After Mom died, I couldn’t listen to Brahms for about four years. Truth be told, all classical music remained highly problematic. For whatever reason, though, Brahms topped the don’t touch list, the trigger-warning list. I can recall a conversation between my mom, one of my brothers, and me, rhapsodizing about the music we loved. Brahms featured prominently. Maybe I was remembering that conversation. Maybe it was just the highly emotive way Brahms wrote. I have no logical reason why I attach certain music to certain situations or feelings. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of proximity, a tune became popular with me or in general so that I heard it often during a particular highlight in my life. Other times, I hear a certain note or phrase and it reminds me of a situation, a feeling, a conversation, a touching moment, an atmosphere. Music is the true communicator. It’s much more direct than words.
A few months before my brother Robert died, I heard “Pensativa” on the radio. I felt the familiar drop of my stomach, the signal of an emotional pang coming on. “Uh-oh,” I muttered to myself. I knew instantly what it all meant.
During our family band sessions, we often played “Pensativa.” Robert loved bossa nova. His fingers fluently played the bass line with all the right pauses and syncopations. I can’t hear the tune without thinking of him or seeing his hands gliding on his axe. It’s a carefree, laid-back tune. It conjures images of tropical settings, palm trees and cooling drinks made for warm climates. It’s sitting on the beach and watching the sunset music. It’s the music of people enjoying themselves with good food, good drink, good company. It’s the music of life. It’s a perfect representation of my brother.
So on this first anniversary of his passing, February 11, I’ll play “Pensativa” from time to time. I’ll see his hands on his bass. I’ll hear the lines he played so well. And I’ll think of him with that mix of magic and melancholy that often attends memories of the dearly departed. It’s not like after Mom died, nearly twenty years ago, where I couldn’t listen to Brahms without breaking down or feeling very uncomfortable. I feel the pangs of loss with “Pensativa,” but I can listen, think, and reminisce.
I miss my brother.
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