says a few words, drinks a whiskey and pats the headstone. He did the same with his friend before we left the Austrian Alps last August, the one he said suicided himself.
Mom is setting up the Raclette grills for our last Saturday night and Benny is coming; hopefully we can use some of the cheese Laurent brought around Easter, which we let sit in the laundry room too long unrefrigerated. Sometimes I have to remind us the reason that we’re here and all know one another is John, which is strange, how one person can have so much influence. My mom, recently divorced, was just standing in front of him in the checkout line in a grocery store in Pennsylvania and they made eye contact and smiled, and when John paid with a personal check and the cashier asked for his phone number, he looked at my mom while saying the numbers, she memorized them and called when she got home, and said call me if you want to go out some time.
Dawn’s dad and John died in the same year the U.S. economy collapsed, and we had just sold our house, looking to move up a size with Charlotte recently born and too many toys and diapers and not enough room, and Starbucks announced it would be laying people off, so we decided to take a sabbatical, to live with Dawn’s mom for a bit and my mom in Germany, and it was the death of our dads that shaped the rest of our years to a large extent, it made me rethink my life and how I wanted to live the rest of it.
And though the soul searching doesn’t always turn up the results you’d expect, it’s good to keep looking, it makes us richer to believe in things we can’t see, like souls: the dreams and hopes give us more to live for, and I think that can be even more important than seeing them come true.
I had the hardest time when I started this blog with the About page, where you’re expected to say what you’re doing, because I didn’t really know, I felt confronted by it. I guess I realized the more I did it that it’s just about me — the fact I want to publish a book some day or finish writing my memoir — and if I never do perhaps I have already, right here.
The kids are on the top floor packing, organizing their clothes in three piles called ‘Pack,’ ‘Donate’ and ‘Maybe.’ Their laptops and iPad all stopped working and now that they have no video streaming content, they’ve reverted to mom’s CD player and her Billy Joel collections, Shawn Colvin, James Taylor.
Mom, Dawn and I listened to the song “Vienna Waits for You,” let the lyrics work over us and nodded, mom tearing up, trying to understand the words and what they meant to us, probably will more in the future when we look back and remember that night.
I can hear the influence of the reggae in the Police song “Walking on the Moon,” and will never hear it the same now that it was playing on the boat as we were leaving Amsterdam for Newcastle in October, and starting our 90 days there in the UK. It felt like we were on one of those conveyor belt things at the airport that makes you move faster, and it feels that same way again: “Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon.”