I can say, definitively, that this will be the last installment in this series. I'm writing it for me. Entirely for me. I'm working through some things in my life, and I need this to spill out. It covers some beautiful times, including the last day in my life that I've been truly happy without qualification, April 23, 2008. It also covers the last aspects of "happy" in this story, as effed up and dysfunctional as most of this story has been. Nothing, and I mean nothing, good happens after the point where this piece ends, no matter how much I reached for the good or fought against the bad, and I'm just done with the bad and don't care a helluva lot about the good anymore. I'm very tired.
By Thursday we were both running on fumes. The adrenaline rush of the previous few days had bested us. It was a day of laundry and lounging before I had to leave on Friday morning for a three day tour run. We spent a lot of time sitting and talking (about happier things and life in general - not about CA). We made dinner that night - I made meat balls and pan-roasted garlic green beans and she made a pasta dish - then we drove to the mountainside once again to watch the sunset. Upon returning home, we retired fairly early following considerable amounts of the usual cuddling and kisses before I settled beside her bed to stroke her face and hair until she fell asleep.
I was up early on Friday. I had to get all my stuff together and leave to head to the office and catch the bus by about 10AM. A three day run was fairly unusual, but the extra time at home, with no recording sessions anywhere, had been wonderful. Next week would be busier, with five shows, but at least I'd be able to drive her to one and take her on the bus to a couple of others, and I'd made sure to book absolutely no recording sessions during her visit. Time spent with her was far more valuable than what any recording session could pay.
As I prepared to leave, she sat on the perch of the door of my SUV almost willing me to stay a few minutes longer. She owned me with those eyes. She was amazingly beautiful. Needless to say, I left a few minutes later than I'd planned.
Our Friday show was at Reynolds Auditorium in Winston-Salem, NC (which is why I could leave home on Friday morning rather than sometime Wednesday or Thursday - a fortunate turn of events). Saturday was at the Mabee Center arena in Tulsa, OK, so the Friday promoter gave us an earlier spot in the line-up (which was fine with us - headlining shows in ANY genre sucks, especially in Christian music), we struck the stage of our gear quickly during a short intermission, and were headed toward Tulsa by about 9PM. Sunday night we played a church in the Nashville area, so we were back at the office by about 8AM Monday morning, which put me home around 10AM. As I said, a short three day run, but lots of miles covered. I was also able to spend a little more time with my brother and his brood on Sunday as the show was close enough to his home for them to come. But...I missed her the whole time.
We were on the phone a lot that weekend. A LOT. She sent me a multitude of texts and selfies, and I loved every single one. Showed off more than a few to my musician buddies in Winston and Tulsa, too. The general consensus was that she was achingly gorgeous...and she was.
I came home on Monday morning to hugs and kisses. It was the perfect way to do it.
Monday was the day I would take her shopping. My girl was gonna own a dress, so I took her into town early that afternoon. She tried on quite a few, and I waited patiently, enjoying the process. I'd hoped she'd find both something "dressy" and something casual, but she wasn't satisfied with the dressier things she tried on - despite me seeing her as looking stunning. She did, however, find two sun dresses that she really loved, and which looked amazing on her. We ended up with those two dresses and some shoes she really liked to go with them. She was bubbly and happy, and this made me happy. From there, we went to eat at a Japanese place, and then home.
Once arriving home, the weekend had caught up to me, I suppose, and as she was busy showing off her new dresses to my family, I stretched out on the sofa, the comfort of the moment overcame me, and I drifted off into a nap of about two hours. According to my family, she eventually sat against the sofa just below me and wouldn't leave until I awakened. We once again found the mountainside to watch the sunset, then spent a quiet evening at home in the company of family and some close friends before the usual bedtime cuddles, kisses, and stroking of her face and hair.
On Tuesday night, I had to play a show in Gatlinburg, TN. Rather than catch the tour bus, I drove the four hour trip so I could take her with me. It was a beautiful drive over the Blue Ridge, through the I-40 gorge, and eventually into the Smoky Mountains. Everything was blooming. Flowers everywhere, and the leaves in the mountains still in their early, key-lime green phase. She was overcome by it. According to her, NorCal is green for about a month before everything turns brown. The lush landscape she was now seeing had her transfixed and in awe. She had to call one of her sisters to describe it. She was just SO happy in that moment. The soundtrack for our trip was the new solo album of my all-time favorite musician, Steve Lukather, called "Ever Changing Times". She loved it. So did I. I haven't listen to that record since that day, and it'd probably be healthier for me to find it and throw it out, truth be told. I've purged a great deal. I should probably add that one to the list.
We left Gatlinburg around 11PMish. I encouraged her to rest on the trip home, holding and gently rubbing her hand the whole way. She'd get occasional cat-naps before I'd feel her staring at me, to which I'd swing my eyes to meet hers and she'd smile this beautiful smile that made me weak and strong at the same time, followed by me again encouraging her to get some sleep if she could. We got home around 3AM, and I tucked her in my bed, stroked her hair and face for a bit, then found my way to the sofa and contentedly died to the world.
I awoke at about 8AM to discover something that became a theme for the remainder of her stay, and something that now hurts to type even all these years removed...
She had brought her pillow, laid it on the floor next to the sofa where I was sleeping, and had fallen asleep with her arm reaching up to clasp my arm with her hand. I just laid there and soaked her in for probably two entire hours until she awakened. Once awake, and meeting my eyes with a loving smile, I asked her why she didn't stay in the bed where she could be comfortable. She answered, "I couldn't be comfortable without touching you. I couldn't sleep without touching you." This made me cry. Human touch, especially emotionally intimate human touch, is the most powerful force in the universe to my reckoning. Always has been. It's a means of connection and communication beyond the power of a million words. Had our relationship been sexual at that point, I can only imagine the power, the raw level of intimate discourse.
The earlier parts of that day were spent with me preparing to leave for the tour bus the next morning, but by early afternoon, she was my complete field of vision. We spent hours that day slow dancing to old standards by Sinatra and Martin, snuggling, cuddling, sometimes being goofy, all guards down, sitting across from each other in the floor, her with contented sighs, me telling her I was gonna kiss her every time I heard a sigh - followed by a quick sigh. I'd hold her arm up, explore the length of it with touch until I'd reached her fingertips, seeing the goose-pimples run their course on it, seeing the love in her eyes. A thousand years worth of conversations and we weren't voicing anything. No human has ever been so beautiful to me, so loved by me, as she was that night. I was consumed. She was, too. Each touch was charged with enormous power and gentle affirmation. Bliss.
That was April 23rd, 2008.
That's all I'm gonna write.