I spend a lot of time projecting into the future and feeling bad about all the things that Pete won’t be here to witness and enjoy. Things that he can’t be excited about alongside of me. When the kids get married, he won’t be there. He would just hate to miss that. When I become a grandmother, he won’t get to be a grandfather, except when the grandkids hear tales about the grandfather they never knew, much like I heard tales of my father’s father. It just isn’t the same. He won’t be here to see my hair turn gray. (Okay, that’s a complete lie–he definitely was still here when that started happening).
For many years Pete missed family events. He didn’t like it, but he was a practical man and was often on tour with another artist or for himself. We would receive notice of a family wedding, baby shower, birthday, or just a full on family reunion and inevitably we would have already booked a performance somewhere–usually on the opposite side of the country than where we needed to be for the event. This was happening long before I met Pete. He told me that he didn’t make a single Huttlinger family reunion when he was touring with John Denver all those years. The only way his family saw him was if they bought tickets to a show. Such is the life of a working musician. But Pete LOVED his family more than anything. He would visibly light up with a houseful of Huttlingers or Driscolls. He was the first one there and often the last to leave. In fact, we hosted a huge post-Christmas bash at our home just two weeks before he died. He had the time of his life. Playing music, playing charades, making people laugh and distributing bottles of ice cold beer to his cousins.
So I contemplate the past and future missed opportunities, and I decided to make a list of all of the things Pete was here to see. We were almost 40 when we met–45 when we married. There were a lot of experiences that we both had previously that we didn’t have together, but that didn’t seem to matter. What mattered were all the things we were going to experience together. It would have been a much better life if that time period had been extended, but…
He got to see his step-daughter graduate from college with honors and his step-son march in the Macy’s Day Parade. He had the chance to know them from near toddlers to young and wonderful adults and to see them move out and thrive. He had the chance to be around them just long enough to have an influence over their futures. He got to play the great halls from Carnegie to Royal Albert. He got to play music for his nieces' weddings. He played amazing instruments. He got to fish (and sometimes catch) in beautiful rivers from Massachusetts to California. He got to see thousands of pairs of eyes staring back at him when he was on stage. He got to grow a handlebar mustache. He traveled the world, and he achieved success he had never imagined. Most importantly, he got to be loved unconditionally.
When I started listing things, I could have kept on going forever. He did so much and he loved so many. I need to remember that when I start to feel regrets on his behalf.