where i come from
Throughout my twenties I’ve developed a very specific set of crisis management skills, and almost all of them involve some combination of chocolate, wine, and cheese. Going through a breakup? Grab a wedge of nutty, smoky Robusto gouda from Whole foods, a bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir, and chocolate covered anything. For the more serious brands of heartache, simply chocolate covered chocolate will do. Friend lost a job? Assemble a quick assortment of fruit, crackers, hummus, veggies, and brie, grab something mindless from Redbox, and spend a day mentally checked out. Someone else got engaged before you? Pizza and tequila, and a toast to the single life. You learn these things in your twenties, weathering storms alongside your college or, if you’re lucky, childhood girlfriends and you figure out who you are. I know what aisles to hit for these minor tragedies and social upheavals. What I don’t know is what you bring over when one of the most important people in your life, someone you’ve known longer than you haven’t, tells you his mother died. There isn’t an aisle for that. None of us from our close knit group of high school friends imagined we’d need to know how to get through that kind of devastation until long after we all had kids of our own. I have lost grandparents and watched others walk through the loss of close family members but I have no frame of reference for processing the loss of a parent, much less a sudden and tragically unexpected loss. All I know is to get in the car and go.
Last Friday, Tara and I threw some clothes into my car and drove to Dallas to be with Dan as he walked through pain we could not fathom without feeling ill ourselves. When all the words you can think of feel hollow, when no amount of silent tears shed over the phone could possible do any good, you get in the car and you drive. Sometimes, the only way to love on your people is to love on your people. One of the most beautiful things about having friends you have known for over half your life is the amount of effort required to maintain those relationships is far less than what is required of friends you meet later in life. These people know you. They saw you in braces, they were there when you went through puberty and had your first everything, they ate the cookies your mom made after school, they wrote the same papers for class, they grew up in the same world and no matter how far apart you end up, the nuance and idiosyncrasy of home will always be in you in much the same way. There is something sacred about coming from the same place as another person. You get one another on a level that few others can. You know every facial expression and what it means. You know why that joke is funny, because you were there when it started a decade ago on the bus to a basketball game. You know why the current girlfriend or boyfriend is such a Godsend, because you were around for the ones who weren’t. Without saying a word, you just know. This is how it is with Dan, and he would have hopped in the car for any of us had the chips fallen the other way. So, we went.
We met Dan and his sweetheart at a Mexican restaurant near Faryn’s house and we hugged and we cried and, for what felt like the first time since I’d heard the news, I exhaled. Over the course of that first night back in Dallas, we laughed more than we cried. Because when you’re with the people who know you best, you don’t have to explain what you’re feeling or what you need. We all just know. So, we danced. The boys drank scotch, the girls drank wine, and we all danced. We held each other up and we laughed together like we’ve laughed together all over the world, in every season of our lives, through every heartbreak and happiness. We danced for all we’ve been through so far and all we’ll go through again. We laughed because when you’re with the only people who can begin to imagine the depth of your grief and loss, you don’t have to explain anything. These friendships draw from a deep well of history, love, and understanding unlike any other I’ve ever known.
When we arrived at the funeral home for Mary’s service, I saw teachers from high school who loved us when we were their kids in class. I saw the parents of classmates who opened the doors of their homes to us as far back as I can remember. I saw mutual friends I hadn’t seen since graduation. I saw the people who came from the same place Dan and I came from, who draw from that same well, and it was beautiful to know we all still have each other’s backs. Years have passed, but there they were. There was our English teacher who taught me to love writing. There was the couple who gave me a monogrammed towel for graduation that I still use. There was the “are they or aren’t they” lovebirds who have loved each other as long as Ross and Rachel, the one’s we’ve all been rooting for since the beginning. There they all were, showing up for one of their own, because when you come from the same place that’s just what you do.
I suppose this isn’t really a blog about how sad things happen, but about saying a deep and profound Thank You to the people who showed up for Dan last weekend. I am so thankful to have come from the same place as all of you. No matter where we all end up I’m thankful for your fingerprints on my life, your faces in my memories, and I’m so glad we got to dance together again.