A month from today, Sarah, Shelby, and I will be hitting the road for Texas. It is time for our annual “Drewfest” weekend, where Drew’s closest friends gather to remember him, celebrate him, and in general, have a fun time like the “good old days”.
Personally, this will be my fifth Drewfest. I’ve been part of them since 2015, a few months after meeting Sarah, and less than a year after Megan’s death. I wrote about the first one in a letter to Drew, right here, for Soaring Spirits, and coming up on this one, there are still many times when I feel like an “Outsider”.
I don’t ever get this feeling from Drew’s friends or family, and certainly not from Sarah. It still feels as if I’ve always been there when I’m with them. I was, am, and always will be thankful for the warmth and acceptance they’ve all shown me since day one.
Sarah and I have been together longer than she ever knew Drew in the flesh, at this point. We’ve “progressed farther” than they did, as we’re engaged, if you prefer to track things that way. Sarah and I have lived together for almost 4 years now, and I may have had more “slumber parties” with his friends than he did, seeing as they all lived in the same city at one point, and we have to travel 1400 miles to hang out with each other.
I never personally knew Drew. I know his fiance, his best friends, his parents, his brother, his sister, his final resting place, and hell, I’ve even been to his flight school in Louisiana, almost by accident, on a trip back from Texas. I’ve walked the same ground he did, fired the same guns he did, slept in his bedroom, drove his truck, worn his clothes, and ultimately, love the same woman he did.
I don’t have any stories to tell of him. I’ve heard them from others, but ultimately, there will never be a time when I can say “remember when Drew did…?”
That’s where the “outsider” feeling will always creep in. No matter how accepted I am, no matter whom I spend time with and grow increasingly closer with, I will always feel that there is this one major omission. This particular group wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Drew, and I wouldn’t be part of it had he not died. I can’t ever speak to his opinions, attitude, demeanor, or choices, because I wasn’t there when he had them. I never did any of those things I listed above WITH him.
We all like to think that I would have been fast friends with Drew, should the “situation” be different. But there’s always that chance that we could have hated each other’s guts. I mean, I’m more of a fisherman than a hunter. I prefer having 4 seasons in Ohio, rather than the two in Texas. He piloted helicopters...I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane by choice. I’m a Ford guy, he liked his Toyotas. Swenson’s is still better than Whataburger, no matter what Texans like to believe.
Hell, I “stole” his girl.
But at the same time, those are all minor things (well, being engaged to Sarah wouldn’t have been I guess). They’re ultimately meaningless to a friendship. Would I have been an outsider in this group if he was still around? Actually, probably not, other than geographic limitations. His best friends are now some of MY best friends. We just “mesh” well, and enjoy each other’s company.
I have got to imagine this is common amongst those of us that are in a relationship with a widow. Notwithstanding that I’m a widower myself, it’s still a complex thing to think about. I love his friends, family, and fiance, but I would never had met them had he not died. Just as Sarah would have never met me, Shelby, or my friends and family had Megan not died.
It’s not overwhelming. It’s not stressful, or generally uncomfortable, or even something I think about a lot...but it’s there. It always will be. Nobody else provokes this thought but me.
It’s only when a situation arises, where I somehow feel I’m supposed to be a “proxy” for Drew that it becomes uncomfortable. Again, that’s something I put upon myself. Nobody is asking me to think like he would have, but there are times that I feel I might be the most obvious person to weigh in on a subject as if I WAS Drew.
That’s not, and will never be, my place. I should always be the LAST person to speak to what his opinion or feeling would have been.
I will always be an outsider...but I’ll always be on the inside, looking out.