Today, I’m at a funeral.
I’m not ready to write this post, but here it is. My best friend’s father died and, today, we’re at his funeral. He was like a second father to me. I’ve written about him before. My dad and Larry were best friends. Larry was Dad’s best man at his wedding.
And Larry’s daughter, Carol, and I have been best friends our whole lives. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. My book, What You Think You Know, is essentially about our friendship.
They’re our family even though we aren’t related by blood.
Larry has struggled with cancer – that ugly word I hate so much – for the past five years. We knew this day was coming. And, yet, it’s still hard.
Because I’m not sure what to write here, but feel I need to write, here are a few stories that define who he was for me:
One time he came over to my parent’s house one time while they were dog sitting my pup, Max. When he came to the door, Max ran out the door and bit him on the ankle (all he got was denim – no skin). Larry promptly kicked him off. He wasn’t a man to be tangled with – especially by a furry little dog. Every time I saw him after that he’d ask me, “Where’s killer?” or “You got that ferocious dog with you?” or “I ain’t coming over there if you brought that killer with you!” I cringed every time he shouted these out to me. You know why? I didn’t want to disappoint him. For him, it was a joke. For me, I’d failed my second dad at being able to handle my dog. That’s how much I respected and adored him. But I loved this jokes – it made me realize it wasn’t that big of a deal.
When my husband first met Larry, we were at a high school football game. We sat in the stands with Carol and were waiting on her parents to arrive. Soon, I saw Larry in the crowd and pointed him out to John. “There he is,” I said. John looked around and then said, “You mean Walker Texas Ranger there?” I laughed, but he was right. To a high school football game, Larry had worn a cowboy hat, a western full-length duster and cowboy boots. He posed an intimidating figure for sure. After that, John often referred to him as Larry Texas Ranger. (PS – We live in PA – NOT Texas.)
When we were kids, we were out tossing a baseball around. Larry had two girls, my dad had me – I’m pretty sure they longed for boys, but they were stuck with us. As we were throwing the ball back and forth, Larry said to me, “You throw pretty good for a girl.” I know a lot of women today would take offense to this. I did not. It’s stuck with me for over thirty years. This little bit of praise made my day. Just like my own dad, I wanted so badly to please Larry. And his words were not offensive to me, but loving. This phrase is so often used in movies, too, and every time I hear it, I think of him.
And now I’m crying, so I’ll stop.
Larry was gruff – a man’s man – a Chuck Norris kind of guy. He was a farmer, a factory worker, a horse lover/rider/owner and a good friend. He loved mowing his lawn (Seriously – I’m pretty sure the lawn was one of his most prized possessions.) He loved Louis L’Amour books. He joked with you in a kind of off-putting way. Yes, it is a time to grieve, but I know I’ll remember these memories and so many more for the rest of my life. And, for that, I am thankful.
God speed, Larry. I was blessed to know you.