I fumbled with my tie. I had not worn one in some time, and it just wasn’t coming out right. I thought it was a bit ironic to get all dressed up for the occasion since I had never had a moment to feel the need to be so formal during any association with this man. Perhaps it was because I had so much respect for him, his sons, heck his entire family, that I was now doing this for him. I now began to feel the expanse of years that had gone by.
As I continued to work on getting my tie just right, my mind drifted back to being a scared twelve-year-old in junior high school. Almost everyone I had known in grade school was going to another school. I had to start over again. Turns out, there were a lot of kids there in the same boat I was. A couple of them would become the rarest of friends, the ones you would be tied to your whole life no matter what. Today, was one of those days. It was one of those days I needed to stand tall for one of those friends. It was the day he was laying his Dad to rest. I shuddered at the thought. I had attended the funeral of my Sister and her Husband seven years ago, but somehow this felt different, almost more personal.
My first exposure to Jon’s family happened when I was invited to play a game called Dungeon’s and Dragons. It sounded interesting so I went over. It was the first time I had been invited to the house of someone else. I was nervous and excited. I had liked Jon from the first moment we met. It was just one of those things where we hit it off right away. We were directed to the basement and his Mom, Pat, was very nice. That, as we say, was the start of something bigger. We formed the nucleus of a group of geeky kids that would play all sorts of games together. It would be some time before I met his Dad, but I had heard stories. Given my own Dad’s violent tendencies I was more than a little nervous about meeting Jon’s Dad, Harold.
One of my earliest memories of Harold happened one night when a whole gang of us were over to play one of our games. Harold came down stairs, and he needed to speak to Jon about something, so he called Jon out of the room. It would later become amusing to me, but Harold would always appear to us like he was angry about something. His tone was always very serious. However, in retrospect, there was always a humorous twinkle in his eye. I think he wanted it understood who was in charge in the house, but he was also happy to have us around. That wisdom only comes after the fact, however, and whenever Harold came down to the basement in those years all activity stopped in anticipation of what he would want. I really think he enjoyed that, at least I like to think he did.
As I got in the car and began the fairly long journey from my home to the site for the service, I reminisced more on the man I was paying respects to. Being in the car reminded me of purchasing one of my first vehicles from him. It was almost like purchasing an extension of their family. Harold always showed great interest when I would come over to make a payment on my purchase. He would inquire if everything was working properly with the car. Through our small talk, he was asking about the car, but I really think he was making sure I was okay. This was a particularly tough time for me in my own family. My father had run off with another woman when I was 17. Being the sole remaining male in the house, my Mother and Sister often took out their rage over the situation on me. Harold was aware of this, and I think he really was concerned that I was doing alright. Were it not for Jon, and his father Harold, I am not so sure I would have come out of that time as well as I did.
After I arrived at the funeral home, Jon greets me. He appears casual, almost his normal self. There is a bit of sadness behind those eyes, but there is a familiarity there too. There is that same intensity and spirit his father had there. Our meeting was brief, he had many things to attend to. I look around for and see just how many people are here to honor this man. It was true that he had touched so many lives in his life. There was a somber mood to the room that is normal with such a function. We all filed in to the chapel. The Pastor shared many anecdotes, and statistics of his life with us. The final thing Harold wanted us to remember him by was a song. It was a great choice, and I don’t think there was anyone in the room that wasn’t uplifted and maybe tapping a foot here and there when this song played. It was a fitting tribute to the man and his life.
Rest easy Harold, I am okay. I have a wonderful family, and in large measure I owe that to you and your son Jon.