Tony Vagneur: Timely reflections about a dear friend
In the dreamy half-light between here and there comes a knocking at the door — a face so familiar from days long ago, aged a bit, but clearly recognizable. There’s a moment of hesitation as you look at each other, the beginnings of a smile at the corners; she’s not sure she should have knocked; you’re not sure what to say, maybe there are no words. “Come in, come in,” as the grins surface.
It doesn’t work that way, not with death. Once they go, they’re gone. People can go to a memorial service, visit about the deceased and the state of the world, and not one of them will really believe that they or another in their crowd will someday be the guest of honor at a similar ceremony. That’s how it works. We’re tenacious, but in the end, life is tenuous.
Twenty-seven years have passed since the last time I saw her. Hard Rock Café, Aspen, Colorado. We shared grave stories, brothers who had killed themselves. Hers was a fresh wound then, mine much older, and at her suggestion we met for lunch, for commiseration, or for what? There’s so little, really, to help assuage the hurt, other than to let the other person know that yes, you share the experience. It’s that personal. We parted on the street; there was a hug, no “Let’s keep in touch,” or some such thing, just a simple goodbye. That itself was a tragedy we didn’t recognize at the time.
Traveling back from a high school track meet in Glenwood one spring day, about 1960, was the first time she really came into my consciousness. We spotted a small group of familiar-looking junior high bicyclists stopped alongside the road and pulled the bus over to see what was up. That was in the day when 82 was a two-lane killer, no bike paths, and well before cycling became a thing.
They were just outside of Glenwood, heading up valley, and we asked if they wanted a ride home. “Oh no,” she said, obviously the spokesperson for the group, “it’s been a great ride and we’ll be fine.” Two years age difference is a lot in those adolescent years, but I fell in love with her that day. Her spirit of adventure and self-reliance was unquestionable, not to mention a natural beauty. In the fickleness of youth, it was short-lived, but I’ll never forget that day.
Years later, we used to sit on a long bench under the back veranda, shaded from the late-afternoon sun, with our partners of the day, two couples laughing, talking and sipping the powerful and soulful green Chartreuse liqueur. Were we crazy? Maybe. The horses in the corral wondered about us; the philosophical offerings were sometimes profound, other times more likely just comedic “what ifs.”
Occasionally we’d head for town to finish what we’d started. One time, we packed up the bottle of green, along with other necessities, and headed up Maroon Creek for an overnight horseback excursion. We likely didn’t appreciate it at the time, but we were inside the bubble of the ever-memorable ’70s. Life seemed almost perfect, and for the time, it was.
The last photo I have of her is from 10 years ago, recently found online, swimming in the ice-cold waters of California’s Lower Deadfall Lake while on a hike. That spirit of adventure, zest for living, along with her beautiful visage, was still strong, as evidenced by the picture.
Is there a connection with the spiritual world? Only the spirits could know for certain, but the second week of March, I found myself thinking about her, curious as to how her life had been, wondering what had transpired in those 27 years since we’d last visited. While still conjecturing, our good friend Dana Knight sent me a text saying Christi had died.
Christiane Simone Albouy (November 8, 1948 — March 8, 2021). As one of our Aspen friends said of Christi, “She always seemed so naturally and effortlessly glamorous.” May she forever rest in peace.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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