Thursday, July 3, 2008

Love lies bleedin' in my hands...

Probably not the best title for a blog entry, but it's from Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend." A good friend passed away earlier in the of my best friends from high school. We were quite the mismatch back at Maryville High. I was the short-haired, preppy straight-laced one, while Richard was going through his "hippie" phase. He was the String Bass player in concert band, and I was a Tuba player. At graduation, we walked in together.

We worked a few summers hauling hay at his father's/grandfather's farm. And his granddad used to interrupt us with other tasks, such as sorting pigs, cattle, and howing sowbeans. His dad was a circuit court judge and always kind of scared the bajeezus out of me. Don't think he ever warmed up to my madcap humor.

We used to drive by the local country club each morning early, and would usually find someone, or group, trying to tee-off at the hole closest to the highway. We'd scream out something while someone had a club in the air just to watch them get pissed and swear back at us. Still cracks me up to think about it.

I dated his younger sister, Lee Ann, the latter part of my senior year and into the summer and fall of my freshman year in college. I'd have to say, probably my first great "love," but Hey! What did I know? I was a kid! The first time I saw her was when I was a geeky freshman not looking forward to going to a new high school, and she was a junior high teeny-bopper, a very petite girl. But she could fill out a bikini even then, and strutted like dynamite. A few years later, we were a couple, but sadly our "romance" ended Christmas night, 1973. And that was that. We didn't run into each other much after that. I moved on into college life and my major. The last time I saw her was 1977 at a friend's house with my fiance. I didn't see Richard much either. He had some personal troubles and joined the Air Force late '73/early '74.

I ran into him at the drive-in theatre in Maryville the summer of 1980, and we caught up a bit. Then I didn't see him for quite a few years until the late '90's and into the new century.

He seemed to have the good life going then, and had exactly what my wife wanted--a place in the country! A very peaceful place with land and pets. Some horses for his then-wife. Some other troubles came for him, but the one thing he always seemed to have was his music. It was his default setting. He was quite good with computer stuff, and as a sound and recording tech, but music was where his soul lay. Here's what he looked like during this time...

At the time, he was in a band and invited classmates to Smithville MO for a gig he had. A lot of folks who couldn't make the "class reunion-proper" actually showed up. A "mini-reunion" of sorts. Didn't have much time to talk as he was performing. I had a really good time that night. I did a "Simpsons" version of him, and had planned to draw each members of that band he was in at the time, but he didn't stay in that band, and I didn't ask why. Here's what I came up with...Could've made his eyebrows funkier.

Later on, he had a small jazz combo going on called the "Phat Cats." I did this one for the website he had up.I based the bass player on Richard.

He and I hadn't had a lot of contact the past few years. The usual things--older, too busy, too tired. I had my own psychosis and depression knawing at me, and he had his troubles, too. I found him on Facebook a few weeks back and thought about contacting him, but put it off. My own folly of thinking he'd always be around. After all, middle age is being squeezed between your parents and your kids. Then the call...

I don't know if it's a "man" thing or a "Mike" thing, but I really have a hard time with women crying, whether it's my wife, or my daughter, or my own mother...or any one feminine. So on my answering machine was Lee Ann, and I could tell she was upset. Richard was gone. He'd recently been diagnosed with diabetes, and was having a terrible time getting his insulin regulated. His ladyfriend found him after getting called by his parents. They hadn't been able to contact him over the weekend.

Animal control had taken his pets, and the family had concerns over their fate--a Rottweiller and an African Gray parrot. So I did some calling and today did some driving to the city pound to personally check up on the pets. Make sure they knew that someone from the family would be collecting them, and that they were not to be adopted out or euthanized. Lee Ann e-mailed with her thanks, but the truth is that I could've been a better friend while Richard was alive. Could've stayed in better contact. Making sure his pets were okay and trying to make things easier for his family in retrieving them is the least I could do. His memorial is this Saturday, July 5. I will miss him.

When Richard and I meet again, I hope he will forgive me.