Carry On (My Wayward Son)
The irony is not lost on me: this weekend I was disproportionately upset by the death of Dave Goldberg (aka “Sheryl Sandberg’s husband”). People shouldn’t randomly die at 47. Not without good reason. They just don’t…just die. Granted, I was probably really upset for one glaring reason: I’m 47. It’s not that I’ve not thought about my mortality, I was an english major, we think about that shit alot (only slightly less than philosophy majors).
My first thought was wondering why and how. And then I read Ms. Sandberg’s post on, appropriately enough, Facebook, and I didn’t care why or how anymore. (If you haven’t yet, go read it. Now.) There is no why or how, there is just that it happened. The take-away is that we should all be so lucky to be so loved.
I met Chris in college, and ok, I’m the first to admit that when I first met him I fell Head. Over. Heels. What can I say? I was a starry-eyed underclassmen and he was so freakin’ handsome AND smart. Judge all you want. I was sitting at a table in the dining hall with him and a couple of his friends, one of whom had given up sex for Lent. (Don’t go back and re-read that, you read it correctly the first time.) After listening to this guy bitch for about 5 minutes I piped up, “You should just stop whining and get laid.” FYI, if you’re a nice little underclassmen at a Christian college “you should just get laid” is not a sentence you should lead off an introduction with.
Or maybe it is.
I have memories of discussions about the personality test he had to take where he was asked “how are flies and tress the same?” and he answered “well, they’re both not toasters.” (The correct answer is that the veins in a flies’ wings are like those in a trees’ leaves.) Of the time our friend K randomly paraphrased Kafka at lunch with “do you mind? I’m turning in to a cockroach?” and Chris and I just stared at each other wondering if we needed to call for help. I called him on his bullshit, let some of it slide, he called me on mine and let some of it slide.
There were snowy walks and poetry and the crappy college bar where he took me at 12:01 April 11th for my first legal drink. One day I was sick and he came and picked me up and too me back to his apartment and made me Market Spice Tea which I CAN NOT stand, and since that day I drink it and think of him.
I called him at an ungodly hour the day I first met my future husband, practically yelling in to the phone, “I’m in love!” His answer? “Who is this?”
“It’s M you idiot! Omigod, he’s handsome and smart and perfect!” (Sensing a trend here do ya?)
Some 10 years later he stood up with me, holding my little red velvet purse in his duty as my best man, to witness me say, “I do.” But before he did that…he gave me the option to run.
And this is my favorite story from my wedding. Most women talk about blah, blah, blah, I don’t know, because clearly I am not most women.
First off, I had a best man. After that brief head-over-heels thing he became my best friend. I used to note that girlfriends come and go, but I’m always left standing. On the day of my wedding he arrived at the apartment to pick me up and take me to the church. When we got in to his car, which by the way was still filled with his carpentry tools, he turned to me.
“Do you have your passport?”
“Yeah, it’s upstairs. Why?”
“You don’t have to do this if you aren’t 100% sure. I will take you anywhere you want to go. You need to know that if you don’t want to get married today, you don’t have to.”
I thought about it for a minute and smiled and said, “I think I want to get married today.”
He smiled and said, “Alright” and pushed “play” on, yes, it was 1999, the cassette tape in his car, and “Don’t Fence Me In” by David Byrne came blaring through the speakers.
We talked less and less over the years. You’re a different person at 45 than you were at 25, and despite what people intend, marriage and children change the friendships involved.
But I never, ever, doubted that if I needed it, I had my place to run to.
Chris died this morning. I’ve had people die before – but this I don’t quite know how to process. Chris wasn’t rich, wasn’t famous, but don’t for a minute don’t think he didn’t make a difference. He changed every person he came in contact with. We all do. It’s the nature and wonder of humanity.
So now we, his friends, are left to wonder how we’re supposed to get by in the world without him.
Just to piss him off one last time, I’m not quoting the Waterboys or the the Pogues, I’m quoting Kansas. He’d roll his eyes, and I’d laugh gleefully, clapping loudly and cheering while he looked at my husband over the top of my head with a, “You signed up for this?” look.
Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are gone. Lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more.
Surely heaven waits for you.