Mom and I went to a wake tonight, and I wasn’t overly sad.
It was for a man that I’ve known for as long as I’ve known anyone that wasn’t related to me. I smiled and chatted the whole way through the line, like I was meeting everyone for a drink at the pub. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I know he lived a really good life (81), or maybe it’s because I’m glad that he didn’t suffer very long, but either way, I didn’t shed a tear. I suppose it was probably the hugs and smiles from the ladies. I miss them, now that I never see them anymore, so when I do, it’s a happy occasion. I’m not trying to make excuses, just trying to figure it out.
I’ve mentioned before that I hate funerals. I really do. I prefer to remember people in the happy times, and don’t need to be remembering a bunch of people dressed in black and crying, every time I think of them. That’s why I like those celebration of life things. Everyone is happy and chatting. Maybe having a nip of whiskey and carousing with your buddy’s sister in the parking lot. For Donny, it was his 80th birthday party. At least in my mind. At the time he wasn’t sick, so I didn’t know it was the last hurrah.
My first memories of him were from when I was just a very young boy. I was maybe five or so, it’s hard to say, but his one daughter, Lynn was our babysitter, while his other daughter, Donna, was Mom’s best friend. He was also Glenn’s (from the hunt camp stories) older brother. Donny was just one of those characters in my life that appeared quite often, usually briefly, and then was gone again. You might see him 10 times in a month, or you might see him once in ten years, but one thing’s for sure, you were always smiling when you saw him coming and you were always sad to see him go.
For some reason I can remember him calling me “Foghorn” as a boy, but that could have been someone else. I know that from the time I was a teenager, until this past summer, he called me “Cap”. I think he called a lot of people that, but I can’t remember any particular instances. It sounded like “Cap”, but it was probably “Cap’n”, because what the hell does “Cap” mean, anyhow? Glenn called us all “Pasquale” for the longest time, and before that it was “Granny Grunt”. Those guys just had a way of calling people something for years and years, like you never got older. I think that we never said anything, because we didn’t want to find out that they were just drunk and didn’t remember our names. I’ll take “Cap” or “Granny Grunt” over “Whatsisname” any day.
I recall the very first time I ever drove a tractor was doing hay in Donny’s field. I was too young and small to throw bales, so I was put on the tractor. I think it was just in low gear, and they probably figured that if I was allowed to believe I was driving, I’d be less likely to jump off and get run over by the wheel. I also loved the years that he came to the camp for the deer hunt. He had such an easy way about him, and always made you feel important when he was talking to you. I can’t remember him ever talking down to us as kids, he just explained things in his slow, thoughtful way, and we understood.
Another thing that always impressed me about him was his way with women. We would go out to a dance, and he was such a charming, handsome bastard that the ladies would be lined up to have a twirl with him. He was almost 40 years my senior, danced like no one was watching, (except the other ladies), and was always the gentleman.
I, on the other hand, was being a wallflower, playing it cool, and acting like I was King Shit on Turd Island. The fact was that I wasn’t getting so much as a hug, but that’s okay, at least I didn’t let any women see that I liked them or thought they were pretty. We couldn’t have that.
As I look back, I wish I had of taken a lot of cues from those guys a lot earlier than I did. They just seemed to know what they were supposed to do and what was expected of them. I really lucked out in the parent’s friends department, because these people, through just being themselves, helped to shape me into who I am. They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and I fully believe that. I have gleaned so many traits and ideologies from our community of friends, that I should be the Dalai Lama by now.
I’m not though.
Well shit, so much for not shedding a tear about my friend dying. I know that he had a good life. He had Mary by his side, his family and friends around him, and the love of a lot of people to get him to wherever he wanted to go next. Wherever it is, I’ll bet there’s some good old country and western bands, 18 year old whiskey, and a bevy of pretty girls with legs that never get tired.
Save me a seat, Cap. Somewhere that I can see the fiddle player.
He taught me how to drive his car when he was too drunk to, and he’d wink and give me money for the girls,