Saturday, June 9, 2012

thank you, gary

The Pinkstons :)
What a beautiful day in Ashland, Oregon. A perfect day for a celebration of life, I'd say.

After a chilly morning, the sun came out, and we enjoyed a stunning day in a breathtakingly beautiful location. We might be a little more ga-ga than most, having come from the sandy, rocky, spine-y 110 degree heat; but even the locals went on about how the sun shone for Gary today.

(I should clarify that we've known the Moores since my mom started working for Gary at the Bartlesville Community Center back in the 80's, and our families moved together to Phoenix in the late 80's  where mom mom and Gary worked together at the new Herberger Theater Center. Our families are very close and have been through quite a bit together.)

There are two things that I wasn't quite able to get out last night that I think I can share now. One is the overwhelming feeling of witnessing, last night, the incredible legacy that Gary left behind. I saw love. I saw the deepest kind of friendship. I saw beautiful parents. I saw children who found their way (and I mean both Moore kids and Pinkston kids, by the way).

The other was when my mom and I were talking with one of Gary's daughters, and mom was talking about how Gary always forced her (my mom) to believe in herself. Gary believed there was nothing she couldn't do. And, as Gary was prone to do, he gave her that gift when she needed it most. He believed in her, and eventually, my mom finally began to believe in herself.

Talk about an epiphany. I welled up and could barely speak.

"Oh my god. I married Gary."

And I did. At a time when things with my own father were going south very quickly, Gary quietly filled the role of a supporter and father figure to our entire family. It was a time when I was in a rocky place, during my fourth year of college at ASU, making questionable decisions and choices that still baffle me. I was disconnected; finding solace (or perhaps hiding?) in the dance clubs and dive bars of Tempe; finding myself drawn to men who were in no way looking out for my best interests; blowing off classes, responsibilities and commitments I'd made; and, worst of all, ruining valuable relationships with people who I miss dearly to this day.

When I hit my "rock bottom", I had to drop out of school just 4 classes short of my degree and move home. Gary gave me a job, and I house sat for them to earn extra money. Gary and Sandye loaned me their car when I needed to move. Whatever I needed, they were there. And I mean - perhaps even more critically - there emotionally, too; supporting, loving, cheering me on. It was a generosity I did not in any way deserve, and I feel shame about it to this day; so much so that it can keep me up at night when I think about it a lot.

But the most important thing that Gary and Sandye did during this time was to take care of my mother and sister, who were still at home with my very ill father, when I should have been helping to do it myself. I have so many regrets from this time in my life; and I struggle with this more than anyone knows, although I've not really spoken about it before.

These were selfish years for me, and they were the years when my father's alcoholism finally tore him away from my mother and our family for good.  And this is when Gary and Sandye took us all under their wings and carried us, just as long as we needed to be carried. I am so thankful...although that doesn't begin to describe the level of the gratitude I feel. You can only dream that you might be able to reciprocate the kind of support and friendship they showed us during this time. You can only pray that you have an opportunity to carry them in the same way.

It took me a couple of years to shake my bad habits and my demons and fully pull out of it. And I'm convinced it all turned around the day I met Larry. He is to me what Gary was to my mom, as a friend. He believes in me, and thinks there's nothing I can't do. And although it's taken several years, he finally has me believing in myself.

Thank you, Gary, for another gift; again, one that I sometimes wonder if I really deserve. Without the example you set in my mother's life, I might not have realized what I had stumbled into the evening that chatty film student approached me on the bench in front of Fat Tuesdays in Tempe so many years ago.

And did I mention? Gary and Sandye's wedding gift to Larry and me was a week stay at their bed and breakfast here in Ashland, the Morical House. So Larry and I honeymooned here, and visited this very lake as newlyweds. Another generous gift I never was quite sure I deserved; but for which I was so, so thankful. A magical place, this is.

As I write this, I feel selfish again, because here I am talking about myself when there were so many people at that beautiful celebration today who were touched by him just as deeply as I was. There was nobody, and I mean nobody, who didn't love Gary.

At the celebration today, I was sitting with my mom, brother, sister and one of Gary's daughters, and we were enjoying the sunshine and delicious bar-b-que, chatting away. Right in front of us, there was a seagull that landed and waddled up to the group. I had stepped away for a moment, but when I came back they told me about how the seagull started chirping, like it was talking, and then made a noise almost as if it was laughing at them.

I looked at my mom immediately, because she and I kind of share a special gift, and because I know she believes the same kinds of things I believe. I said quietly,

"Mom, Gary is visiting us right now."

I believe in my heart that Gary was with that seagull, because he wanted to make sure we knew he was there with us today. It stuck around most of the afternoon, flying over the ramada and walking up close to all the guests.

And okay, I understand that skeptics may say it's just a scavenger bird who thought he might get a few scraps of the delicious pulled pork. But whether you believe he was with the seagull, or in heaven, or in spirit...hopefully he now sees how very many lives he touched.

In my case, I hope he knows about my regrets, and how desperately I hope to make it up to him one very thankful I am for the love, friendship and generosity he gave to our family...and, of course, for the enduring friendship and legacy of his beautiful family.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written.

Faith Benedetti said...

Right on, sister. <3