Don Alder is a musician and partner in a grand adventure - "Man In Motion" that forever changed the way we see disability. He lives alone in a basement suite over run by guitars, note books full of ideas for songs and everywhere, memories of going around the world with his best friend, Rick Hansen.
Some Day I'm Going To Change You, Silly Boy
Whether it's really true, or just part of my need to connect the dots in the circle of life , I've come to believe that happiness and tragedy, success and sadness all exist in the same place and at the same time. What I'm trying to say is that within any given circle of friends, someone is beaten down by the odds and is diagnosed with something unthinkable, while someone else falls in love and shares the feeling with everyone, without having to say a word.
Sometimes, I think I've taken bumps and bruises more than most. And that life and lady luck, passed me by. And then I look around at all those faces and the memories of the friends who have and come gone and, I realize, no one gets through this life without bumps and bruises.
The story I'm going to tell you is not pretty but its about a pretty girl with one of the biggest hearts in the world, who by the way, was one of the best friends a teenage boy could dream about having. . Her name was Cherie. She moved to Williams Lake with her mom and dad and two sisters from somewhere in the US. I'm not sure why the Bishop family opened their home and hearts to me. Maybe they figured, I was lonely, which I was sometimes. Or maybe the Bishops were just the nicest of people. So there I was surrounded by the Bishops, teaching Cherie how to play the guitar. She loved to sing and embraced the idea of adding music to her voice.
Cherie's friend, Janet Bates was really popular as s singer growing up in Williams Lake. She had so much talent and shared it so freely, especially with Cherie when they sang for hours imagining they were Joni Mitchell, who I should point out, I didn’t know very much about. Instead, I was listening to Black Sabbath. But then one day on the radio, I heard someone that rocked my world. It was a guitarist named Amos Garrett playing a solo on a song called, Midnight at the Oasis, sung by Maria Muldaur.
I couldn't wait to tell Cherie about my discovery - her pal Donny discovering the most amazing guitar solo while listing to a girl sing a love song. Quite a leap for a heavy metal country boy. I told her all about it, but had to add for effect, that Maria Muldaur, could kick Joni Mitchell's butt, And then Cherie did something I will never forget, she looked into my eyes for the longest time and said, ' someday, I'm going to change you, silly boy'. We laughed and couldn't stop looking at each other.
We were friends but we were also everything else that mattered. What happened next is foggy, not because we ever stopped caring about each other, but when you're young and imagining life as a rock god, sometimes you don't know what you have. And our young lives drifted apart, pushed and pulled by different rhythms, but never very far away from each others heart.
I saw Cherie for the last time on Kits Beach in Vancouver just before I left on the Man in Motion Tour. It was always the same with her. Like soul mates, we talked and laughed about everything and nothing. She told me I was crazy heading out across the world and then, quietly, sadly she told me how difficult her marriage had become with her high school sweat heart. His name was Herb. He looked like Roger Daltry, down to the shinny tooth. I wanted to like him, Cherie chose him, but I don’t think he ever knew or cared about who my friend really was.
Herb had become involved in the drug trade. He and Cherie had a beautiful little boy, Sean. But family responsibilities for a drug dealer are never a good thing. The drugs won, every time. Cherie told me on the beach that day she would leave the marriage, she had to. I think I told her, it was the only thing to do, I cant remember much. But I do remember feeling how deeply hurt my friend was and how determined she was to make it right, for her son.
Herb did not take the news well. He used a shotgun to kill Cherie at midnight in their home and then turned the gun on himself in the morning. Sadly Sean, a four year old answered the front door in the morning to his babysitter in horror. I lost my father when I was kid. The circumstance was different but the shock and the confusion had to be the same. Too young to know what happened, except how much it hurt.
I was part of the funeral procession and still feel the anguish of that day. I was so young and self absorbed. And yet, I had a girl in my life who was always trying to teach me things including complexities of the heart. Sure, I was a slow learner but better late than never. Some of these things have taught me to a be a better person and our love of music has made sure I’ll never forget her.
When I listen to the radio and hear, Joni Mitchell, now one of my heroes, I remember my friend telling me, "one day silly boy, I'm going to change you". Cherie did just that. And when I think about how much I want to see her little boy, now a man, and tell Sean my about my friend - the prettiest girl in the world, I'm reminded, Cherie changed us both and connected those dots in the circle of life. Now it’s our turn.
This is a song I wrote for Cherie, a friend forever.
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