Sitting on the patio at my brother’s house, as Sophie and her cousins laughed, splashing in the pool and Jacob glided though the air on the swing set, something unexpected happened. While I sat with Budd and Karyn discussing the hardships we all faced and the year ahead, Alicia Keys brilliant album, As I Am, began playing through the broken speakers hanging on the side of the house. One of the woofers was blown and each time the bass thumped, everything vibrated. The three of us were easily distracted by the noise of the kids and our conversation. But then, the quiet piano intro of the ballad “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” began to fade in, tinkling along until Keys started singing in her delicate, hushed voice.
I know this song well; for more than a year, As I Am has been one of Julie’s favorite albums, and the songs often echo from the kitchen where she blasts the music and sings along to lyrics she’s memorized to heart. Keys performs with such raw emotion, you can feel her pulse bumping her blood into each track of the record. As I Am is one hell of a record, my friends.
As I sucked down a beer and nibbled on the remains of my Caesar salad, the music drowned out the kids swimming, Jacob humming the songs from his school play while he swung, and the voices of my brother and his wife. What was unexpected was the wellspring of emotions that swept over me in that moment and how much I suddenly missed my wife.
Julie was in Atlanta visiting her sister, away from the children for the very first time in their lives. The Thursday she left was a traumatic day for the children, having never been apart from her their entire lives. I, on the other hand, was used to being away from the family, sending them on eastbound flights to visit the grandparents or leaving them behind during a vacation when I had to return home to go back to work. I could handle the separation. Or so I thought.
In that moment, while Keys passionately delivered her lyrics, tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of Julie and our life together.
“How many really know what love is?
Millions never will
Do you know until you lose it
That it’s everything that we are looking for
When I wake up in the morning
You’re beside me
I’m so thankful that I found
Everything that I’ve been looking for”
The three of us, Budd, Karyn and I, hanging out together on a cool spring night, it felt wrong without Jules there. Her laugh, her sighs, the hugs she gives, her measured approach to handling the kids, the way she reaches over and squeezes my hand, or the way she rolls her eyes when I make some sort of nonsensical statement that wasn’t well thought out yet I can’t stop myself from spewing it out because I have a tendency to ramble and feel that anything I say must be of some import, all of those things were missing.
I must have been suppressing my own emotions to keep the kids feeling comfortable, to ensure them that everything would be fine while Mommy was away. Sitting there at my brother’s house the first time in a couple of days I let my guard down. My body ached; it felt wrong that Julie wasn’t at the table, especially with Alicia Keys serenading us. I wonder if she feels that way when I’m away and Springsteen comes on. Hmm.
Soon the evening ended at which time I drove Sophie and Jacob home for bedtime. After they were asleep I watched Slumdog Millionaire, a wonderful film about love and destiny. I have always felt that Julie and I were destined to be together. The events that brought us together were mystical, as if someone was gently guiding us into each others arms. For as long as we’ve been together, I still get my breath taken away when I think that we are together. How many people really know what love is? I do; thank God I do.