Sunday, July 05, 2009
The Beethoven Connection
(Ironically I can't enjoy the above YouTube due to Dialup Dementia but I have in the past and also have the CD which I am playing right now).
I met him first about 20 odd years ago. In a recovery group. He took an enormous shine to me but he was far too needy and vulnerable. Every time he asked me out I asked my friend Judy to come along too. I just couldn’t hurt the man, he was a walking wounded.
Friends referred to him as my puppy. But in a kind way. He no sooner saw me anywhere but he would came lolloping over, smiling beatifically, cling to whatever spare part of me that was available, my arm, my hand, my shoulder, often he would touch a hand to my cheek and just stand there and beam. Even when there were others around.
I never knew what he saw in me that made him light up like this. I couldn’t ask even though I wanted to. It would have implied a desire for further intimacy on my part that just wasn’t there. Physically he did nothing for me, or emotionally. Intellectually and culturally, yes. We shared a passion for Beethoven, particularly a passion for the Choral Fantasia. Neither of us had ever met anyone in our lives before who shared the same sublime desire for that wondrous piece of music and never, ever tire of it. A piece that is rarely performed live as it is so incredibly expensive to mount.
About three years after I met him, a high school friend of his (I’ll call her Nina) was divorced from her husband and she and my friend Paul (pseudonym) were married. It was an odd kind of marriage. Impossible to say whether it was happy or not. Paul and Nina sniped at each other incessantly. About everything and nothing. It was a constant background counterpoint to their lives. Paul became a workaholic. Nina quit work soon after they married, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
I was a welcome guest to their home to hear the latest of Paul’s audio equipment. His main hobby was constantly upgrading it. He was a total aficionado of the best in sound systems. I’ve never gone this crazy over the best of equipment though do admire it in the homes of those that do care about such things. And to be honest, I do have difficulty with the five times as much money being spent on state of the art speakers than on a brand new car. Almost an obscenity in my book.
I stopped going to their home though. They would get into a battle about which one of them had my attention at any moment in time. I felt like I was a prize in some bizarre fairground game. Paul would sit me down in his audiophile leather chair and play Beethoven for me. She would vie for my attention with her art and photos of her grandsons. He would tell her stop it. She would tell him f*** off and round and round we’d go. Enough, I said to myself about 4 years ago. I get very agitated when surrounded with such antagonism. I have to leave. So I do, not caring about the flimsy excuse offered. And in spite of many invitations I just could not go back there.
Paul hadn’t been well, he didn’t take care of himself. He carried a lot of weight, had bowel blockages which involved several surgeries and terrible pain, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart trouble. He was on a lot of medication. And then he developed pulmonary fibrosis.
The last time we were together was in the spring. Though off work on indefinite sick leave, he had treated himself to a new BMW with everything on board, I couldn’t count the luxurious add-ons. But I remember his moon roof and the talking GPS and the surround sound. The lack of oxygen in his body meant that he had driven it only a few times. Nina had taken over the driving of the dream car. We went off down the country and the sniping from breathless Paul and a controlling and almost gloating Nina was very unpleasant but he was very courtly at dinner in an out of the way restaurant, he reminded me of the old pre-marriage Paul, pulling my chair out, touching my shoulder and cheek.
I said to Nina how gentlemanly his behaviour was. I hadn’t seen that side of him in a while.
She responded without a trace of jealousy or resentment: Oh, but he adores you!
Less than two weeks ago, his breathing had gotten worse so he was hospitalized. He was finally eating again but the oxygen mask was a permanent fixture now. On July 1st, after his breakfast, he slipped back on his pillow and his breathing stilled. Forever. He was just 62 years old.
I play my beloved Choral Fantasia in his honour. And reflect on the compromises we (all of us) make in life and how elusive happiness is.