Let Saturday, March 1, 2008 go down in history as one of the oddest days of my life. Not good, not bad, but definitely different.
See, I've had a foot in my present and a foot in my past today and have been hopping back and forth in a strange ballet that probably wouldn't make much sense to anyone else watching.
This morning was JL's memorial service. Due to the nature of his/our business, attendance was very small. Half the potential attendees were out of town doing sporting events in other cities and the other half were at our local ball field to do a game that afternoon. So there was family and close friends in the first couple of rows, and other acquaintances scattered around, probably totaling about 20 people. Among them was the Sports Voice of our university teams and a couple of pro teams as well, a couple of JL's current coworkers, some of his past coworkers, and me. However, as JL would have appreciated, the show must go on. If he weren't otherwise engaged, he'd have been out at the fields himself.
Four of JL's close friends got up to talk about him. Everyone has a story because he was that kind of guy. Bigger than life. A personality that filled up a room and then some. At some point in each person's life, there is a character like that - and JL was mine. CM said, during his eulogy, that he's heard so many stories since JL died, that he was reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each man felt a piece of the elephant and thought he knew the elephant from that piece, but that the total was a whole different animal. The same is true here. CM knew the man for decades, but was still learning things he'd never known.
Sitting in the church, listening to these people, I tried to imagine the man that JL had become after we split up. That church was his church, and I looked hard to see him worshipping God there. Finally, it came. There are no kneelers in this church - you stand or sit for everything. That would fit, as JL had terrible knees from his football days. I could see him smiling and shaking hands, approaching the altar with a bowed head and humble smile. He was, if nothing else, enthusiastic. Whatever he did, he did with everything he had, and if he had learned to love God, well, I know he gave it his all. That doesn't mean he was perfect, that he didn't stumble and sometimes fall, but as everyone who knew him knows - he never stopped trying.
Afterwards, there was a small reception with coffee and tiny triangle sandwiches and wings. Our little crowd stood around chatting and I finally was able to put faces and names together after 15 years. I'd met one of his sisters once, but knew of all of them. He talked about his sisters, and his mom a lot. He absolutely adored the women in his life. All of them. Two of the nieces came up here to go to school which thrilled him no end. I wasn't around when the first one came, but when the second one arrived he wanted to spend time with her, help her set up her dorm room by nailing the nails and helping move stuff. When we went shopping, he was always on the look out for things for her room. Not only was she family, he wanted her to LOVE going to college. Stories were swapped, pictures shared... and an invitation issued. Please join us at JL's favorite watering hole for a get-together to include all the friends who had to work the local game tonight. I said I'd come, then walked out into the sunshine and back into my own life.
After taking the babysitter home, Zboy and I got ready for baseball practice. We went to W*lMart to buy cleats, then headed over to the field. Practice games start next week and Z is still woefully behind his teammates in the skills department. I have to say that I'm very impressed with the coaches. They spent a lot of one on one time with him on batting and throwing and catching, and they told me what we needed to do to help him improve. I guess that Darling Man and I are going to have to take turns with that because neither one of us seem to have a lot of time on our own to do the practice thing. There are signs of improvement though, including an amazing catch at 2nd base today. He just needs more practice. And more enthusiasm. Baseball is hard. There's lots of waiting around for something to happen. When it does happen, it's fast and intense, but it's the part in between that is hard for Z. I dread the day he finds out that LIFE is like that. A whole lot of not much, with dashes of really intense thrown at you out of the blue. But that's what makes life so interesting!
We headed home to get the worst of the dust off before going to the post-game memorial party. Zboy would be allowed to come to this, but he had to behave. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Good luck with that, huh? Well, he actually did pretty well. He did down two rather large sweet teas over the course of the evening and he was bouncing off the walls with caffeine and sugar, but otherwise, he was his usual charming little self.
Darling Man and the rest of the game crew arrived a little late (the game ran long) so it was pretty much me, the family, and some of the folks from the church service for a while. They were talking about some picture of JL that they'd found at his house, which they loved. He was standing in front of a building that had been painted with all kinds of religious slogans and pictures wearing shorts and a t-shirt and looking quite fine. But they were wondering where the picture was taken and when because none of them recognized anything in it. My ears perked up and my suspicions were confirmed when they brought it in - I took that picture. 1991 or 1992 in Coolidge, GA. We were on our way back from Atlanta and visiting his friend CM when we came upon a whole block of tumble down buildings in this tiny town built on the side of a railroad track. Some enterprising soul had taken it into their head to spruce things up with those paintings. We stopped and walked the entire block, taking a whole series of pictures at the same time. I still have some of them somewhere, but he apparently had like that one enough to blow it up BIG. Yeah. That was JL. More stories were swapped, hugs traded at the end of the evening. Lots of people came and we all stayed past the supposed end of the party. Zboy was really crazed by now with noise and sugar and lots and lots of strangers. Darling Man and I looked at each other and said mentally - time to go. We gathered our child, made our goodbyes and dragged the child off to home and bed.
It was a fitting farewell. After all these years, this book can be closed. I think he knows that I am happy - and I think he's glad. I know that he is finally healed. And I am glad.