It was the first spring we were in our new house mom and John came to visit. I had some time off from work and it was only May, but the weather forecast was like summer, with everything in bloom, in Seattle. For reasons I didn’t understand and didn’t press him on, John was doing this thing where he pretended he was disabled so as to get special treatment by the airlines, and mom gave me a head’s up so I wouldn’t act startled when they wheeled him out at the airport, I went along with it.
There’s times you hear a song and it feels just perfect, like it was made for you in that moment, or maybe like it’s the film adaptation of your life and that’s the soundtrack, except you don’t have to pay the licensing fees.
It was like that with the Rolling Stones song, “Time is On My Side”: the sun was out, I was off from work with mom and John visiting, and that first night we stayed up until after 3 AM (mom had to take a pill to get to sleep, she was so wound up).
It was the days I’d throw the empty wine bottles in the front yard when we finished one and do so in an exaggerated, Roman fashion (and never once broke anything).
We’d get John from the wheelchair to the car, back home and settled in; he’d put on an African robe and get out the guitar, we’d pop some wine and that was it.
I don’t remember much more about that visit except John only made it back one more time for our wedding, and then his health started to go downhill.
We flew over for Christmas when they bought their house in Germany, and that was the visit John and I got in a fight over me insisting they buy a house near us, so we could see them more: but he turned on me in a way he never had before and I dug in, and asked everyone to leave the house (it was Christmas eve), including Dawn’s parents who were also visiting, and it tore something in our relationship that night—then later, as we assembled for the candlelight service John fell down the medieval stone steps out front and knocked into my mom (he was a big man), and we speculated what could have happened, had it been Dawn (six months pregnant with Lily), and the next day I sat brooding on the third floor of their house, feeling trapped: I even said to mom, I wish she was with someone else, someone like Eberhard.
And then John died a couple years later, and one Christmas Eberhard was visiting my mom and kissed her as he always did when he left, but this time on the lips—and then 20 minutes later called, asking if he could come back. And I thought it was all too strange to be true, but I’ve come to learn that about life.
That first visit when they came, our neighbors would come over to party with us outside, to listen to John play and drink: and one night, Curry convinced John to let them record him in their basement studio; a few months later they gave me the CD but I still haven’t played it, all these years now.
John said he was embarrassed by it, probably had too much to drink he said, but even when he had, he was so much better than most people you ever heard play the guitar. We’d wake to him playing in the morning or whistling throughout the house in his calf-high socks and African robe, his long gray hair and beard, and it’s true when you hear those songs that seem so special, like they’re saying something to you they probably are, to recognize it then, when time’s on your side.