When I was about seven, I remember sitting in the kitchen watching my Dad cooking dinner. I was perched on the kitchen unit, and he was attempting to make curry, following the strict instructions left by my Caribbean ma, who was currently working a night shift at the hospital. He was listening to the Beatles and I was concentrating intently on the lyrics to all the songs. The song I particularly remember was ‘In My Life’. He said it was one of his favourite songs, and he was singing it with an odd look on his face.
It was the first verse that fascinated me.
There are places I remember,
All my life, though some have changed,
Some forever not for better,
Some have gone, and some remain,
All these places have their moments,
With lovers and friends, I still can recall,
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life, I’ve loved them all.
I think that to me, having no sense of any relationship with friends or places that had any longevity (being seven and all) the lyrics seemed incredibly sad. But my dad was singing along looking strangely happy. So I asked him about it. I remember saying that I didn’t understand why he liked the song, or why it made him happy. The man was singing about his friends being dead, and that should make you sad, not happy.
I proclaimed that I didn’t like the song, and I thought it was depressing and we shouldn’t listen to it anymore. My Dad looked very amused, which annoyed me even more, and told me that it was a lovely song, and that he thought I would like it very much when I was a bit older and understood what the words meant properly. He then asked me to taste the curry, and tell him if I thought my mum would like it. He said he couldn’t really cook before my mum had taught him, and that he had learned a lot of things from her. Then he put yellow submarine on for me, and I liked that a lot better.
The reason I was thinking about this is because I went to a funeral on Tuesday of a man in his fifties with whom I have worked for the past four years. When I started he was in charge of the entertainment, and had been for some years. He, the manager, his wife, and the owner had all started the business together a good number of years ago. He had been in lots of bands, and knew many musicians.
Obviously I had only known him in middle age in light of a working relationship, but we had got on well and I was very sad about his death. The funeral was packed. There were hundreds of people, mainly musicians who he had met in England or America, at festivals, parties, bars and anywhere else you meet wandering creative souls. It was obvious they all loved him dearly. The fascinating thing was to see the innumerable ties, connections and memories that all these people had with one man, and the overarching and beautiful relationship he had had with one woman throughout the entire time. They all knew a different part of the same person, and she had known him throughout it all.
She remained calm and dignified during the whole thing, and I could only wonder in bemused awe at what a connection like that, that lasts so many years would be like. It made me wonder, as funerals do, about my life so far, and the various and varied relationships I have had over the years. About the parts of my own character and life I have shared with different people, who will most likely never meet each other, and who I cherish deeply and always will. There are some who have died, and there are the friends who remember them, and who I rarely see any more, but who are all bound by shared memories.
There are newer friends, who don’t know the old, but mean equally as much to me. It is all these people, and the connections to them and the places you met that make up a life.
But the thing that struck me most of all was the desire to have someone who stays with you for the most part. Who can know you better than anyone else, and will love you unconditionally, and who will let you love them back. It made me both happy and sad to know that he was lucky enough to have had that on top of all the other fleeting but beautiful connections that someone makes in a life. And as indescribably sad as his partner must be, she must also feel blessed.
So thanks Dad, I do understand the words properly now, and I do like the song very much.
I’m also glad one of my many fond memories is getting so annoyed with you about it!
And to Chrissie, I’m so very sorry for your loss.