That is where I met him, tall, dirty blonde, intelligent and outgoing.
He had a knack for existing in both sophistication and redneck simultaneously. Everyone who knew him loved him, except my parents. They thought he had a “chip on his shoulder” and to me he was MORE than a breath of fresh air. He was like a gush or whirlwind of fall leaves swirling upward in a dance. In his presence everything seemed meaningful and brand new. He was enrolled in engineering and could do things like develop photos the old fashioned way in a darkroom. He could hunt and cook and swing me on the dance floor like it was 1962. We rode around in his pickup with steer horns mounted to the hood blasting “Life is a Highway” and “I would walk 500 Miles”. His family were members of a hunting club and we spent time at their camp sailing the reservoir, fishing, painting, and playing. He never forgot how to play.
Our romantic relationship ended, but we remained friends throughout our adult lives. He enjoyed traveling and kept in contact with friends from every phase of his life. We each started married lives, brought children into them, and when we ran into each other it didn’t matter who was in our presence, we hugged tight.
This past year he was killed in a four-wheeling accident and it shocked me and hit me HARD when the shock started to wear off.
I’d never run into him again. Why him? So full of life, now he was gone? How? Do I go to the services? I would definitely know lots of people there, but how do I explain who I am to the people who will miss him most…his kids. I felt it’d be too weird so I didn’t go. It’s bothered me ever since.
Today I opened our college alumni magazine to find a section dedicated in his honor titled “Leaving a Legacy”. It listed his accomplishments post-graduation and thanked him for a large donation to the school left in his will.
What I know for sure is that the older I get, the less I know for sure. I do know that it doesn’t matter how strong or careful you are none of us are getting out of this alive. I also know that the more I learn about positive psychology the more free I feel. It’s almost as if I am earning bolt cutters that clip the chains of insecurity that have held me down.
He taught me to never regret, so I’ll quit beating myself up for not attending his services. He wasn’t THERE anyway, but he WAS (and still is) with me in the truck, at the frat party, and on the dance floor.
Everyone has something to contribute to others, so don’t hold back, live large and leave a legacy.