Love and Death In Charlottesville

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Photographs of Old Cville by Paul Whitehead

True Stories by Jamie Dyer

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There Ain't No Dark Till Something Shines

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I woke up again today, still here. If Hell is a place of non-stop separation, then this place must be it. All of the partings, breakups, separations and leavings in this place get a little wearisome at times. Some people seem to be able to keep it together and form a long-lasting union. My grandparents were married for 70-something years. I'll be lucky to live to 70, alone or otherwise.

I first met her at a friend's house on Grady Ave back in the mid-80s. She loved Bob Dylan and I could halfass play and sing Dylan songs on a guitar. To my delight, she later learned to love a better poet named Townes van Zandt but that night, she wanted me to play all of the Bob songs I knew. Of course I did.

As soon as I saw her, I knew we were connected. She knew it too. She'd had to leave college down South somewhere and come back to Charlottesville to live at her parents' house. I was working for a residential contractor framing houses and living with a pack of knuckleheads on Cherry Ave. She and I were always on the lookout for ways to be alone, which often involved the top of Brown's Mountain or Carter's Mountain. Back then, it was much easier to go up there and do as you would than it is now. Her parents eventually accepted me and let me sneak into her room at night. They'd rather she was safe at home than wandering the countryside with me.

There are no words to describe her so I won't try. Other people that knew her fell in love with her almost as much as I did. One hard rainy day, she picked me up from the jobsite when work let out early due to weather. I was waiting with my boss and some co-workers in the trailer when she pulled up in her blue Ford Escort (I still remember the license plate number) and flashed a smile our way. Every man stood stock still, not believing that this Being chose to spend time with me. "Here's my sunshine on a rainy day. Later, all!", I said as I left. Poor dudes. They're probably still stuck in that trailer.

We were together for a couple of years. Being young, I was foolish and ignorant. I took her for granted. I broke her heart. Being young and foolish, I realized who I had lost only when it was too late.

We both took our own paths in this place of 10,000 things and kept in touch only informally through a mutual friend. We both got married and had families. I got divorced and she stayed married. My life took the downhill slalom after my divorce. I'd occasionally hear from her through said mutual friend but she never called me herself because we'd end up running away together. I liked to think that, anyway. I ran into her at a party once and it was kind of painful for both of us even though we were both ecstatic to see each other. She was there with a group of friends and she didn't like my date one bit.

I heard she was sick in late 2008 and kept hearing it for weeks from the mutual friend. One day, he told me that her condition was terminal and she wanted me to call her house and leave a message just saying hi. It probably ticked her husband off but it's what she wanted. A couple of weeks later, she showed up at one of my gigs. That had never happened before. She looked thin and pale but not even her impending mortality could put a dent in her beauty. I knew medical science had hacked Her breasts off and I knew she was dying. But she hadn't told me yet.

We sat at a table. She was really tired and couldn't stay long.

"Jamie, I'm dying", she said matter of factly.

"I know. I heard", was about the best I had.

"Jamie, I....", she started. I interrupted.

"If you're dying, does that mean you'll go out to dinner or run away with me?", I asked.

She laughed and I felt her Lifespark again. So good.

She grabbed my hands in hers and fixed her blue eyes into mine.

"Promise me you'll take care of yourself. I worry", she said gently. That's what she came to tell me.

I promised her I would. I can't recall what else we discussed. I was in shock. This would be the last time we ever saw each other and we knew it. I recall hugging her goodbye, kissing her and walking her to her car. Her coming to see me was also the last thing she did in this world before she went into hospice/hospital care. Her friends threw her a party the week after she came to see me but I didn't go.

She died in April 2009. Her funeral was attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. I had to prevent, by force, an overly drunk friend from going into the church but he gave me an owl's wing to put into her casket. The mutual friend gave the eulogy and Townes van Zandt and I got shoutouts. She was buried near Monticello and we all went somewhere after the funeral and ate ham and potato salad. Then we all went home and life's gone on, without her.

Some days, when the to-be-or-not-to-be thing is an issue, I remember my promise and decide to stick around for a while longer. That's why she came to see me. She knew that sometimes I needed all the reasons I could find to stick around and she gave me another one, even with her being gone. She knew me.

Even in eternal separation, Love exists, y'all. Just reminding you in case you forget sometimes as I do.

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