I began planning this year's summer vacation last August after receiving a message from a dear younger friend inviting me to her college graduation party. It was months away but she wanted to make sure I knew far in advance so I could plan my annual trek to Beantown. I recall thinking how proud I was of her and her persistence and determination in working and going to college for years to finally graduate with little financial help and lots of emotional support from family and friends. I looked forward to enjoy celebrating with her while getting to spend some time in my other favorite place: New England. So I began my plans of how long and how many games I would be able to attend and all the friends I would see. I had even thought maybe I could catch a minor league game in Pawtucket or Portland. How little did I realize that I would be headed to Portland on this trip...but not in the fashion I had intended.
In October last year, again via the internet, I found out that a fellow SGer had passed away: Andy Block, or lovingly known to us as AB. SG, otherwise known as Surviving Grady, is a Red Sox blog where I have met many Sox fans and actually am proud to call quite a few of them my friends. Andy had been fighting cancer again, unbeknownst to many of us, and lost the fight last October. Now I'm sad to say that I didn't know Andy very well except for our interactions on SG and brief interactions at SG gatherings. What I did know about Andy was that he was opinionated and not afraid to voice it. I really liked that about him, despite the fact he always barked at us when we talked about other subject matters on the SG chat room claiming SG was a baseball blog. He thought we should go elsewhere to discuss Off topics but since I don't follow rules very well...I kept posting about baseball, recipes, dancing and other random topics that came up. But I still liked Andy cos he was a matter of fact sort of guy and didn't care if you disagreed with him. SG did a very nice Memorial Post about him that really made me smile. You either really liked Andy or didn't. No gray area.
Remember I told you I had already planned my vacation last summer for this summer? Well it was originally all built around Neena's graduation and of course attending Sox games. Then I got another email...AB's family was planning a Memorial Service in Maine the day after Neena's graduation party. Like I said earlier, I really didn't know AB very well but I did feel I knew BB and his wife Debbie enough to pay my respects and participate so I begin adjusting my schedule with the help of Hayes. Now you may wonder and ask why I would attend a Memorial Service for someone I had met I believe a total of 3 times: Because it's what you do for friends.
Which brings us to this past weekends' events.
I forgot to mention I also met Neena on the internet via a Red Sox fan forum years earlier. It seems crazy to think that merely 5 years ago I had no friends in New England and now probably 1/2 or 2/3's of my FB page's friends are from there or Sox fans I've met on line. But here I was on my way to New England to a Celebration of the beginning of a New Life Post Graduation and a Celebration of a Life that had ended.
On Friday, June 4th, I headed towards Jamaica Plain to attend the Party for Neena at Doyle's Cafe, an Irish Pub. The celebration was a huge success as family and friends mingled and I got to learn more about Neena from her childhood friends to her latest friends met at an Art Workshop she attended. Good times were had by all....I got to meet DAVE DAY!! I was so happy to meet her mom as she lives here in Texas!! Felt great to have someone other than myself from Texas at a party in New England!! Watching Neena that night was just wonderful...she was basking and glowing. Her dress she had on was Oscar worthy and she needed a red carpet to walk on that night! Marci and Erin made graduation cap cupcakes for her!! They were adorable! I was just estatic to be a part of this celebration. I know Neena plans on continuing her education in Art and I hope somehow by chance she chooses UT for her Masters...but if she doesn't...I'll be waiting for that celebration party as well. I raise a glass to Neena and her accomplishments and her future in the Arts.
Saturday morning as Hayes and I made our way from Boston to Portland, we were both alittle out of sorts (that'll be saved for another story) but we finally arrived at our hotel on the wharf. It was a beautiful day and our bay facing view was stupendous!! Hayes took the David Tennent life size cardboard body and stuck it in the window for all to see....was quite the funny sight I have to say from the street. Meeting up with the Blues and Ted, we walked towards the restaurant where the Memorial Service was to be held in honor of AB.
I'm not sure what we were expecting and I can only speak for myself but it felt odd attending such an event for someone I didn't believe I truly knew deeply. Ted definitely had a much stronger connection and bond with Andy as he had established an on-going friendship with him even attending a minor league game with some of the B's. Rakes had went as well and it was love from the moment Rakes and AB laid eyes on each other. The picture with Rakes wearing the fake peanut moustache sitting on AB's lap still makes me laugh.
As we meandered around and met family and friends of AB, it became clear to me that AB was loved by many. Watching his two sons and listening to friends talk, looking at pictures of AB through his life, I felt finally I was getting to know all of the other compartments of Andy. When it came time for speeches, I was choking back tears just listening to heartfelt stories and memories. But of course BB pulls an Andy and calls out us SGers to the crowd(explaining "us") and asked if we wanted to say something. I knew Ted couldn't cos he'd be a blubbering mess. I thought to myself "please someone open up their mouths!!" when Hayes quips "Ya know, we're just good at one liners"
A storm had blew in with lightening all around and wind and rain blowing all around.
As quick as the storm had kicked up earlier, a calm came across the water when someone exclaimed and yelled "Oh my Gosh...Look outside! Andy!!" We all turned around and looked out across the bay at this marvelous rainbow. Although I find rainbows very beautiful and meaningful...I didn't understand the sense of wonder most seemed to be feeling. But then it was explained. Andy loved Rainbows....he loved Rainbows before they were popular and all. So it was like Andy showed up for his own Memorial Service to say Good-Bye.
To me the evening with the storm and rainbow was akin to both sides of Andy; his crotchety side and his softer side. Andy left quite a legacy behind instead of leaving footprints. I'm raising a glass to Andy
Rethinking this entire weekend on my return flight(of which where I wrote this post), it occurred to me a funny thing happened on my way to a forum. I made lifelong friends who continue to impact my life daily, challenge me to question my actions and motives, and help me to continuously realize relationships are what matter most in life and I've really come to love New England as much as I love my great home state of Texas.....Not that there's anything wrong with that.