It’s a mad world we live in, indeed, when we learn of a friend’s death not from a late-night phone call, or urgent e-mail, but from a Facebook invite to a memorial service that we accidentally come across one week too late.
The first time I met Cary, I was auditioning for his new cover band. I wanted to be a rock singer, they needed a feisty frontgirl, and Cary seemed to think I was it. From that moment on, Cary became the big brother I never had. He kept an eye on me, showed me the ropes, and drove me insane with his constant worrying. When I began dating our guitar player, he nearly disowned me for my poor decision. And while he could drive me crazy with his lecturing, he was more often than not correct and always had my best interests in mind.
After I’d quit the band and struck out for Austin to make it as a “real” musician, the calls began. The first came as I waited at a Jiffy Lube for my car to have its oil changed. To hear Cary’s familiar voice on the other end of the line as I paced the sidewalk in my new, alien town was a comfort and relief. Sometime during our conversation, the mechanic told me I was all set. I waved him an “ok,” but my phone call went on for a good half hour more.
Every few months I’d get a call from Cary, checking to see how my music was going, if I was safe, if I was happy. I’d ask about the circus (he was touring with Barnum & Bailey’s, playing bass in the circus band), and if he was headed my way, we’d set up a reunion. The first was in Austin, where we talked into the wee hours at a local favorite bar of mine. The next night, he took me out with the circus crowd to a salsa club where we danced with clowns and animal trainers and trapeze artists.
My most recent Cary call came as I was preparing for my going-away party, the day before J and I were to move from Columbus to North Carolina. I had about 20 minutes to tell him what I was up to, that I was happily in love, that I was on the move again, that the music was on hold. He was excited that things were going so well, and said that he’d let me go because I sounded busy. I said I’d give him a call when the madness dies down.
I never made that call. I regret that painfully.
Instead, someone from the old band days recently befriended me on Facebook, and as I was going through her photos, I saw that Cary was now on Facebook also. I went to look him up, to add him to my friends, to finally be better at keeping track of him the way he tried to continue to watch out for me.
There was no page for Cary. There was an invitation to remember him at a memorial service. Held last weekend.
I know Cary had an unusual and fantastic life. I know he saw endless outdoor wonders and traveled the country on his motorcycle. I know he lived precisely the way he wanted to, by his own set of rules.
None of that makes his early end hurt any less.
All I can do is try to express how grateful I am to have known him, how drastically he swerved my life’s path, how special he made me feel, and how lucky I was to have known him.
It’s a bit of a cruel reminder that I perhaps need to work harder at keeping in touch with the people I love and care about. But a reminder nonetheless.
I have some phone calls to make.