Tuesday, March 1, 2011
All My Exes
A few days after the wedding, I embarked on a similar tour of Texas I had in Calfornia. I’d lived there for 15 of my 30 years in four various places from 8 to 18 and 25 to 30. Meeting my wife, having my daughter, graduating high school, learning to speak English were just a few of the milestones I had reached in the Lone Star State and I set out on a 4 day, 5 city tour.
If I had thought California had been spent commuting I was wrong, Texas was much bigger but it was also worth it. The range of people I saw went from two friends from Junior High I hadn’t seen in 17 years to family members that knew me from birth (some adults themselves, two others cousins that had been born 2 and 3 weeks respectively before me). There were memories of me as an 8 year old ESL student who couldn’t speak English but still helped out around the 3rd grade classroom. There were memories of the guy who always seemed a bit too big for his britches but who was somehow still likeable. I saw a convicted friend whose sentence I had tried to get lowered by testifying at their trial. Another person commented on the fact I’d been there during a hard time at work, and another that I helped tutored them. I had been a pastor for a long time in my life and this tour was actually the first time I made peace with the fact that I had not continued in that profession. There were people there who well predated that career and people who well post dated it who finally revealed to me that I’d had a helpful streak both before and after that. I had honestly thought I’d failed at life when I didn’t stay a pastor and they gave me comfort that I had been able to continue to connect with people at many levels, including perhaps a spiritual one without having to remain in that profession.
Luckily there were enough friends there who also made fun of the time I’d passed gas very loudly in the middle of class or when I’d fallen out of a tree in the middle hide and seek. There were family members there who reminded me that they spent my childhood making fun of the fact that my head was not proportional to my body (too big, something that one could argue is still true in more ways than one). These stories and the ones about me being annoying were always my favorite; having cancer was no reason to start praising me but we could continue with the heckling. Trading juvenile jokes made it a lot easier to deal with than the praise remarks which while well intentioned and well received, at times felt like I was watching my own funeral.
The great variety of friends continued to make me laugh at my life: there was one point where an ultimate pot smoking hippie type was sitting across from a Seventh-day Adventist whose wedding had been vegan and who’d never drank caffeine. PH’ds and high school drop outs, black, white, brown, and yellow, hard core Republicans and Democrats; devout atheists and Christians, even a couple of my exgirlfriends showed up (keep in mind these are from high school); whatever life I’d lived had led me to some very cool but very diverse people. My mom and grandparents were on that trip; my grandfather, in his 80’s, gave me a good long talk about not being afraid of death (he’d put so much energy into it that I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t and just thanked him for it).
In the end, I just kept thinking that there wasn’t any one of those relationships I’d trade in order to avoid brain cancer. Obviously that wasn’t an option but I was well aware that the guy going into the surgery wasn’t going to be the one coming out. I didn’t know how minor or major the changes would be but the guy going in adored these people.