Missing a Friend
Sometimes I mull a theme for one of these weekly posts over in my mind for days before sitting down to write about it. Other times, inspiration does not come until late. That inspiration came to me as I was trying to decide on a title for a piece I was writing for Curbside Classic (my other creative outlet). The topic was a pink 1958 Buick, one of the most excessively decorated cars of all time.
One of my weaknesses is a catchy title. The title is often the last thing I come up with, but for the Buick piece, the words of my old college roommate and best friend burst forth from some distant part of my brain: “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.” It fit the Buick, and it fit my friend as well.
I met Dan in the fall of 1972. We were both starting the seventh grade, and each of us came from a different school. I first noticed him in gym class, and we became fast friends – partly because we both absolutely detested phys ed.
We became inseparable after that. The things we did would fill about six months worth of these little things, so I won’t bore you with all of it. Let’s just say that we were had that almost telepathic connection that best friends (especially adolescent best friends) can share.
Dan was the guy I wished I was. We might as well have been part of each others’ families, because our shared sense of humor was enough to make either of our mothers start fuming at us when our sense of self control out in public was not all that it should have been.
His family moved across town as we started high school, but by then we each had a drivers license and access to a car, so the fun continued. We roomed together through four years of college and were in each others weddings.
Dan did everything big. He lived large, and moderation just wasn’t really his thing. He could out-eat me, out-drink me and out-talk me. He was conversant in Chaucer and Shakespeare as well as in firearms, old cars, politics. He was also an accomplished tuba player who could have been a professional musician had he put his mind to it.
At some point, we drifted apart as old friends can. Every few years we could reconnect through a few emails or maybe a telephone call, but then he became harder to get ahold of. I did not realize at the time that he was going through some difficulties which he preferred to keep to himself. The mantra of “moderation in no things” works out a lot better when you are eighteen than when you are in your forties.
Four and a half years ago, I learned that he had become ill and died, quite unexpectedly. He was just fifty years old. I had a lot of regrets right about then, regrets that I had not tried harder to stay in touch and had not been there to share some of the less pleasant parts of life as well as the good ones.
My purpose here is not to depress everyone. Dan would never have stood for that. Instead, he would be berating me for being a maudlin Irish crybaby who isn’t man enough to handle a little disappointment in life. And it would have been said at full volume, with dramatic arm gestures, and a big self-satisfied smile on his face, and it would all end with a big shared laugh.
My real purpose in this is to acknowledge a debt, because Dan is responsible for any writing I have done in these past few years. First, he was a grammar and composition major in college, and took delight in perpetually correcting my english. This was something that injured my pride, and the worst part was that he was invariably correct. He was my personal, living copy of Strunk & White. Only funnier and more persistent.
But beyond that, Dan was a fantastic writer, one who could make a living at it. His last few years were spent as the editor for a major publication for the firearms hobby, a job that he was made for. After his death, I read some of his stuff online, along with some effusive praise from co-workers.
It was about six weeks later that I found myself contributing to Curbside Classic. Where Dan had been passionate about firearms of all kinds, my passion was old cars. Four years later, I am still contributing there and have branched out to a broader variety of topics here. I cannot say that I can match his personality or his style, but then nobody ever could. It was always Dan’s world, with the rest of us playing supporting roles, and happy to be there. But I am doing it in my own way, and am enjoying it more than I ever thought I would.
Anyhow, it is the day after Thanksgiving and I have many things to be thankful for. Not least among them is having had a good, good friend, whom I think of frequently when I sit down at the keyboard. If you have one of those friends in your past, do yourself a favor and reach out to him or her. That friend won’t be there forever. And neither will you. I have two or three others on that same list and need to do something to counter my tendency to drift away from others. Perhaps I shall become an extrovert? Nah.
I had actually planned on not writing anything for this week. I was going to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, make some stale crack about turkey, and give you a link to my ’58 Buick piece over on CC. But after settling on its title, one thing led to another and here we are. But you can still click on the link and read about a stale turkey.
Jim, I’m sorry you lost your friend, first to drift and then to death. But you are among the fortunate ones to have made a friend of that depth, especially at that age.
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Thank you for this. It has prompted me to ponder about those who have drifted away, although none were as close for as long as you were with Dan. I’m sorry about his passing.
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Well said. Thank you.
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Beautifully written, Jim. I know he valued your friendship more than you know. Thank you for taking me down memory lane and reminding me to reach out to those old friends. XO.
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Thanks for the kind words, Linda. Those are important to me, coming from someone who was closer to him for longer than I was. Your family was always great to that PITA kid who would never leave. 🙂
I am both happy and sad to hear about your friend. I always enjoy your CC pieces, and it is interesting to hear the inspiration. I keep coming up with clever titles, but never seem to get around to writing the posts.
Thanks, Dan. Actually, a post that is nothing but clever titles could be fun in its own right. Call it CCs I want to read in the next year. 🙂
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