Knowing Someone Like a Book

Knowing Someone Like a Book

How well do you know the person you love most? Ever heard yourself saying you know that person “like a book”? This story will prompt you to ask questions you may never have thought about asking before.

by Barbara Brabec
author of The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides

HARRY BRABEC was the drummer I loved from the moment we met. After nearly 44 years of marriage, I was sure I knew him like a book. But when I actually began to write a book about him, I found there was a great deal about him and his life before we met that I didn’t have a clue about.

For reasons explained in my book, there was much about Harry’s professional life before I met him that he never told me about, particularly for the years between 1956 and 1961. Halfway through the writing of my memoir, I began to feel like a detective who was trying to put a huge Harry Brabec Puzzle together.

Harry and I had a number of people in our lives that we both considered friends, but he also had a world of musician friends I never knew, just as I had a world of business and creative friends he never knew—just as you and that most important person in your life surely have a group of friends the other one doesn’t know.

I remember a minister once who, while reflecting on the death of his father, said that he had learned more about him by speaking to his father’s friends on the day of his funeral than he had learned about him after decades of knowing him as a son. I had a similar experience as I began to track down and speak with some of Harry’s friends five years after his death. In many cases, I knew their names but had only fragmentary information about their musical career or personal relationship with him.

Putting Together the Puzzle of Harry’s Life

photos of Harry Brabec through the years

ONE MIGHT THINK that after nearly 44 years together, one would know everything about their spouse, but I was astounded by some of the things I learned about Harry in talking with friends of his I had never met before. Completing the borders of his life and all the brightly colored center sections (our life together) was fairly easy, but big holes soon began to emerge in the middle because I knew so few details about his life before we were married. With the help of a couple of his old friends and one of his students, I began to locate more and more of his old school chums and music buddies, and other musician friends and relatives of some of the musicians Harry knew eventually found the book or website and contacted me as well.

Bit by bit as I connected with musicians who had known or worked with Harry decades before I knew him, I began to learn some really surprising things about my drummer husband, a man who never bragged on himself or spoke in much detail about his working life before we met. Mostly he just regaled me with one amusing story after another that I had difficulty fitting into the puzzle of his life after he was gone.

I learned how highly he was regarded by his peers, how grateful they were to him for all the help and encouragement he had given them, and how much they appreciated his amazing sense of humor (which will be found in nearly every chapter of my memoir). Some of the other things I learned about Harry that are publicly revealed for the first time in the book were backstage/behind-the-scenes things even he didn’t know.

How Well Do You Know the Person You Love Most?

AFTER I HAD COMPLETED my memoir, I began to wonder how many other couples really know each other like the proverbial book. How many, I wondered, were like me and Harry? We spent a considerable amount of time in our first year together asking and answering a lot of questions about what we had done before we met, but after awhile we decided that our past lives without each other weren’t nearly as interesting and important to us as our new life together and the challenges we were facing at that time. As a result, a lot of interesting details I would have loved to have for my memoir about Harry literally slipped through the cracks of life.

As you read The Drummer Drives!, I believe you will find yourself wondering if you really know your spouse or other loved one as well as you think you do. The good news is that you don’t have to wait until that person is gone to learn more about him or her. My memoir will prompt you to start asking questions right now that you may never have thought about before, and the answers you get may be nothing less than astonishing. In my case, I learned things about Harry that not only made me laugh, but were so uplifting that I found myself falling in love with him all over again.

If you’re married, the perspective gained from my memoir could help you see how a marriage that has become boring and old hat might be energized, or even saved if it happens to be on the brink of collapse due to life situations you never anticipated.

If you’re not married, but involved in a serious love relationship, I believe The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides will make you see marriage in a new light, while also prompting you to ask questions not only of yourself, but of your special loved one, too—answers that could make a huge difference in how the rest of your life unfolds.

Knowing someone like a book takes time and effort, but if my experience is any indication, you’ll find this exercise one of the most fascinating and satisfying things you’ll ever do.

Related Articles:

Four Months on a Tank of Gas The Secret Life of a New Memoirist [PDF]. Barbara’s reflections on the writing of The Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides.

How to Write a Good Memoir: How the book, Your Life as Story, helped Barbara write a better memoir and biography of her late husband.

Originally published in 2011 on the book’s web site (now closed).
Copyright © 2011, 2021 by Barbara Brabec. All rights reserved.

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