On Sunday I mooned about the house, watching various George Michael interviews, listening to his music. I’ve said before that I’m blessedly ignorant of authentic, deep loss. I’ve lost pets but I’ve been lucky enough to go through life with those humans who are closest to me enduring and thriving in life. 2016 was somewhat notorious for lobbing so many barbells at so many people. For the most part, the Lj’s dodged the tough stuff until the end of 2016 when school started again, Trump won the election, then the world seemed to go crazy on its ear with violence and nonsense. And, to add to the craziness, we lost people who mean everything and nothing to the world. Carrie Fisher was a big deal. Prince. Bowie. Cohen. But then George Michael. Oh my goodness. George Michael. He’s what finally made me sink.
Wham: Make it Big was my first album, like, ever. I loved that Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go song. I bought the record at the Pay-n-Save in north Everett along with Whitney Houston’s first, big album. I felt so grown up. I memorized the album, loved it, danced around to it in my room a lot, but didn’t think too terribly much of it, even when my friend Tricia got on the bus one day after school, bemoaning the tragedy of Wham’s breakup and whatever was Andrew Ridgeley to do now?
George knew. He recorded Faith. I bought the cassette at the Payless in the Marysville Mall, and afterwards studied it at the nearby Dairy Queen. It was soon after stores started putting cassette tapes into these huge plastic cases to make stealing the music a challenge and the cashier didn’t remove the case so it looked like I stole it. I think. Because a cop, eating his food in the next booth, came up and started questioning me about my tape, accusing me of stealing it, telling me he knew I was a thief, threatening to take me back to the store to return the stolen property and call my parents. I was horrified. I produced the receipt but even then he continued called me a liar. I felt dirty and persecuted. Misunderstood. But more than anything it made me really curious about this music and more determined than ever to give it a listen.
A kid named Ricky lost his copy, once, in 8th grade during our choir trip to Leavenworth and tried to convince me that mine was his, loaned to Steve by him and from Steve to me, but no way. I fought a cop for my copy. I stood up to a cop. This was MINE! It was sacred by then and by that time it was too late: I was in love that voice. Ricky was going to have to buy a new copy because mine wasn’t going anywhere.
If Faith was when I fell in love with George, Waiting for Time made my love for George eternal. I received it in my stocking, Christmas of 1990. There’s this crystalline moment, right after Christmas, during my senior year, where that album played in my ears and became a permanent part of my life soundtrack. We were cross country skiing through the Wenatchee Forest with snow falling thickly, piling up on my hat, hushing the entire world around me. It was holy in and of itself, but then Something to Save came on in my ears and it remains one of the most pure, joyful moments in nature I’ve ever experienced. Every time I pop my earbuds in and go for a hike or jog, I’m chasing that moment.
I never turned on George like I did the New Kids. Weeks before I left for Europe for a several month journey abroad, I bought the newest album, Older, and brought it along. I also had other, cooler music and I really debated on whether or not I should bring George along. However, on the night in Paris when my boyfriend broke up with me, I didn’t turn to the Pixies or James or Red Hot Chili Peppers or even the Indigo Girls for comfort. I wanted George. I sat on the balcony of our little hostel room, overlooking the lights of Paris, with George Michael in my ears, nursing a broken heart and a bottle of wine with his help.
When I was pregnant, I convinced Bradley that George was amazing. We drove around for nine months in our 1979, buttermilk colored Volvo station wagon listening to his greatest hits album, his cover album,Older, Patience, to his older stuff. When I was in labor with Guinevere, my favorite, most serene, most memorable moment is holding Bradley’s hand, breathing through a contraction and hearing I Can’t Make You Love Me in the background. Beautiful.
And scandal schmandal. I could give a fig about his public-private life and when it happened it just released him to finally be who he really was. That is what life is for. I was glad for him.
I never loved George like ‘that’. I never wanted him for my own. He was never my crush, but damn if I didn’t love him. Losing George has been hard in a surprising way. It catches me off guard and suddenly there I am, crying over a man who I didn’t know at all but somehow knew very well. He was there reliably for many important moments in my life. The world was lucky to have him. I sure miss him.
I wrote this shortly after George’s passing, but today, as he was laid to rest, it seemed appropriate for me to finally say goodbye, too.❤