Today I went to a funeral for the mother of a very good friend of mine. Granted, I've only hung out with my friend a few times since The Dude was born, because once he happened my lifestyle changed. (Okay, admittedly I had a rocky few months that first year, but I've cleaned up my act.) The last time Mark and I got together was a few months ago, when he and I went to Sole Mio and then the Nashville Symphony together, a fantastic night I promised him I would blog about and then never did.
Mark has always, always been very good to me. He's a prosperous attorney who divorced shortly after I met him. I was bartending at Ole Neighborhood, and he was ending a 20-something year marriage. He was single, I was single, and we had the same tastes. We were quite the "couple" about town for many years: we hit all the good parties, the benefits, the black-tie fundraisers. Eventually I started writing for The Wilson Post newspaper, still bartending on the weekends, so between the two of us we were invited to basically every event worth going to in the immediate area. It was fun, and one of the reasons why I don't think I "missed out" on anything when I had my son. I had that single lifestyle, the partying, the late nights, for years. Hell, I was nearly 27 years old when I had The Dude: I'd had my fun.
But Mark was there the day The Dude was born, beaming, proud and beatific and terrified right along with me. I don't have to see the photograph taken of him holding The Dude, so tiny and hidden in the blankets and born over a month early, to remember how Mark simply glowed with the knowledge of another little me in the world.
Then, as it does, life intervenes. I became more and more absorbed with work and writing, with guiding The Dude and everything that goes along with that, and Mark retreated from the community spotlight, redecorated his house, and sent two of his boys to college. There were the random text messages, pics exchanged via cell phones, but no real contact except when both of my grandparents died, and I barely remember that, steeped in a fog of grief and fear.
So, it takes a day like today, the funeral of his mother, to bring us back together. Mark held up well: his mother had been in hospice care for months, losing her third battle with cancer, so her passing was not a surprise, but I'm sure a bit of a relief that her long struggle and pain was over, and she could join her beloved husband, who left us a few years ago as well.
But it shouldn't take an event like this to reconnect friends. I sat in the hushed funeral parlor this morning, yellow sunlight streaming through purple and cream stained-glass windows, thinking of how awful it is that Mark's mother died three days before Thanksgiving, on the cusp of the holiday season. How Thanksgiving will never be the same for anyone in his family again.
Then I watched Mark and his family file into the sanctuary, light catching in a flash in his rimless glasses, glinting off the silver hoop in his oldest son's ear. And he sat with his ex-wife, who bent her head toward him and nodded, sniffling. Just two rows back, I looked at the lines of their bodies, how the boys' faces are shaped, the curve of their jawline, just like their mother's, how they all have Mark's gorgeous dark, slightly curly, hair. They sat together, tight, holding themselves and each other together.
That's when I realized that too often we concentrate on what we don't have, what we have lost, instead of what, and especially who, is nearest to us. We watch and wait and covet and need, instead of taking stock of those so close we can literally reach out and touch them.
I'm as guilty, if not more, than anyone of this. That's why this Thanksgiving will be so difficult for me: I know I need to finish the newsletter, and write the Wilson Living article, and at least attempt to work on the novel and Jordan's workshop, and I'm so obsessive and have a tendency to be single-minded when I'm set on something, it's going to take an effort of will to actually stop, calm down, and enjoy myself tomorrow. I will be scooping dressing and ladeling gravy while working on the InDesign spread in my head or worrying about magazine-worthy pictures that I need to make sure get to who needs them, by deadline.
I will not, without consciously trying, be in touch with those around me.
So, this is why I am giving myself permission to reconnect with myself - my non-working self - and with my family. There's no reason not to and too many reason to do it.
And, on Friday, when I'm shopping and stressing and wondering how in the world I'm going to make all this work, that's when I'll worry about deadlines.