Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Take You With Me

Three things I learned last night:

  1. Forget CNN, forget MSNBC.  Facebook has become my primary news source.  I have no idea what this says about me.
  2. The last few times I've gone out to eat on a Saturday night, an icon has died.  I should probably learn to cook and stop killing famous people. 
  3. I'm officially of a certain age--and by that I mean that I'm old enough to reasonably expect that the icons of my childhood will start dropping like flies.  This sentiment sucks on so many levels.
Clearly, I'm referencing the death of Whitney Houston. I'm acutely aware that the cyberworld is already saturated with tributes, that some people are already experiencing celebrity death coverage exhaustion, and that I can add nothing particularly new or interesting to the conversation.  I really wanted to stay away from this topic, but the thing is.....I can't.  I reallyreallyreally can't.

I didn't know Whitney Houston.   She wasn't my idol.  She didn't change my life.  Her passing doesn't change my life one iota and I'm not dealing with some profound sense of loss.  I didn't know the woman.  I do, however, think her death is premature and profoundly sad and that the world lost a truly remarkable talent.  

For what it's worth, I also think that addiction is a debilitating disease--one that does not discriminate based on age, or wealth, or talent.  I think it's tremendously sad that when a person who struggled with addiction dies, the court of public opinion weighs in with a verdict that somehow indicates an addict's death is somehow less of a loss than the death of someone else.  I think that the judgmental refrain of "they did this to themselves" is harsh and unfair for three reasons:  
  1.  It's still a loss of a human life, and I'd like to believe that's somehow sacred.
  2. The one thing we all have in common is that we're all going to die, and chances are we're all going to be either partially or wholly responsible for our own demise.  It may not be from drugs or alcohol.  It may be from eating too much fast food or not enough vegetables, from not exercising, from driving too fast or without a seatbelt or from texting while driving, from a broken heart or not paying enough attention at a completely unfortunate moment.   A design flaw of the human condition is that we're all, in some way, killing ourselves- deliberately or not.
  3. Addiction is a peerless opponent.  As a general rule, we do a good job rallying around others who are affected by other tragedies--like cancer, or accidents, or fires.  In those cases, we do a good job of being for each other.  We open the door and lay out the welcome mat.  When the tragedy is addiction, there's a chorus of judgment, of mean-spirited jokes- many of us turn our backs and slam the door at the exact moment when someone most needs support.  
For better or worse, I'm of the strong opinion that one of the greatest riches in life are those people on which you can rely when the rest of the world slams the door and walks out-- those people who realize that you need love most when you are most unlovable.  It's the people that say "I'll take you with me" when you are unable to take one more step on your own who are the greatest gifts.

This is all a very circuitous way of making my next point.  I do, after all, have a knack for making a short story long and a long story longer.

Whitney Houston wasn't part of my life, but she certainly provided a significant part of its soundtrack.  I'm in no way noteworthy in this regard--if Facebook posts provide any indication, she was part of the soundtrack of many women my age.  I've seen dozens of posts about middle school talent show routines to "How Will I Know" and "So Emotional" and "Greatest Love of All".  I've seen dozens of posts about  how "It's Not Right, But It's Okay" and "I'm Every Woman" as a rally cry in times of heartbreak.  And don't even get me started on "I Will Always Love You."

It's no small accomplishment to play a role in rites of passage- by the millions.  Whitney did.  And that's amazing.  Songs can evoke the most meaningful memories, and her songs can and do.  And that's amazing, too.

Whitney most often sung about love- about love done right, and about love done wrong.  With that in mind, it's kind of funny to me to realize that when I think about her music, I do think about love, but it's not about the love of any boy.  I think about the love that I've shared for many years with two girls that are dear friends, "C" and "MK."  

Go figure.

Certainly, the boys of yesteryear factor into that thought process too, but the boys most definitely were on the side.  I hear "So Emotional", and I think of the 15, and 17, and 19 year old versions of ourselves sticking up for each other when those boys would drive us crazy.  I think of the times that we showed up for each other, in sweatpants, with ice cream (or vodka) and chick flicks and nail polish and picked each other up when the boys disappointed.   I think of drunken renditions of "It's Not Right, But It's Okay", with a variety of jackasses in the background, but with the power of female friendship and girl power in the foreground.

And I think of one particular cassette tape that contains a-way-out-of-tune rendition of "The Greatest Love of All" sung by two 15 year olds in a karaoke booth at Dorney Park.  We bastardized that song in ways that are completely wrong--but it's an amazing moment captured in time of two lifelong friends, before life threw more than a few punches and left its battle scars.  It's priceless.  

The best part, ironically enough, came out the end of the tape- after the song was sung (if you could even call it that).  It's a conversation of two young girls, captured before the recording stopped.

C:  It's weird, I couldn't hear myself sing at all.
N:  Hmmm...weird.  I could hear you just fine, but I couldn't hear myself at all.
C:  Weird
N:  It's because we can hear each other better than we can hear ourselves.

We still do.  Friendships like that are beyond priceless.  You two have always said "I Take You With Me."  You have always heard me better than I've heard myself.  I doubt that I've properly thanked you before now.

Rest in peace, Whitney and thanks for the memories,

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is ditto! Regardless of where we are in life's journey...I will always take you with me!