I made the drive up to my parents' house in five hours, door to door, including a half-hour dinner stop. I haven't made that kind of time in years. I got in around 11:30; they were out at the airport in New Hampshire picking up my brother. They all got back around 1, just as I was about ready to fall asleep. Foolishly, I got up and we were all silly together for a bit, so it was nearly 2 before I got to sleep.
Saturday morning we left the house about 8, to be at church for the 8:30 choir rehearsal. I was, as always, grateful that I'm a quick study - twice through, and I'll be as good as I'm likely to get. I do miss singing regularly, very much. When I get my life rearranged, I need to look around for a church with the right kind of choir.
The service itself - well, what can I say? I had thought I was ready for it, but I was very glad that there were boxes of tissues scattered around the choir loft. I made it through most of it, but I lost it on the closing hymn, along with most of the rest of the choir.
Every so often I'm reminded that I grew up. The reception was one of those times - or, really, two of them. Wayne's family did a receiving line between the church and the hall. Melissa, Alex and I were at the very end of the line (having tried to miss it and failed). I introduced myself as a long-time choir member, that being the fastest and easiest way to identify myself. And Wayne's sister asked me if I knew why the choir sent a giant stuffed penguin. Well, I never saw the penguin in question or heard about it, but our collective penguin obsession is easy to explain. So I did. Melissa and Alex, meanwhile, just made the awkward polite noises that were all I had expected to say. Do I just have a face that says "Talk to me!" or have I actually managed to develop some adult social skills?
They had an open microphone for people to share their stories and thoughts about Wayne. My mom had suggested that I might want to tell some junior choir stories, and I'd been thinking about it for the last couple weeks. I wasn't sure what I could say that someone else couldn't say better, though, and I didn't write anything up. I wanted to see what else would be said.
Maggie had written something, of course. She had someone else read it, because she knew she wouldn't be able to get through it. Then a woman from the college Wayne taught at spoke about their experiences with him, and told us that the college is dedicating a student meeting room and setting up a scholarship fund in his name. His organ teacher was there, and told us some stories about Wayne's lessons. Steve Grillo, a long-time choir member and someone who had served on a number of boards and committees with Wayne, read something he wrote the night Wayne died. And a woman who joined the church and choir only two years ago talked about getting to know him as a new friend, and her regret that she will never get to know him as an old friend.
And then I went up to the microphone and spoke. Without any notes, just drawing on the things I had thought about saying. I mentioned a couple of junior choir moments, and explained that I couldn't tell good stories, because that's now half my lifetime ago. And I told my favorite Wayne story, about my confirmation. And I said that I hoped Wayne would continue to guide me, always. And then I went back to where I'd been standing with Melissa and Alex and quietly panicked. I usually don't get stage fright before public speaking, but I fall apart the moment it's over, and continue to worry about it for days afterward. That's a good way to do it, but...
And no one got up to speak after me. I'm of two minds about this, both not quite happy. Part of me wonders if perhaps I shouldn't have gone up at all. Perhaps I should have left it at what had been said already - and what do I really have to add, anyway? I am trying to stop this line of thinking cold, because I know it's irrational. For one thing, quite a few people came up to me afterward to thank me for sharing, and to tell me how brave I was to get up and speak without notes. For another, I really needed to do it for me. I needed to say it, for the same reasons I've been babbling all over this journal, and in person to anyone who's held still long enough in the last month or so.
The other part of me really wishes I'd written down some of the things I'd thought of, or that I'd known no one else would speak after me so I would have thought to include them, or at very least to end on a more upbeat note. But this is the same part of me that is very glad I did speak. You see, a large part of Wayne's life was working with young people. The junior choir, the students at the college, his family and his friends' families... The stories I tell about the way he has influenced and guided me are far from unique. And I was the youngest person to speak at the reception, by about fifteen years. If I had not chosen to stand up, there would have been no voice from my generation at all. And that would have left a very incomplete picture. I just wish I'd said some of what I expected someone else after me to say.
So there I was, taking on a very adult role for the second time in half an hour, and speaking for an entire generation at the same time. I hope I at least managed to speak in complete sentences. I know I made my mom cry...
This should be my last journal entry about Wayne, unless he comes up in stories I tell later on. For my later reference:
Wayne Duncan Ashford
November 4, 1948 - February 29, 2004
After the reception, Melissa, Alex and I went to Papa Gino's to get some lunch. Papa Gino's is quite possibly what I miss most about Massachusetts. Melissa drove us home (we'd come in Mom's car), and then Alex and I took turns most of the rest of the day between down-time and entertaining the parents.
Sunday morning, my dad was already back from taking Alex to the airport before I got up. My mom left shortly after I got up, heading for New Jersey to visit her parents. I lazed around until about 12:30, then drove to visit turtle_morn.
turtle_morn's house looks much better with furniture! I saw it just about a year ago, as they were getting ready to move in. And the kittens are adorable. I wish I'd made it to see them while they were smaller, because at 8 months they now just look like small cats for the most part. But Mischa played with me for a while, then curled up between us on the sofa and industriously licked my hand for quite some time. Sasha, the grown-up kitty, came by and licked me for good measure. She walked into my hair, then got annoyed that it was in her way. This wouldn't have surprised me six months ago, but it takes some effort to walk into my hair now! And even the scared little Katja-kitty came out and licked my hand and let me pet her head, as long as I didn't look at her. Yes, I was well and truly licked. And, of course, it was good to visit with turtle_morn and Nathan for a bit. However, they're not as cute, and neither of them licked me.
I got home around 9:30 last night. And here I am again...