As arbitrary and artificial as conventional measures of time are, we have passed through a full cycle now, all four seasons, all the recurrent annual events and anniversaries, all the things that can happen within the space that we count as one year: tomorrow it will be exactly one year since Peter died.
One year without Peter.
In the course of this year, there are important things that Peter has missed. He missed meeting George, who was born in January, and he missed being here to have important conversations with George’s father, because having important conversations about how to be a father was always Peter’s job. He missed meeting Agnes again as the wonderful grown-up woman she has become from the bright-eyed child we met so many years ago. He missed meeting Azra, and he missed being here to be a good role model for Seth and give him advice when he needs it (whether he knows he needs it or not). Peter missed the release of Jub Jub, he missed The Beauty Queen of Leenane, he never got to hear Paradicso, and he missed the first ever performance of The Patrick Derieg Orchestra. He missed Joseph and Emma’s wedding, and he missed Hari and Simone’s wedding. He missed countless opportunities to throw a raging fit over Christopher’s rather chaotic travels through the US. He missed innumerable chances to give Paddy instructions about the proper way to make useful contacts. He missed Oscar turning four and Moritz becoming an excellent climber. He missed perfect Autumn days in the mountains and bright summer days for swimming in the Danube. He missed all of that and more – and he has been missed. His absence has been a constant presence.
It is not only the specific date – 13th November – that is noted on his death certificate and his marble plaque in the cemetery, it’s this time of year that evokes memories. When Christopher posted in October that it had been a year since the release of Lilacs Out of the Dead Ground, I remembered going to the release party with Peter, how happy he was, bursting with pleasure that his son had realized a dream he understood, because the album was released on the Tonträger label. And then I remembered that the next time Christopher played in Linz, I went to the concert with a friend and her sister, because Peter was already up in the mountains at Prielschutzhaus – and it hit me hard that Peter and Christopher had only missed each other by a few hours, because it was perfectly normal for Peter to be eager to set off and for Christopher to be late getting to Linz. Twenty-four hours later, it felt as though nothing could ever be “normal” again. When Christopher came to Linz to play a small concert on 1st November this year, we both had a kind of deja-vu feeling. I tried hard not to stand in the first row, but there wasn’t really much room to move, so I tried to at least hide a little behind Leo’s shoulder. I was rather proud of myself that I managed to listen to “Whatever We Had” without tears, but I noticed that Christopher was avoiding looking in my direction. I was grateful that he was able to stay a few days in Linz then, that he didn’t have to go back to Vienna immediately and leave me alone with my memories and my worries. We spent what would have been Amy’s 46th birthday together, mostly struggling to get the new web site for the workshop online. After four years, it seems I am able to stop having to take a day off on Amy’s birthday, even though I was still acutely conscious of the date.
Over the past few weeks, it seems that many people are having similar experiences. Everywhere I go, people come up to me and gently ask, “It’s about a year now, isn’t it?” And they tell me their stories of how they heard the terrible news of Peter’s death, what they were doing, how they felt, what they thought … With every story I hear, I feel deeply touched again by the wealth of human kindness. This time last year …
On the weekend, I absolutely did not want to be at home alone, so the timing was perfect for Paradicso to play a concert in Vienna and invite “The Patrick Derieg Orchestra” (i.e. Paddy and Agnes) to perform too. It was a good time to go to Vienna and I was grateful for the opportunity. All evening, of course, I kept imagining how Peter would have hated the crowded, smokey venue, but how he would have been about to explode with nervousness for Paddy, yet still bursting with pride at how well Paddy plays the guitar, but also, of course, with a long list of instructions about how to behave on stage. But now, after that weekend exactly a year ago, all of Peter’s loveable idiosyncrasies remain only a memory, his reactions to be imagined, but no longer experienced – unchanging now, immutable.
Tomorrow evening, after we go to the cemetery together with Peter’s parents and his sister, a table is reserved for us at Gelbes Krokodil. That feels right. That is where we have always gone for special occasions, starting from the party for Christopher’s baptism twenty-two years ago, when Krokodil hadn’t even officially opened yet, through all the birthdays and anniversaries, celebrating graduation, publications, new orders, and sometimes just because it seemed like a good idea. So the 13th of November now becomes historicized, a special occasion, a time for gathering and sharing good food and good company.
Then we will go upstairs to Solaris, which seems equally appropriate. That’s where Peter and I always met after working late, went for a drink after the cinema, found one another after long, busy days with other people. It’s where I’ve always gone in the past four years when I need to not be alone, and it feels safe, comfortable, familiar.
Elsewhere in the world, people with instruments that Peter made will be meeting to play music together. People that this date is meaningful for will tell one another their stories again, and the stories become a part of memories, told again and passed on.
And Peter will be remembered.