This weekend was filled with the normal chores…laundry, grocery shopping, homework, half-hearted attempts at picking up toys from the living room floor.
But we also had a much bigger task, which was seeing our good friend Tony off as he joins the Navy.
The husband met Tony and his best friend, Chris, four years ago when Tony stopped into 720 one day and asked about some Theo Parrish records. The husband was shocked to discover that a pair of 19-year-olds had been falling in love with the music of Detroit in Brentwood, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of dance music. The kids, as they came to be known, quickly fell into our circle of friends, joining our caravan to Detroit and coming out to DJ gigs when they were old enough.
As the rest of us finished college and got jobs, Tony had trouble finding some direction in his life. Like any young guy has the right to do, he took his time committing to anything, hopping back and forth between odd jobs and mostly just having fun. School wasn’t for him, but as the number beside the 20 in his age got higher, he started to feel the urge to get his act together.
He decided to join the Navy some time last year and while we were obviously hesitant to celebrate, we understood that it was something he wanted.
On Friday, we gathered at Alto for one last night of carefree dancing. Tony and the husband both played records, spinning their favorites and standbys that are sure to get any crowd moving. Smiles and hugs were plentiful and everyone sang at the top of their lungs when the husband played “Days Like This,” an ode to a good day.
At 2 a.m., after we were kicked out, Tony’s friend Bob stood on the sidewalk and played the trumpet, a special treat for Tony.
Bob’s eyes were red and watery by the end of the performance and as that big Goodbye crept closer, we all started to feel its presence.
Today we arrived at Tony’s house and were greeted warmly by his parents. They are salt-of-the-earth types and fiercely love their family. By extension they love us since we love Tony.
Everything was fine until Tony’s dad gathered everyone in the living room to say a few words about his son.
Not surprisingly, things took a turn for the teary at that point. But Tony’s dad’s friend took the stage and started talking extensively about the Lord and another family friend said something to the tune of, “My one friend in the Navy something something artillery something something he died horribly…I hope that doesn’t happen to you!” Fortunately/unfortunately that shifted the mood somewhat.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just talking.
I teared up a few more times. I’ve kind of always felt like we were at least partially responsible for looking out for Tony. Not that he isn’t perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but he’s always been close with the husband, as though he was his adopted big brother.
It’s definitely weird having friends on the opposite spectrum of your twenties. At 23, which is the age Tony is now, I was a mom, but I can remember thinking that eventually I would understand things better, that at some point soon I would feel like a grown-up. At 29, I’m still at a loss and the fact that I am actually one of the grown-ups terrifies me as I am in no way qualified for the job.
I guess that’s why it’s scary to send one of our own off into a huge group of strangers who don’t care about him the way we do. He is, after all, just one of the kids.
I know he’ll be okay. But I’ll worry. And in four years, he’ll come back as a 27-year-old man, full of experiences that I can’t relate to, and a kinship with his Navy buddies that I won’t understand. Today, I got to be there as a kid enjoyed one last carefree afternoon with his friends and family.
That’s an honor I won’t soon forget.