A couple days ago, I posted a few words about friendship and its meaning to me, highlighting three different weekends in three different cities with three different friends. Writing about it reminded me of all the other relationships I have with friends.
This morning I awoke early as usual (5:37 AM without an alarm) to two emails. One was advice on which Muse album to listen to and in which order (for the record, the must-listen-albums in order — “HAARP”, “Black Holes And Revelations”, and “The Resistance” — one of my favourite bands, I saw them at Lollapalooza in Chicago with Tad & Jay several years ago). The other email was of three pictures from my youth — one of me with a mustache in the 8th grade (when the nickname “bush head” was born), one of me with the early beginnings of a mullet my sophomore or junior years (I couldn’t tell which), and the third…
The third was an advertisement for Ready Care Clinic in West Lafayette, IN. The photograph captured a nurse, my buddy Chris and me. I immediately teared up, almost surprised at such a visceral response to a picture I had not seen in 27 years. We were just teenagers then. A few days after his 21st birthday, he was outside scraping ice from his windshield when he just dropped dead. (It’s just so hard to even write those words, let alone say it.) I remember getting the phone call like it was yesterday. That was 24 years ago this week. The days after were a blur.
I remember his 21st birthday vividly. I remember thinking my best friends were all starting to turn 21 and we were all adults now and we could goto bars and we would have great times and we would live forever and we would be best friends forever. I remember Chris smiling and laughing and joking a lot that night. And drinking of course. Chris smiled and laughed and joked a lot. He was one of the funniest guys I knew. I remember how much he loved his family even though he did pick on his little sister a lot, one of the sweetest girls we knew. Living right by the high school, I remember having lunch at his house a lot. I remember going there after school a lot. I remember how hard he tried in school. He was a good student. And he always gave back. I remember he mentored a young kid in junior high (or maybe sixth grade) with his schoolwork, years later when that young kid was older, he and I became friends too. His name was Justin. I remember how hard he played and how competitive he was in tennis. I remember when I watched “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Chris and our buddy Toby and how we loved the lead actress from the movie (Amanda Peterson) and I remember afterwards when we wrote her a letter. (She could do way better than Ronnie. Who knew then that he would turn into McDreamy? She never wrote us back. I still wonder why.) I remember driving around our little college town, rocking out to Metallica, AC/DC, Van Halen and Guns n Roses. I remember when Chris and I took French class together our junior and senior years in high school and how I would always tell him about the girl in that class that I loved. I remember that we triple dated for our senior prom.
Even at such a young age, Chris taught me so much. More than anything he taught me how to be a good friend, and in some cases, a great friend. You see, Chris always showed up. He always made the effort to be a good friend.
I remember the day he died.
It was only yesterday.
24 years ago.
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ALWAYS BE EPIC.