Monday, January 19, 2015

Better to Dance

Death should not look like this. It should be solemn and serious. It should be awkwardly hugging and deep and sad: it should not look like the way we made it.

Death, two deaths actually... this family took the word "celebration of lives" to heart. We took that celebration and decided to mean it, to live it, to have it for sure. My brother in law -- his parents died, both of them and just three days apart, and it should have been so gut wrenchingly sad but it wasn't.

It wasn't.

His parents left sisters and a brother behind, and even my parents, who were their friends as teenagers and years after that, which is all the days I remember them best. They left five grandchildren with memories kinder than even those gone days and probably more lasting.

A heart could break, thinking about it. But none did.

Instead, we danced to the music of three generations -- everyone there, all together: the old Yale boys harmonizing with the younger ones until the younger ones turned up the Ipod and showed how they roll. Dancing, guitars in tune, even really bad singers singing and we rocked on. We rocked on. Stories were told, neighbors took photos, love was had all around and I don't think a tear was shed outside the church.

I saw Mr. W, who lived across the street from me as a kid, and who (because the world in waspy Connecticut works this way) was also my brother in law's dad's first boss on Madison Avenue, which means, yeah, I grew up with the real Mad Men. (And yes: my sister married the child of her parents' teenage friends and also happened to live across the street from her future father in law's boss, who would become his lifelong friend as well.) (Writing that down made me tired.)

I was younger than Mr. W's kids and he liked football so he'd invite me to watch the Sunday games with him at his house.

"Can Big D come over?" he would shout across the street.

Mr. W and I had some really happy, lazy times together watching football on their leather couch.
I learned almost everything about that game (number 33, Tony Dorsett!) and truly, really the whole idea of sports from him. I muddled through childhood and tweendom during those days and years on his couch and I swear he helped me be what I wanted to be as much as my own father did.

At the funeral, Mr. W looked exactly the same and I kind of melted into his arms when I saw him.
I missed them most when Mr.W said, "He was my best friend but I don't think I was his. Everyone was his best friend."

In the morning, with a very busted elbow from an amazing dancing injury with a nephew who wore a bow tie and who will never know what crappy, pathetic mourning looks like, I found myself suddenly silent the way one does after a big event and a bigger night. Alone in the bathroom, as if caught in a shell from the ocean, I could hear only laughing, only hearty ridiculous laughing ringing in my head, just rattling there. It was loud and awesome and I have decided that it was like a little jack hammer making space for emotion, like a miner making room and getting gold.

So here I am, slightly damaged, bruised, and what do I know that I didn't before?

I know that if someone mattered, they will always matter. I know that it's a good idea to show up and be kind. I know that being arms open is better than arms closed and I know how hard that can be some times. I know that kindness and kinship and true real love crosses all kinds of distances and boundaries and that if I allow it, I'll be happier and better.

I do know that despite the risks, it's way better to dance wildly than cry.
Yup. It's way better to dance.