The other day a close friend of mine passed away. I'd know him for about 45 years. Seems impossible. Chris was a dexterous type of guy, easy going, care-free of sorts. Very likeable and talented in so many ways. His best feature was his boyish looks at age 59. I often told him how he looked like he just stepped out of his yearbook picture from Brazil High School, class of 70.
I don't recall how I met Chris, it could have been at the old Brazil Times building, in the basement where we newspaper carriers met and swapped stories while waiting for the printing press to be repaired by Auggie Minnick or Bob Williams. It broke down a lot! As I write from memory, I do believe that is where I met Chris. Along with Chris, I met Mike. I never hit it off with Chris and Mike until later in high school where I, being a year older, had the car. I'm not saying that's why we became friends, it was just convenient. Anyway, we all remained friends until I graduated and they stayed behind. Several years later, after I returned home from college and Chris came back to Brazil after working a stint in Atlanta, he, Mike and I reunited for a short time. We spent a lot of time together and shared many similar likes and dislikes. Most of all were the stories of our past shenanigans.
As time passed we went our separate ways again, although this time we would never reunite as a threesome. I guess we all took totally different, but in a way, similar directions in the road of life. I suppose Chris had the most success in life, in regards to financial things. He and his parents purchased a greenhouse downtown and later a flower shop on the Westside of Brazil. He married and had a couple kids. I worked in a funeral home and often saw Chris delivering flowers where I worked. We'd meet up on occasion and have a bite to eat or a beer then go our separate ways. Where was Mike during this time? I'm not sure. He was around town now and then, but mostly I didn't know where he was. After all these years, I'm still not sure where he is. The last time I remember talking to Mike was at his mothers' funeral and that's been 15 years ago or more. I have heard Mike was still up to his non-healthy ways of life.
Chris, on the other hand was around, scarcely, but around nonetheless. Sometimes I'd drive out by his ranch and look for him. Sometimes I'd find him, but mostly not. I think he was home, but really didn't care to see me. He had heard I'd gotten religion and he was afraid I'd push it on him. Another thing I "got" was sober. After many, many years of battling the bottle and losing, I'd won. I doubt Chris wanted any part of that, either, especially from me! That, I would have never pushed on him. Sobriety doesn't work that way. In a apocalyptic way we were three peas in a pod; one escaped recently, one had not and then there's me.
The news of Chris' sudden illness, an aneurysm in his neck, brought shock to me. My wife texted me about Chris. I was on my way to a men's Christian fellowship prayer breakfast at the Iron Skillet at I-70. Hearing that he'd gone 20 minutes without oxygen and was flown to Indianapolis where he was placed on life support made my thoughts whirl. What could I do? Could I pray? Call his mom? Scream? When I arrived at the breakfast I made the announcement. Some knew Chris, others did not; but we all prayed.
When I returned home I did nothing but wait on Face Book for news to ticker on the page in front of me. Something, come on! Give me news. I not sure why I wanted news. Being a former emergency room technician I pretty well knew what the outcome would be, but I still wanted news. It came shortly. It was from a lady named Norma and it simply said "he was 59 and died early this morning of an aneurisym (sic)". My heart sank.
So, today I found myself back at Chris' house where I'd spent so many youthful days. I suppose it was to be a joyous occasion, a day of celebrating a life lived, not to it's fullest, but lived. Memories of our times together crowed my mind prior to entering that familiar house. All memories left me. I mentioned to my wife, while pointing things out, that it was the first house I'd seen that had an intercom system. I realized today that the intercom was not only for speaking, it was for listening, too. I felt a bit embarrassed.
Also different about today was I wasn't visiting Chris. Today was a visit to his mother. Her first words to me were "you'll never see him again." I wept a little, thinking how right she was.
Goodbye, my 'ole friend ...