Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Outside the Lines

I may be alone among us bi-peds in that I tend to compartmentalize things, including people. There are "people I work with", "friends from college", "friends from work", "people with whom I went to high school" and the like. I even have a specific subset for my softball teammates, which is not terribly surprising given that a core group of us has played together for the past decade and a half or so.

The limiting - and sometimes soothing - thing of putting everyone into a compartment is that I tend to think of those folks in only those terms. Generally speaking, if someone is in a pleasant compartment (such as "friends from work" or "softball teammates") then my mind tends to process only good thoughts about him or her. It is as if for the purposes of my limited mental acuity that person has no identity beyond the boundaries of my self-created category. It may be pathetic but for me at least it serves as an effective organizational tool.

The problems with such a system are obvious to anyone who happens to be brighter than I am (line up now - shortest to tallest). Among them is the fact that occasionally one encounters another outside of the pre-labeled compartment. And occasionally encounters that person in a place where one would rather not have to encounter another.

Last evening several of my friends with whom I play softball, including Diego and Dave (who are also friends of mine from law school, which puts them in the enviable position of occupying two kiosks in my mental flea market) attended the wake of the mother of another of our teammates. Our pitcher, the lovely and talented Cyndy, and her family received countless hundreds of relatives, friends and well-wishers yesterday afternoon and last night. Cyndy, who has become a mom herself twice in the past few years, stood tall on the receiving line, chin up but eyes misty and accepted the sympathies and good wishes of the endless stream of humanity who passed by her.

It was a sad evening but an inspiring one as well. With the possible exception of Margaret's grandmother Nan I have never seen as many people gathered in one place to pay their respects as I saw last night. I never met Cyndy's mom. And in case you had not gleaned it yet by my use of her title and not her name, I did not even know her name. But I suspect she must have lived one hell of a life, judging by the incredible number of people who came through the doors of Biondi's Funeral Home in Nutley yesterday to pay their respects. And I could not help but think that when I die, a much smaller room will be all that shall be required - something bigger than a pin head but smaller than a phone booth should do the trick.

Cyndy is a terrific woman and her husband Jonathan is an equally fine gentleman. While I much prefer to keep both of them safely tucked into my "softball teammates/friends" compartment it was nice to be able to step outside of that safety net for just a few moments last night in order to pay my respects to a woman who I never met but whose qualities are unmistakable every time I look out at the mound from behind the plate and lock eyes with her daughter.

Today Cyndy and her family shall bury her mom. May she have a safe journey and take comfort in the fact that those she has left here to mourn her shall also honor her every day for the rest of their lives.

-AK

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