I went to a funeral this week for a man I have known for 25 years or so. A man who fathered four daughters that I consider to be family and who consider me the same. As I sat at the service and listened to a song that will now forever be sad, with my mother crying on my right shoulder, the mother of my child crying on the left and dozens upon dozens of others doing the same, I couldn’t help but take a proverbial step back and just soak it all in. Every tear, every sound and sad face was logged and filed away into my memory bank. A feat that on the surface, sounds like it would lead one to a horrible depressed attitude. But not me, it actually filled me with a sense of pride, amazement and joy.
Don’t get me wrong, Bob passing away was (and is) still incredibly painful. And I was somewhat surprised at how sharp the blow landed when I found out that he was gone. So sudden and seemingly unexpected. Just like that, Bob was gone leaving heartache for his girls and his two grandsons, as well as his extended family and friends. A heartache that was now literally pouring out of everyone around me as I looked on in amazement at how much this man meant to everyone around him, especially his children.
You see, Bob and I were opposites in many ways. He liked the San Jose Sharks, I like their rival Los Angeles Kings. I am a huge Dodgers fan, a team he detested as an Oakland A’s fan. He was a military veteran who held down a blue collar job. I pretty much avoid even speaking about our armed forces while I go to my white collar daily existence. I am loud, he was quiet. I am 30, he was pushing 60. He was thin, I am as thick as he was wide. Physically, emotionally and personality wise, we were simply on opposite sides of the spectrum.
But despite our differences, we always made it a point to talk to each other when our paths would intertwine. Whether it was about sports, our families, work, or my personal favorite topic when discussing Bob, his propensity for wearing denim pants with matching denim shirts (affectionately known as “Bobbing Out”). And whenever our time came to an end, he sought me out, shook my hand or gave me a hug, looked me in the eye and smiled. That always struck me as odd for the simple reason that I constantly ribbed Bob about the topics previously mentioned. I always tried to get a rise out of the man for no other reason than I thought it would be fun to get into some sort of debate with him. He obliged each and every time, and no matter how hard I tried to make him mad, he shook my hand, gave me a hug, looked me in the eye and smiled and told me it was great to see me.
And you know what? I believed him. Not because Bob said so or because it makes for a nice story. Bob was assuredly a nice guy and while it does make for a great story, it isn’t why I believe him. I believe him because I witnessed it. I witnessed Bob enjoy his time on this planet. I witnessed Bob purposely take a step back at family functions and take it all in. I watched him watch others in silence, with a look of amazement and contentment on his face as if he was thinking, “look how damned lucky I am to be here with these people.” As if he was grateful to be invited to the cool kids party while never giving himself props for literally creating the cool kids. I sat back and watched Bob while he sat back and watched all of us, taking in the people laughing on the left of him, while others danced on the right. Holding his grandsons, making baby noises, goofy faces and staring down at Jason and Zander with a sense of amazement that is typically reserved for the one being held, staring out at the world, rather than for the man with a life’s worth of experiences already under his belt.
And in the end, as I realized that at Bob’s funeral, that I was doing exactly what he did in life. Stepping back, taking it all in, treating each instance with the respect of a new experience and opportunity that it truly is and realizing how damned lucky I was to be surrounded with the people I was surrounded with, even in a moment of extreme sadness and raw emotion, I couldn’t help but think about “how damned lucky I am to be here with these people.” We should all be so lucky to be as aware as Bob was in life and I was in his death. And in a matter of weeks, I will be meeting my daughter and can only hope that she turns out like Janelle, Valerie, Robyn and Natalie. And that people are as sad to see me go when it is my time as we all are for Bob. Perhaps Bob and I aren’t as different as I thought.