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Wednesday, Sept. 05, 2001
I'd have to guess that first entry's here are difficult to conceal, to mask with any false pretensions. I mean, it's the first in line, right?

So I get this e-mail from a friend, maybe acquantance, telling me of a death. This 48 year old guy drops off the planet with a wife and 2 boys. It was the wife who I knew best, although I'd met the both of them for the first time just a few months ago. He and I took right off on a discourse of small business ownership and the price of gas, all that male crap, that feet scuffling stuff.

And here's the bizarre part: all previous contact was done via internet - chat for the most part. We got hooked up thru Steely Dan discussions and just connected, his wife and I, I don't know if it was intellect or zinging one liners or what but we got on famously. I say bizarre, maybe that's too harsh for those who have not had the intuitive conversations and more languid correspondance of years past.

There's a point in life that you arrive at where those mind connections become some kind of important, though. Something more than "like, Jason and I went to the mall.....blah blah." A point where you accept and return those electronic hugs and laughs and wit. These are people like me, they are educated without being overtly pompous (hmmm...overtly sure sounds pretty darn pompous doesn't it?), they choose to live their life outside of the four walls of the cubicle, doing what they enjoy for less money than they are worth. They have families, they have those little loves and interests.

So after very little mental thrashing I make the choice to drive 2 or 3 hours northward to attend Pete's funeral. Take next-to-eldest daughter along. In the middle of Labor Day weekend. I rarely wear a suit but I do have one, and it suffers very little for all that hanging around in the closet, so out it comes, and the tie too. I have a thought as I don all this attire, maybe this is the first of many, many funerals this suit will see. It's basically coming to that point in my life where, generationally, there is some pruning a-coming.

And we stand in this beautiful little church, the daughter and I, and watch and listen and sing some. I say stand because the place was packed, SRO and we're on the back wall with no hymnal or prayer book or anything. The lack of hymnal was no big deal, I can and often do sing from memory, I like those rolling bass lines, and it sounds so good to throw out harmony when you've been rusty / silent for a while. And pulpit people come and go, and I see Sandy at the front of the church with the boys, and she's hanging on, my intellect and internet pal. Funny, to see her in this situation. Funny sad. She cried pretty hard when they played "their" song, but she's holding up just swell since then.

Episcopols have traditional, vaguely disciplined services, with a sort of pomp, but there's a relief valve there somewhere. You turn it on to find some real emotions, some reality and a whole lotta stumbling people, who just want to get through the church hour and feel a bit better about themselves. I can't say I'm used to their services, can't say as it does any harm either. Besides, they throw a mean reception in the Parish Hall. So the daughter and I wander over for a glass of punch and a sandwich.

It takes a while, since I know no one at this place other than Sandy and her friend (and mine) Macy. And Sandy is harrassed and busy greeting and taking in the bereavment of folks she sees everday, in this small town. But the inevitable happens. She spots us, her mouth gives a quick little tug. There's basically only one way through the crush of this small room and that's through the kitchen at the back of the hall. But she must've not stopped for anything, other than to collect Macy in her wake and run. And she fell into my hug with a sob, she buried her tears into that suit-from-closet shoulder and just let it go. For about 2 seconds. That's all she needed, she's not prone to that sort of thing, and I doubt she ever will be publicly. Macy sidled up and I hugged her too, my wordsmithing buddy from all hours on the chat room scene, Macy who wouldn't cry on a bet but I caught a bit of a quiver in that voice.

And all the rest of the day there wasn't a minute that one or the other of them weren't somewhere close by. I don't know what it was, a reminder of the normal things they loved, maybe some comic relief (I refused to get caught up in the maudlin stuff, or the holy roller evangelism that some of the relatives tried to pass off as comforting), maybe just gratitude that a fresh face showed up. I don't know and it doesn't matter. I told Sandy, "this is my daughter", and she just put that smile back on her face and said, "I know. She looks just like Ally." And Ally at home, feeling bad she couldn't make this trip. Maybe that's why I brought the second-eldest. She really does look like my Ally, and I was never more glad for that than just then.

It got less and less emotional after that. We went over to Sandy's house, shared food and a beer with Macy and some of the crew. Second-eldest went jaunting with all the other teens that gathered to help out Sandy's son (some things do not stop for funerals or anything else and teen-aged bonding is certainly one of them). And I hoped that my friend would be all right. I surely do. My indestructable trader of barbs. My sometimes bitchy, sometimes shrieking fun music pal. You don't deserve a minute of this pain. And there is not so much that I can do to help you except be funny, be a shoulder, bring along wife look-alikes to introduce you to. It's nowhere near enough.

Pete, rest easy. You had a pretty normal funeral, as funerals go. I met you one time and it will have to be enough. But now I can play back that one time at my leisure, and I savor the things best about you. Sandy will never, ever lack friends from this quarter.

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