After You've Gone

by Lori Hahnel
from Thistledown Press

About the Novel
After You’ve Gone is the title of an early jazz standard first recorded in 1918 and creates
the tone for a novel which has at its heart both music and time. Set in Regina,
Saskatchewan and Seattle, Washington, it is the story of two generations of musicians –
a gypsy jazz guitarist grandmother and a punk rocker/songwriter granddaughter – who
each struggle with balancing life, love, and art in their respective eras, and discover how
much they have in common. It is a story of family ties welded through the passion for
music and performance that only those who pursue such a path can truly understand.

After You've Gone - Excerpt, Part 1

Seattle, Washington
June 12, 2007

Mark and I sit side by side on the packed bleachers in Seattle Center’s Key Arena on a
dark, rainy Sunday morning. Looks like this is a sold-out show. I’ve been to lots of shows
at Seattle Center before — Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, The Pretenders, Iggy Pop,
Bob Dylan a couple of times — but not usually this early in the day. Then again, this isn’t
a concert. This morning’s show is Seattle University’s commencement ceremony. Our
son Bill will walk across the stage any minute now to get his parchment. He’s on the floor
talking to the pretty, dark-haired girl beside him. I can tell he’s nervous, maybe has a little
stage fright, by the way he strokes his sandy beard, and the way two little patches of red
stand out on his cheeks just like when he was little. I guess it’s a very emotional thing for
all of us, maybe more for Mark and me than for him, since neither of us ever went to
university. And even though we came to the ceremony when he finished his bachelor’s,
and we maybe should be getting used to this kind of thing, it still amazes me.

I know what the stage fright thing is like: I’ve been on stage lots of times, and so has
Mark. Bill’s dad, I mean. It’s only been in the last little while I’ve started calling him ‘Bill’s
dad’. When I meet people who don’t know him and just call him ‘Mark’ they don’t know
who I’m talking about. But, yeah, neither of us went to university. I just barely made it out
of high school. And now here’s Bill, getting his master’s degree in Mechanical
Engineering. Don’t know where he got those genes from. It certainly wasn’t from either
of us. Of course, Mom taught math and Dad was an accountant, so there’s math genes
there, but they skipped a generation. I got my genes from Grandma Lita and Grandpa
Bill. It was always music right from the start with me. Maybe that’s why it seems funny
to be away from it now. Funny strange, not funny ha ha.

Something else I’ve been away from for a while is Mark. I haven’t seen him in six months
or so even though we both still live in Seattle. I don’t think there was as much grey in his
beard the last time I saw him. We’ve been in touch by phone, of course, and email;
there’s been a lot of back and forth over our other baby, Curse Records. But seeing him
in person again I can’t help but think he’s aged since I moved out. I’m sure he’s thinking
the same thing about me. Or not. When you live with someone for twentyfive years or so
you think you know them. To the extent that you think you know what they’re thinking,
even. But since we split up I’ve realized that’s not true. When things start to go bad you
realize how little you actually know the person. And you realize that Chrissie Hynde was
right — it is a thin line between love and hate.

Finally, the Engineering students file up to get their scrolls. It’s quite a show, I have to
say; the bright multi-coloured hoods and tassels against the sober black gowns, the
ceremony, and of course the music. A nice solo piano performance of Elgar’s “Pomp and
Circumstance,” what else? Bill looks so handsome, so grown up. He’s really got it
together, that kid, in spite of his parents. I’ll tell him later what I’ve told him before, how
proud I am of him. But I don’t know if I can ever really express to him just how proud of
him I am. I hand Mark my camera; I’m too teary to be able to take a good picture.

“Elsa,” Mark says. “Are you okay?”

I wipe under my eyes quickly with the back of my hand. “I’m fine. It’s just a big moment.”

He puts him arm around my shoulders for a moment. “I know.”

Bill’s so young and he’s accomplished so much. And here I am, about to sell a record
label that’s been on the verge of bankruptcy since Mark and I started it in the mid-
eighties. So much of it I’ve loved — all the people we worked with, the records we put
out. But my own music got put on the back burner. Way on the back burner. Sometimes I
feel like I’ve lost it completely. The thought of being in a band again scares me, at my
age. In one way. In another way, I’d love to do it, if I had the time. And maybe soon I’ll
have the time.

After the ceremony’s over, there’s a reception in the lobby. Mark and I nibble on cheese
and fruit while Bill makes his way through the crowd to us.

“Congratulations, sweetie!” As I put my arms around him, I notice the background music:
Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing”. And funny, I can’t help thinking as Mark claps Bill’s
back and shakes his hand and takes some pictures, that somehow we have three
generations of the family present here, not just two. It’s almost as if Grandma Lita has
joined us. I’ll call her tomorrow and tell her how it all went today. She’s almost as proud of
Bill as I am.

Bill still shoots glances now and then, probably when she’s not looking, at the girl he was
talking to earlier. I was that age not long ago, wasn’t I? Am I really old enough to have a
son with a master’s degree? Again, I think of Lita. If I feel bewildered about the passing of
time, I wonder how she must feel. I will have to call her.

Maybe Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention said it best: “Who Knows Where the Time

After You've Gone, Excerpt (Part 2).
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After You've Gone
Excerpt from the novel by Lori Hahnel
From Thistledown Press
Page 1 of 2

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After You've Gone
Excerpt from the novel by Lori Hahnel
From Thistledown Press
Page 1 of 2
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