Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kind and Generous

We laid Gary to rest on Monday.


I was standing in Burger King, in my dress blouse, hair done, yoga pants, sneakers without socks, and big black winter jacket. Geoff had woken up early, as is his wont, was restless and annoying bumping around the hotel room. This hotel has no gym or pool, sadly, so he was like a caged animal. I figured it would be a good idea to get up, get ready, and go grab breakfast for Doug and Jess, sleeping behind.


We ordered breakfast sandwiches, things like croissants with eggs and sausage, and an "Eggnormous Burrito," of all things. The hash browns were dropped into the deep fryer, so I knew they'd be fresh and delicious for us.

Burger King was empty, and after I placed our order, I stood there waiting. Natalie Merchant's voice came over the speakers, and she was singing the Thank You song, "Kind and Generous."

I'd always been a big 10,000 Maniacs fan, in my younger days, R.E.M. and Indigo Girls and their ilk filled my heart with poetry.


I never liked this song.


I found it repetitive, pointless. It wasn't to anyone that I could detect, it wasn't about anyone or any one event. It started with "la la" which always drove me nuts. Get to the words, not the la la part.

But I stood there and began to listen to her. I began to think about all the Thank Yous I gave Gary, and many that I never had the chance to deliver.


And for the first time ever, at the end of the song when she sings "Thank you, thank you" over and over again, it stopped sounding to me like a pointless waste of time and lazy songwriting.

It sounded like "I can never thank you enough."  Never, ever enough. No matter how many times it is sung, to the point of fading out or the next song beginning, there would never be enough thank yous delivered.

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, for your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you
I want to thank you for your generosity
The love and the honesty that you gave me
I want to thank you show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you
I want to... Thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you....

The pastor delivered his sermon, and then he opened the floor to people to come up and share their thoughts and feelings. Danny, one of the fellow elders in the church, came up and shared his peace. Michael Q Neely (the Q stands for Quality Keyboardist... inside joke) spoke at length on his friendship with Gary, and how he wasn't attached to the church or God, until he kind of started "dabbling" with this experience, and Gary was there to be his friend. Not be anything more, but to just be his friend.


I knew Doug and Diane both were not going to get up and share. Doug told me that I could, and should, and that his dad would appreciate it. Gary told me on more than one occasion that "Christine, you just got a way about you..."


Wanting to honor that, I got up to speak.


My nephew Craig (Diane and J's son) came to join me. I asked him if he wanted to speak, but he did not. He wanted to just stand with me. Perfectly cool. I'm down with that.


I told everyone that the first time I came out to visit the family, probably in 1987 or so, Gary insisted on taking me around town. I sat in the front seat and Doug was in back. Gary tootled us around town, and he pointed out things and places to me.


He took us to the river to show me the mighty Ohio. There was a coal barge making its way along, pushed by a tug boat. He talked to me about its destination, and the comings and goings of boats up the river. Where the Beaver would meet up, and the locks that were over in another location that he wanted to show me.


Doug was in the back seat cringing. He groaned to his dad that "she knows all this stuff already, she's from Long Island..." I had a big smile on my face, because I knew Gary was showing me this stuff because it was such a part of their life, and their heritage, and their town... even if there were ten thousand sailboats on the river, it still would have been his to share and show. I felt honored, not insulted or upset.


He was being a dad. Such a dad moment. And Doug, well he grew into those dad moments himself for sure. I see a lot of Gary in him.


Another story that I related was when we went to see his mother "Middie" in her nursing home one day when I was waiting for Jess to finish her finals so I could bring her home. Middie told me about this nurse... she had a tattoo! on her NECK! and she got her hair all cut short so everyone could see it! Imagine that!


Right in front of the nurse, who waved politely to me. I asked if she'd turn about and show me her razor short haircut in back, and the tattoo.


It was very nice.


Gary, like Doug before, was rolling his eyes and groaning about his mom. I said to her "Hey Middie, where's your tattoo?"


"My tattoo?" she asked, confused.


"Yeah, I bet you have a wicked awesome tattoo. Show it to me!"


Middie at first was confused and then started laughing and said "oh my! You think I have a tattoo!" and she laughed, hysterically. She told the man at the table next to us that I asked where her tattoo was. He kind of nodded. Gary was holding his head in his hands.


"You don't have one? C'mon, I'll spring you outta this joint and we'll go get you inked up. How 'bout it?"


She laughed maniacally. It was delightful. Gary was cringing, but I could see this smile.


When we left the nursing home I asked him if he wanted to go get tatted up. And he laughed.

A little while later, he sent me a tear-out from a coloring book of a little girl with flowers and bunnies, and he'd written "Death Before Dishonor" on her arm.


That shit was funny.


Finally, I told them the story of Burger King, Natalie Merchant, and the line " You know I'm bound, I'm bound to thank you for it..."


I thanked him for all the kindness and love he had shown me, for welcoming me to his family. For laughing with me, and for times he cried with me like when I lost the baby between Jess and Geoff back in 1994, when I was quite broken and distraught. I thanked him for making me his "outlaw" which is so much cooler than an "in-law" and I told him there were no thanks that I could give that would equal the amount of thanks I have.


We sang "I'll Fly Away," which always breaks my heart. And there were military honors with guns and a full flag folding and presentation to his mom.

We didn't go to the cemetery, Diane did because she felt it was very important to do so when you commit a body to the ground, that it should be attended by Family. I considered going, but thought it more of a love to take her son, my nephew, Craig, with me to the restaurant. Bonnie didn't want people going to the cemetery, because it was cold, and not good for the 90 and 80 year olds who would have to be standing out there in the cold and wind.


All told, I liked Bonnie's choice, but recognize the importance of Diane's choice.


I'm still numb from this. I have not cried yet - I've kind of kept it together with a dose of "this didn't just happen." I'm not sure why I'm not a quivering mess, a lumpy wet pile in the corner. But it will hit me. It will break my heart. It will come at me like a rogue wave, unexpected and out of the blue. It will happen.


I won't be ready, but I'll accept it.


And will shed the tears and say "Thank you," as many times as I can.


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