It’s been a “long strange trip” these past few years. I have gone from elated to terrified. Traumatized to mystified. All the while being grateful. Grateful for my family. Grateful for surviving. Grateful for everything. So it is befitting that the 50th anniversary and final concert of the Grateful Dead landed directly in our backyard, so very close to my birthday. A coincidence, probably, but I’d like to think this was nice closure for the sentiments I was feeling since I started following The Dead at 19 years old. I wasn’t the “Deadhead” that followed them everywhere, but I did go to 9 shows, all with Jerry Garcia, and I did love the way their music made me feel. I smiled every time I heard Sugar Magnolia, danced until Shakedown Street had played its last note, and sang like a fool when Scarlett Begonias came on the radio.
It wasn’t Jonathan’s type of music, but he loved me and wanted to support me going to their final concert. I told him he didn’t need to go to the concert, but secretly I wanted him to go because I knew if he’d come, he might get a glimpse into who I used to be and understand more of that part that was carefree when I was so very young. Not the more serious person I have become.
I completely understand life cannot be what it used to be. I know after 7 years of marriage, 7 IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycles, 2 biological children, 1 step-child, miscarriages, school, mortgage payments, a near death catastrophe and a lot of responsibility, life cannot go back to what it was. We understand that intellectually, but ideologically, we long for the carefree way of life.
I have been feeling like this is my new “normal.” Serious, scarred forever, and voted “least likely to laugh.” The other day my two girls were drawing family portraits. They both finished showing me a beautiful rendition of their mommy. But Adina said “wait a minute, I forgot something.” And she took the portrait and drew a line from my chest to the pelvis. “Mommy, I forgot your boo boo.” She smiled and I quietly smiled back to her. Valentina quickly followed suit. She said, “that’s right mommy.” Valentina is more sensitive about bringing up the subject matter because she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. Maybe because she is older and maybe because she saw too much or maybe ignoring it might be her way of dealing with her own pain, but I told her we should talk about this when she was ready. She said “Is that ok?” I said, “Yes baby. No matter how hard I try to hide it, it is a part of me.” It will always be a part of me. And I cannot hide it from my family. It is part of who I am and I have to learn to accept it. But I don’t want to accept it. My new body. My new life. My new normal. I then proceeded to cry for a very long time that night.
I cried for the loss of who I was. I cried for what happened and how it affected my family. I cried because I realized I wanted the seriousness of everything that has happened since I died, to be a little lighter. I needed a miracle of my own making, immediately. I bought tickets to the Grateful Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” final show. Maybe, just MAYBE, I could get a little something back from the first time I went to my first show. This time, Jonathan would be right by my side, the way I believe he was always meant to be.
Sunday, July 5th 2015 was such a magical night. The weather was perfect. People were kind and gracious, even inviting us on their boats. And EVERYONE was enjoying the pre-party festivities. Jonathan was in awe of the crowd of more than 80,000. He said “I feel like I have stepped back in time to the 60’s.” If people pushed you, they said “sorry, man, have a beautiful day.” Others were smiling from ear to ear and gave out compliments like candy on Halloween. I wore a very airy, flowing white hippie type dress and Jonathan wore tie-dye. Anyone who knows him is in shock with that statement, and yes, he loves me very deeply(And no, no drugs were involved).
Jonathan saw me smile, breathe in the air, say hello to everyone and my friend Jodi and her friend Shira made another “miracle” happen when they moved us from our seats in the stadium, very far away from the stage, to the pit 20 feet in front of the stage. That was my heaven that night. The pit was open, not overcrowded. The audience came from all over the world and soaked up every note. I was swept back to 1989 and I was once again, elated.
The music was AWESOME. We had such a good time with friends and strangers, knowing we all came together for one purpose, to say goodbye to a band who have been incredibly instrumental in making us enjoy life a little better. But I received another purpose by the end of the night. This magical night, Jonathan and I spoke for a very long time while we walked back to our car. (A very, very long walk). I realized that I didn’t need to see The Dead in order to embrace my scars and my new normal, I just needed to really talk about the transitions with my husband. And have him understand my frustrations and guilt around my new way of living. He, in turn said some things that made me realize I wasn’t listening to how he really felt about our new life. He wasn’t longing for what we had before, he just wanted me to be more than content with the way things have played out though the Grateful Dead served a bigger purpose for us here. The concert was the mechanism to get us to reach into ourselves deeper than ever before. To realize we can be as carefree as we want to be, knowing we are there for each other and our family and that it isn’t a responsibility, it is a desire, a pleasure, a dream: one that we worked so hard to achieve. Without the concert, we might not have had this discussion and without the Grateful Dead, there would be one less Deadhead in the world. For now, there is an economist walking around Chicago wearing tie-dye and smiling. And that is making me smile bigger than ever before. Truly Grateful!