Friday, November 19, 2010

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

When Kristine & Bobby got married last fall, I was asked to do a reading at the ceremony. [Ed. Note -- I have done many readings at weddings, and I do hire out my services in that capacity.] Kristine & Bobby chose Love Sonnet 43 ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" -- link here: by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Kristine either thought I was wise and eloquent in the ways of love, or just wasn't interested in controlling every tiny detail of the wedding ceremony, because she told me that if I wanted to, I could say something about the reading first, or make some other introductory remarks. Those who know me know I'm not shy, and I always think I have something to say. So, of course, I spoke a bit about love before reading the poem.

(Left: Brian and me at Kristine & Bobby's wedding reception)

I said that the poem describes different aspects of love, and that the wonderful thing about marrying somebody and sharing your life with them is that you get to discover different ways in which you love them, different things they do and that you experience together that make you feel differently toward that person and love them even more. My eyes filled with tears of joy as I thought about that truth that life with Brian had taught me, and that my friends would now know. I knew that I loved Brian more and more the longer we were together, and I yearned for my friends to experience that in their own lives.

Lately, I have been thinking about the many proverbial "hats" Brian wore, the many roles he played in his life and how lucky I was to see him wear so many pieces of headwear. He was my husband; but he was also a son, brother, friend, boss, employee, classmate, uncle, volunteer, manager, cousin, brother-in-law, son-in-law, grandson, "daddy" to our cats, and so much more to so many others. I'm sure there are hats he wore that I never even saw in the closet -- I can't truly know what impact he had on whom in the workplace, for example, or to guys who lived on his floor while he was an RA in college. I have no doubt he wore each hat well though.

I loved Brian more and more as time passed and I got to see him in different lights. He came across as a brash, outspoken guy who was all about having a good time. Yes, he was those things. But he was so much more than that. When we got Picaboo, I got to see him in the role as pet owner (though we didn't care for the term "owner"). We would call each other "Mommy" and "Daddy" when we talked to her...and it wasn't me who started that! My jaw dropped the first time he said, "Picaboo, look at Mommy!" [Photo at left is "Peeks" and "Daddy"] When Ellie came along, she was totally a Daddy's girl, and he loved it. I think I loved it more though -- it was great to see him baby her and go out of his way to make her happy. It was the same way to see him with kids, especially his nieces. Though he didn't know much about babies (he was shocked to find out that babies were born with fingernails when we went to the hospital to meet our first niece, Lily!), he always had a way with kids. It was adorable to see this big man turn into a total softie, put on a baby voice, and make funny noises. It made me love him more.

As a friend, Brian was tops. He was loyal, he made time for his friends, and he made sure everyone had a good time. He truly cared about his friends and would go out of his way to help them. Though I didn't see it too much (because it is something that normally happens between friends without spectators), I know he gave good advice and had a knack for being able to have tough conversations with people when they needed to hear something. It takes incredible skill, confidence, and tact to do that; I loved him more because I saw those aspects of his personality.

I really learned a lot from Brian from the way he interacted with the world -- his family (both immediate and extended), friends, co-workers, subordinates, and his bosses. I was amazed at his visitation to hear people say things like, "I worked for Brian eight years ago." He had such an impact that people felt the need to pay their respects, and some of the people he touched in those seemingly mundane ways were truly saddened and affected by his death. One death makes so many people mourn for their loss, and the bigger the ripples one makes in the pond, the more people will feel them.

Because of Brian's death, his young nieces will never really know their Uncle Brian. This breaks my heart more than I can describe. While this affects the girls, and I am angry and sad for Brian that he didn't get to see them grow up, I am also sad for myself that I won't get to see him be an uncle. I loved watching him with those little girls, and I miss that about him. I'm sad I don't get to see that anymore.

Because of Brian's death, his childhood friends won't be able to say "We've been best friends for 50 years" like I know they would have been. He met Mike Hart in the first grade and was best friends with him until the day he died, at age 31. It is rare to meet a 31-year-old who has had the same best friend for 25 years. When we were in college, we had to fill out questionnaires about ourselves for a residence life trivia game. One of the questions was, "What was your favorite grade in school, and why?" I chose 9th grade because I was finally in high school and I started dating Brian. He chose 1st grade "because that was the year I met my best friend, Mike Hart." Those two relished their friendship; the quarter-century mark for them was noted and toasted, almost like an anniversary. They loved sitting around telling stories about what they did when they were younger, and I know Hart is crushed that he can't do that anymore, and that there are no more stories to be created and later re-told as wrinkly old men. I am also heartbroken that I don't get to sit there and hear them share those stories -- I always loved hearing tales of their hijinks and I looked forward to being an old woman and laughing with them as we recalled our young and crazy days.

There are so many other examples I could write, but you get the point. Just as much as he played a role in everyone else's lives, I loved that many aspects of his personality. Suddenly "How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways" has turned into "How Do I Miss Thee? Let Me Count the Ways."

The fortunate thing for me is that the connections Brian made in his life helped make my safety net a lot bigger and stronger this year. When I think about the good friends who have helped me get through this year, a lot of them came into my life because of him. This is not to say my family and my own friends haven't been awesome, because they have. I'm just saying that he brought a lot of great people into my life. He was able to do that because everywhere he went, he made an impact on people. He had friends from every stage of his life, and could befriend the most unlikely of people. Now, those bonds he made for us have been invaluable to me.

Ellie (human Ellie, who has been a superstar with home projects) knows me because her fiance worked with Brian. Joy (who watches the cats and is just a loyal friend who would do anything for you) was co-workers and friends with Brian when he worked at Sears, and then ING. My friend Erin (who lives in Austin and lived with me this summer) is another ING connection. I also think my friendship with Kristine was strengthened by the fact that her husband and Brian were friends and we did a lot together as couples. Of course, Brian's family in Texas has been a great support. I went to Bonnaroo with Hart and Wilson, and Wilson and I have had a good number of nice conversations this year (in person, on the phone, and by text) and he always makes me feel better. Brian's immediate family has been great to me and checked in on me so often when they probably needed checking on themselves. The list goes on and on...

I have been pretty down lately, thinking about how much I miss Brian in so many different ways. I need to remember, though, that I was lucky to know him in so many different ways, to love him in so many different ways, and to have so many people and so much love and support in my life because of him. I guess I need to look at it as "How Do I Thank Thee? Let Me Count the Ways" or "How Do I Remember Thee? Let Me Count the Ways."

After all, isn't thinking of him with gratitude, joy, and thankfulness a better way to love him and honor his memory than thinking of him with sorrow?

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