I will never meet my father-in-law. Ricky died of a drug overdose in 1995. 13 years before I would meet his son. The man who became my husband. But Ricky's February 14th birth is the reason Rashan and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day in February. I love all holidays. Real and imaginary. But it's the one day of the year that most reminds him of his father. I tried to force it for a couple of years until Rashan blogged about it. I felt awful. So last year we moved the day. And for the first time in years, Rashan was fine on Valentine's Day.
But this year... this year Whitney Houston died. After years of a very public battle with drugs. We both get this very stricken look when people die after struggling with addiction. I'm pained in part because I know it pains him. But also because the last two very public deaths hit me so hard in my limited musical adoration. I used to consider myself a person who loved music until I met people who REALLY loved music-- namely Rashan and my BFF Stace. Those two can wax poetically about music and producers and influence until long after my eyes glaze (which admittedly usually happens in the first 5 minutes). I never know anyone they're talking about it and really don't care. I can sit in complete silence for hours and feel perfectly fine. Happy even. They both need music to fill that void.
There are some notable exceptions. 112, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston & Amy Winehouse. I listen to all of those artists as my fall backs. When I'm getting ready to go out, riding in the car, relaxing, whatever. One of those 4 is likely to be in the rotation. When Amy died, I was utterly stunned. And once again disgusted by how blithely people dismissed her and her addiction. EVERYONE has the capacity for overcoming those drugs just as they can succumb, though the former is maddeningly more difficult than the latter. I never give up hope that people will find and fight their way from addiction's grip.
I rarely talk about my aunt and uncle, drug addicted for decades, who continue to hang on. Yes. Decades. Rashan said before I told him about them, he didn't know people could live that long on addiction. And even without many of the health problems that plague the rest of their siblings. We didn't think about Whitney. I don't talk about my aunt and uncle because most of the time I try not to think about them. The fact that they've thrown their lives away behind addiction. That they have children who cannot or will not talk to them. That they have grandchildren who at this rate will never know them even though they are still technically alive. Stranger still is the fact that we know where they are. Living in squalor in the house where they grew up. When Rashan and I went to Rowland, we drove past the house that I hadn't seen in well over a decade and didn't even recognize. My dad told me to stop by and say hello. I couldn't. I was scared of what I would find and who I would find. My aunt comes around every few years but I haven't seen my uncle in over a decade. I also couldn't see them because Rashan couldn't see them. Couldn't see another reminder of drug abuse. And I certainly couldn't face them alone.
At Amy's death, I fell back on my mom's favorite words for these types of situations, "What a waste." WHAT A WASTE!!! That beautiful, BEAUTIFUL voice forever silenced. I tried to begin the healing by playing Back to Black. Hands down one of my favorite albums. I listened and sang along to every track. I even threw a little Frank in there. But I had to stop because it was making Rashan sad. It made me sad to end the tribute. But I can't imagine his pain so I do my best not to exacerbate it.
My heart filled with dread yesterday as I read reputable news outlets confirming Whitney's death. Why???? Such a waste! I thought of Bobby and Bobbi and Cissy. Now another father, daughter and mother have to experience the pain of that loss. The pain of what could have been and what never will be. Now that Rashan's asleep, I can't stop crying. For them, for her, for Rashan, for me, for our children. It hit me again, just like it does almost every time I think of addiction or Ricky, that our children will never know their grandfather. Rashan said, with the saddest look on his face, "Why today? Why did she have to die two days before...?" He didn't have to finish. It was already on my mind.
Ricky was also there on our wedding day. Rashan said Ricky didn't cross his mind. But he crossed mine. My dad was there and it made me a little sad that Rashan's dad wasn't. I wasn't consumed with it. But I took a moment to think about him and hope he was at peace. And hope that Rashan was okay knowing Ricky wouldn't be there. I was sad all over again that I'll never meet him. Never know him beyond stories. Even what Rashan knew of him is limited because of how early the addiction began. Ricky was a sporadic at best part of their lives by the time Rashan turned 9.
With Whitney's death, I had an immediate urge to listen to her greatest hits. My mom, sister and I used to sing along with the "Waiting to Exhale" soundtrack like it was the last album on earth. We loved that thing! Remember when soundtrack releases could be more exciting than the movies? Whitney's cd of the national anthem and "America the Beautiful" were also in heavy rotation. We could listen to them over and over again. Those songs were forever transformed for me. I thought of her renditions while watching the Super Bowl last Sunday. For me with those songs, NO ONE matches Whitney! And I'd just been listening to the soundtrack of "The Preacher's Wife" thinking, "I need to watch that movie again!" I also loved Maya Rudolph's Whitney impression. Loved it! So as silly as it is, I mourned the loss of any joy in that for a while. When I saw Maya will be hosting SNL next week, the loss of Whitney hurt again.
The pall was heavy in our house with thoughts of lives ended so soon
because of drugs. I was cooking dinner. Rashan was watching tv. But both of us
had these dark thoughts that remained mostly unexpressed. I didn't want to add to those things weighing him down. This time with all of the memories of Whitney-filled times and songs playing on a loop in my head, I showed restraint. I didn't listen to a single Whitney song. I didn't watch endless (annoying) speculation and chatter on news channels. I even stayed away from twitter and facebook because the group grief was just too much. But now I need an outlet. I need Whitney's music. I need to remember her as the vibrant, talented woman, filled with promise who provided so many songs on the soundtrack of our lives. I DON'T WANT THIS. I don't want these feelings of hurt, sorrow, grief and loss. I don't want this fist of feelings wrapped around my heart. And the fact that it will all resurface with the next light extinguished after a battle with drugs is almost too much. But this is our life. For better or for worse. These next few days may be difficult. If you pray, pray for us.