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Happy Birthday

December 19, 2008
“Anybody here seen my old friend Andy?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed lotta people but it seems the good they die young
You know I just looked around and he’s gone”

As I write this it has been eleven years to the hour since I found out he died. My first thought when I heard that he had committed suicide was “I wonder when we can go visit him in the hospital.” Then I saw Amy Baum in front of me. Did she throw up? Or just scream and then cry?’Wait, Andy’s dead?’

Some of you screamed. I saw most of you cry. Plus there were the zombies like me who were in such deep shock that the only thing they could think was, “I have to get out of here.” Did any of you think the future could stretch on eleven years past that moment?

That moment…

That day…

That week…

I felt the time stretch on forever.

Like fingernails on a chalkboard. Like a serrated knife across flesh. I felt it slowly grind across my body as it squeezed all of the lucid thoughts from my mind, all of the tears from my eyes and many of the hopes from my heart.

Looking back on that moment I have a hard time not thinking of many of the clichés about tragedy that have been made famous – even popular by our culture. The way people talk about how they will never forget where they were when Kennedy got shot. Or how, as a country, we all experienced 9/11 together.

There are songs about lost hope and extinguished greatness like “American Pie” and “Abraham, Martin and John” that come to my mind when I think of that long, aching moment.

And that was my moment. Maybe it’s egotistical, but for me, December 19, 1997, is the day the music died. Like those who will never forget about Kennedy, “I will never forget where I was when I found out Andy was dead.”

I don’t frequently think of these clichés, but when I do – surprisingly – they rock me. Even now, as I sit at my desk, typing this rather innocuous blog, I am fighting back swell after swell of tears.

“As the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died…”

Maybe I should have called in sick today. But I didn’t think that it would be this hard. It has been 11 years after all. But this time the anniversary is a Friday – just like that first moment.

Also, and I may be the only one who finds this significant, but a Jim Carrey movie was released today. Does anyone else remember him being Ace Ventura for Halloween one year? It was pretty perfect. Man He was funny.

“Oh, and while the King was looking down
The Jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned”

Anyway, this will be my catharsis. I thought that if I bleed it all out in the blog I might be able to concentrate on the rest of my day. Sometimes I think I could write a whole book about that day – or maybe a movie.

There would be the initial scenes setting up my day in the usual way. A bunch of pretty mundane stuff for a teenager. Of course I would have to make that stuff up because I barely remember anything that happened that day before the announcement.

I remember wondering where Sky was as I walked into Concert Choir (strangely on time.)

I remember going momentarily deaf after the announcement and wanting to run. But I had to stay because I was going to have to tell my sister when she came back to school. That could easily make for a frightening movie montage. Walking through Central’s halls seeing all the pain everyone was going through, but with no sound to associate with it.

Afer telling Tonya and leaving her with friends, I tried to go to class. I tried to carry on. But Mattie Hower tracked me down because Tonya needed to go home so, I took her.

I remember that a lot of people ended up at our house and I felt strangled by all the bodies in the room. Plus, I still hadn’t seen Sky, and he was the only one I wanted to talk to about it. I guess I thought he could offer me some relief. Or maybe I thought I could offer him some.

“Didn’t you love the things that he stood for?
Didn’t he try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
Some day soon, it’s gonna be one day”

But I couldn’t get any relief and I wasn’t really grieving, so I went to work like I was supposed to. And I didn’t cry. Not really. Not the way Tonya had cried – the way Julie, Dee and all of the people I love had cried. Even my mom had cried more than I had.

I didn’t really cry until the viewing. When I saw, touched, his cold body my brain finally processed the idea that he was dead.

“While the Sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh but we never got the chance”

It’s strange sometimes being in this future without him. While we were in school we were all constantly speculating and dreaming about the futures we would have and how those futures might mimic, echo or intersect with one another. And every now and then I have a moment like today that upsets me and I know it has something to do with Andy, but I don’t know what.

Are these upsetting reminders because I still haven’t recovered? Or do I need some kind of explanation for it all? Maybe they are the moments in my life that are suffering a void because he isn’t here – the moments when his life might have intersected with mine.

Maybe my soul has me missing him today because if he had been alive I would have been celebrating his birthday. But, maybe I just miss him.

“Anybody here seen my old friend Andy?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed lotta people but it seems the good they die young
You know I just looked around and he’s gone”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jerrod permalink
    July 26, 2010 2:21 pm

    Wow. That was such a terrible day for so many people. I never had to deal with such a loss during that age so I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. I never got to see this blog until just now. It’s very powerful. If you were looking to convey as much as possible how you felt, you get an A+. I think you brought me as close as possible to how one could feel in those circumstances. Even though this is an old blog and I’ve probably expressed this to you before but I am so terribly sorry for the loss you had. Whew, this just put me in a funky mood. Great blog Crystal, seriously.


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