STANDING ROOM ONLY

There’s a few ways to live your life. It’s all about choices. You can be of a quiet nature, more of a loner. You prefer your evenings at home watching tv and are rarely in the company of more than 1 or 2 people. You are quiet. Rarely speak unless spoken to. Seldom reach out to friends and don’t ever make plans. And that is ok. Some people prefer solitude and quiet. Now I’ve heard of these types of people. I know they DO exist. I, however, grew up in a nuthouse. OK not so much a nuthouse as a loud house. A very loud house full of very loud, strong willed people who all were right ALL of the time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When you grow up with a Mom and Dad like mine you really don’t realize there are other “types” of parents until you get older and spend time with other families. I thought all Dads dressed up in their daughter’s cheer uniform and performed in front of the senior class. I thought all Dads hid on the roof and jumped off and scared Trick Or Treaters. I thought all Dads yelled and cussed at the tv while the Cowboys played. I thought all Dads knew everyone on the planet and called them by name. I thought all Dads let their kid stay up late to watch Barney Miller and All in The Family and explained why Archie was ironic. How racism permeated the 60’s and 70’s and how Archie’s character was ironic and made fun of an entire group of close minded bigots. I thought all Dads called their kid into the garage to listen to this brand new awesome tape that this band U2 released called Joshua Tree and made them listen to every damn word. I thought all Dads let their 13 year old drive their truck on the street and said they’d keep that a secret from Mom (sorry Mom).

The entire week of my Dad’s funeral was quite a blur. Thank God for friends and people who took care of “business” because my sister, Mom, brother and I were a bit in Lala Land. I do, however, remember the funeral service quite well. 100’s of Harley’s lined up in the parking lot of a church is quite a sight…I think you call it a juxtaposition. All of these Harley guys stood in the back of the church with their t-shirts custom made with my Dad’s name on them and their bandanas and chaps and long hair. While many MANY older relatives in their church dresses filled the pews. And sooooooo many of my friends I cannot begin to name. Grateful to them. Before the service I remember my Mom being concerned that the church’s sanctuary (damn Im proud of myself for remembering that word)…I was going to call it an auditorium….was so big that it would look empty with 30-70 people in there and she didn’t want it to look empty.

Everyone was seated before the family was escorted in. We waited in a back room and were the last ones shown to our seat on the front row. As I walked with my husband and kids and sister and brother I looked up. There was standing room only. There was not one empty seat. In fact, people spilled out into the lobby, into the hallways. I just stared. There were over 700 people there. In that room. In that place. For my Dad. I guess my Mom’s fears were unfounded.

After the service we (the immediate family) stood in this reception type line because my Mom said we had to and shook hands with everyone who filtered out of the service. Hours. HOURS. And more hours went by. My heels were kicked off and I think someone was bringing us food and drinks and eventually chairs to sit in since we’d been standing so long.

There were people from his work dressed in all brown (UPS uniform). There were bikers from all over the place. There were old high school friends of his that I had never heard of. Then there was a lady. An older lady. She was from Arkansas. She’d driven FROM ARKANSAS. She was a single Mom in a truck stop diner in Arkansas on one of my Dad’s routes over the years. Every Holiday apparently he’d tipped her VERY well because he knew she was a single Mom and needed the money. She sent Christmas cards for many years after his death. We’d have never known about her had he not died.

This blog is not at all meant to be sad. My Dad’s death sucked. Funerals mostly SUCK. But in that moment. On that day. In that SANCTUARY…I decided there is really only one way to live your life. Holy shit this 53 year old college drop out truck driver had more friends and admiration than most people ever will in their lifetimes. I was not living my life completely that way. At the time I was submerged in potty training and registering Maddie for Kindergarten and lack of sleep and bitching about my kids sucking the life out of me. I was scheduling girls night outs once a month just to speak to other adults. I had friends. Good friends. But i wasn’t CONNECTING. I wasn’t FEELING with all that I had to feel and give. Retreating, running, making superficial connections, being defensive. All of that I was doing.

He didn’t have to die for me to realize all of this. Maybe it would have sunk in as I aged. I am now 42. I am just 11 years younger now than when he died. I have made stronger, deeper connections in these past nine years than ever before. I moved because I wanted to. I climb mountains and travel and make time for friends and feel things deeply and listen to all of the lyrics. And it might be genetic. It might be that I just got his personality. But I can honestly say some of the way I choose to live….a lot of the way I choose to live is because of a moment in a sanctuary when I looked up and saw over 700 people that one man had touched. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life one day and have to worry about not “filling the room”, “filling the seats”. It’s a true testament to a person’s life….the number of people that show up to their funeral. Live every single ounce of life. Suck the energy out of every day. Be nice. BE. NICE. Stop with the cynicism and complaining. You can’t get those moments back. Invest in people. Travel. Look your friends in the eye. FEEL. Even when it hurts. Tell people how you feel. And ride! Run, climb, ride, travel, go see, do all that you want to do. Fill the pews. Because all the money in the world, all the stuff in the world, the greatest job in the world, cannot provide that which a brief moment with another person, eye to eye, can provide.

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