Sticktoitiveness

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Birthday Buddies in Bow Ties!

The day after Lisa died, I sent an email to a group of friends asking them to meet me in the church fellowship hall thirty minutes before her Memorial Service.  I told them we would save seats for them up front in the sanctuary and that they would all walk in together, united.  I wanted to be able to look over and see those I knew would usher me through the intense shock and pain I was experiencing.

I also told them that they were the ones, like it or not, who were stuck with me, that I needed them to stand by me until I got my feet back up under me.

I think I underestimated their sticktoitiveness.

Last week, on my fiftieth birthday, five years after Lisa’s death, this incredible group of friends threw me a surprise party.  They rented out the second floor of a bar and filled it with the people in my life that I love the most.  When I walked up the steps, there they were, this incredible group of folk, who genuinely care about me.

It sort of blows my mind.  I haven’t been as good to them as they have been to me.  Man, am I blessed.

This past week, I was in Greenville, SC, speaking to a group of YMCA staffers.  After my talk, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes.  She said, “I’ve heard you speak before.  I just want you to know that I keep you and your girls in my prayers.”

Maybe that’s why we’re all doing really well!

As I write, tears well up from my gut.  They aren’t tears for loss.  They are tears of knowing that I can never repay what has been given to me.

When praying, I sometimes struggle to remember those around me who hurt.  I forget the guy I met with a few weeks ago who recently lost his wife or the high school buddy who has been diagnosed with cancer.  They roll through my head on occasion, but I don’t have the same level of persistent, perpetual care that others have had for me.

My friends and family could write the handbook on caring for those experiencing grief.  For them, it isn’t a short story.  It’s an epic novel.  They’ve been working on it for five plus years.  I have this feeling that it will go unfinished.

Batman, Right Here In Raleigh

bow ties

Lisa’s grandfather died in 1992.  We weren’t married yet, but we were headed in that direction.

When Lisa’s mother cleaned out his belongings, she came across several bow ties.  She asked me if I wanted them.  I worked at the Y, so I figured at some point I could use them, for a day camp skit if nothing else.

At the time, I only knew one full-time bow tie wearer.  It was Willis Brown, an attorney in my hometown of Fayetteville, NC.  Every Sunday he’d stroll into church with a crisp white shirt, a three-piece suit and one of his seemingly infinite ties.  I admired his style.  I admired his gutsiness.  Not too many dudes from Fayetteville had enough panache to pull that off.

I too took my virgin bow tie ride at church.  I figured it was a safe group – I mean they were coming together under the auspices of love and acceptance – even for weirdos who wore odd clothing.

The reaction was more than what I had expected, an outpouring of interest and support.  Person after person complimented my boldness.   It was my first step toward Willisness.

Now the bow tie is as common as a pair of flip-flops.  You look around the sanctuary at 11 AM on the day of rest, and you’ll find a sea of them.

I hate looking like every other Tom, Dick or Harry.  I like to stand out, to be a little different.  I’ve pondered the ascot, but that just seems like I’m trying too hard.  But in late December, I was given a gift – the gift of uniqueness.

Part of my intrigue with performing in the play, A Christmas Carol, each December is that I get to dress up in 19th century costume.  My favorite parts of the attire are the top hat and… the cape.  I love to strut around backstage pretending to be Dracula enveloping my children beneath the flowing fabric.  In a cape, you feel bigger than life.  As you walk down a hall, your presence seems to linger behind you.  Your body can be several feet in front of the rest of you.  It’s commanding!  It’s bold!  It’s powerful.

I can assure you Batman’s cape was not chosen because of its ability to help him fly.   No – his cape was a statement.  You don’t want to mess with me – I’m a badass.  I’m wearing a cape.

My fellow cast members understand my obsession with the cloak.  And that is why this year’s stage wife worked with the costumers to make me my own.  One that I could take home – that I could wear anytime I wanted!  It was presented to me on the last night of the show.

cape

I’ve pulled it out a couple of times but in comfortable safe settings.  However, in the future, if you see a guy walking through downtown Raleigh sporting a top of the line, navy ulster, it’s likely me.  In 20 years, it might be you too!

 

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