On Monday, I sat to the right of my father, fought back tears and listened to a very strong man speak.
I fought back tears because I was trying to be as strong as Clay. I fought back tears because I didn’t want to think about standing at that church podium myself. I fought back tears because at the age of sixteen, a boy is supposed to be begging his father for car keys, not begging for one last chance to tell his father he loves him.
Last Thursday, December 19th, a very close friend of our family was killed in a car accident in Oklahoma. I debated internally, over and over, whether or not I should mention this on my website. My words could never serve justice in describing how wonderful a person Todd was. He was and still is a mentor to me. I guess this is my closure.
Todd married my older sister. Kathy is not my sister by blood, but by love. Kathy was there when I was born. Kathy has been and always will be in my life. I remember the days when Todd and Kathy were dating in high school. Todd would come to Don and Linda’s house to pick Kathy up. Todd always talked to me and we made each other laugh. Todd always had the little brother seal of approval.
Todd and Kathy had a baby boy when they were young. Society probably told them that they were too young to have a child. They did it anyway – and they did it well. Todd and Kathy had Clay when I was ten years old.
Don, Linda, Sharron, Kathy, Todd, Clay and I went on a water skiing trip when Clay was at that potty training age. I was Clay’s hero at that point-in-time. Everyone was trying to convince Clay that big boys wore Underoos, not diapers. Linda, Kathy’s mother, told Clay: “Josh doesn’t wear diapers, he wears big boy underwear. He has underwear with Superman on them!” I was twelve at the time and didn’t wear Superman Underoos. It was my job to convince Clay that diapers were for babies. It was hard to tell Clay that I didn’t have my Superman skivvies on at that moment, but that I normally wore them. Todd helped me and together we convinced Clay to wear normal underwear. It was a triumphant moment for me.
I convinced Clay to wear big boy underwear. I never changed Clay’s diapers. I never gave him a bath. I never fed him or burped him. Todd and Kathy never asked those things of me. Kathy did those things for me when I was a baby. Todd and Kathy did those things for their own children.
Todd and Kathy went on to have three more beautiful little girls: Lauren, Morgan and Julia. Luckily I wasn’t commissioned to convince them to wear Superwoman Underoos.
Todd went on to receive his MBA and provided for his family in every sense of the word. The Mennens moved forward in their busy lives. I started my busy life as a young adult. We would see each other during brief family visits. Though the times we spent together were limited, I cherished those moments. They went out of their way to come to my college graduation. They were there on my wedding day.
Todd always made it a point to talk to me. He always asked about news in my life. Todd always cared about me. I cared about Todd. I wanted to be like Todd. I still want to be like Todd.
I hugged Clay at his father’s funeral. I looked into his eyes and saw Todd in them more than ever. Clay is going to have to grow up faster than I could begin to imagine. Todd and Kathy made him strong. I know that the Mennen children will all do well because they have their father in them.
I wonder why Todd is gone. Todd was nine years older than me. Todd was a successful father and a successful husband. Todd was a successful man. I wish that he were here so I could ask him questions. I wish that he were here so he could give me a hint as to how to be as great as him. I wish that he was here so that one day I could tell my son that Todd wears Superman Underoos.
Todd didn’t have to wear Superman Underoos. He was Superman.