Dear dear Harry,

You are one of my beloveds as much as anyone alive reading this…  this morning has been sweet, with you,– your gorgeous strong young voice – following me through my housework chores.  Taxi, Cat’s in the Cradle.  Your hunger-ending activism, your oddball obscure songs about mass shootings and crazy folks, the lonely fat bartender girl, and Annie, the mail order wife, and Mr. Tanner, the dry-cleaning baritone; these are all as familiar to me as my own erratic life stories.  And, you had your own life, wife, children, career. Your sports car, the Long Island freeway wreck.

Last week, when my mother had her oh-so-lucky near-miss kiss of the semi-truck to her little Mazda Miata, you came flooding into my soul, as if I’d just heard again about your fatal accident.  You know, when I heard it that day, July 16, 1981, I was driving north on I-5 in my little blue VW Bug and I had to pull off the road to weep.  I was a bartender then, thought myself far above my tavern customers who were silly enough to shed tears over John Wayne and Elvis.  I said, in my oh-so-wise twenty-something way, “How stupid.  You didn’t really even know that man.”

If there is a place where the departed souls listen to us left behind, then surely you have heard me over the years, in hard times and in joy, yelling to you.  Just “Harry! Harry! Harry!”  Usually as loud as I can; it’s a practice best conducted alone in the big outdoors, although a private car will do, although it requires special attention to drive carefully at the same time.  It is partly some jokey twist on the Hari Krishna chants, buried beneath a huge spiritual longing, just to be connected to someone who experienced the world in the same story-telling spirit that moves me.  So, thanks for listening.

Have you noticed lately, my favorite thing is to shout along with certain rock and roll songs?  Something about CCR and the rain on the sunny day moves me to the core.  I guess because I was singing along with it on one of my long drives during those months when Will was dying.  The past few months, I keep hearing “Love! Now you’re trying to trick me with Love!”   This is so funny, so fun, and bone true to me.

But the one that keeps getting stronger over the past five years is the Stones, start me up, Microsoft totally aside.  You make a dead man come…   With all the precious dead men in my life now, I send every ounce of my energy out on that, laughing and shouting as I drive along, wanting all of you to hear me.   Yes, yes, come, come!  Laughing, weeping, shouting, and keeping to my lane of the freeway.  That’s the life that I still have, and that I treasure, in honor of all of you.

love always,  ATR

PS, to my living readers, for politeness’ sake: Harry Chapin.


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