Okay, for the last couple days, I've been trying to gather my thoughts about what homecoming weekend meant to me. I'm struggling to put it into words. So I'm just going to use my trusty voice recognition software and say what I'm thinking, do very little editing, and see what comes out.
With everything that happened, I've almost felt guilty about thinking that this weekend was so special to me. I've always wanted to go to homecoming. But to be honest, I never thought that I'd actually make it. I didn't have friends who were trucker fans like I was. Many of my friends aren't even huge music fans, so it's hard to explain why spending the money to fly and see three consecutive nights of the same group was a good idea. (I know, I know, this sounds very silly in retrospect). When I received my diagnosis in 2011, I kind of figured my chance of attending homecoming was gone. When the dates for 2013 were announced, I casually brought it up to my wife and brother. It must've been how I said it, but they knew. They knew. This was it. This was my "Make-A-Wish" trip. Once Jenn and you folks on the board convinced me you could make it work I was all in. My brother casually liked the truckers, and my wife tolerated them, but I could tell they both wanted to make this happen for me. And did they ever.
Jenn really set us up in terms of having a place for me to be able to comfortably sit and enjoy the show. Because of where we were, I probably could've spent more time talking with the band members. However, I also didn't want to invade their personal space or bother them before a show. Especially on Friday. I did get to speak a little with Patterson, and he was as nice and genuine as everyone has described him. I also got to spend a good bit of time with Matt and his wife. I agree with the sentiments on this board, that is quite a find and I hope he sticks around for the long haul. A huge highlight for me was Saturday show, seeing Matt come out wearing the red ALS bracelet that I gave him. And seeing Patterson with the same bracelet hanging from his keys. (When I gave it to him, he kind of smiled and said "are you trying to cut off my circulation?"
I can't say enough about you folks on the board. I met many of you, and warned you at the time I do have a hard time remembering or keeping track of real names and screen names.
All of you made me feel welcome. You really don't realize what an amazing community this says until you go to homecoming. I don't want to start naming people, because I'm very worried that I'll leave someone out. But you should all know that you folks are a big part of what made this weekend special to me as well. Actually, there is one name I have to mention…
GW, thanks for everything. It was so great to meet you face-to-face, and it was wonderful to meet Patty as well. You are a big reason I was so comfortable this whole weekend. Dude, you're a rock. And so is Patty. I don't know what else to say. One of my fondest moments, was when I got up to go to the bathroom and Patty looked at me, and just kind of smiled and said "look at you walking to the bathroom. You big show off". (I literally had to turn off my software because I'm laughing out loud thinking about that) The attitude you have, and the way you guys do with things, is an inspiration not only to me but to all those around you.
The other moment GW did for me was just as amazing. At Saturday show, which you know was a packed house, he got me out on the floor for the encore. I cannot describe the emotion, of standing there, holding my wife and brother, and singing "I'm scared shitless at what's coming next". Tears were streaming down my face. I could go on and on, but could never adequately explain how I felt at that moment.
I can't say anything about the shows that already hasn't been said. The power. The emotion. It is basically indescribable. It is funny, you folks get it. But it's almost impossible to describe it to people who aren't fans of this band. I can honestly say (other than the A&F moment I just described), I honestly forgot that I had ALS for three consecutive nights. Forget about bands, very few things have that kind of power.
One last thing. We got the Saturday show a little later than the others. That's because we each got matching "souvenirs". No better way to commemorate our first trip to Athens.
We all three got matching ones. And my wife and brother are now converted fans.
Thanks again to all of you, and I'm going to fight like hell to get another one at the 2014 homecoming.
Somewhere between anguish and acceptance.