Old Friends

Kevin Greene must have been about 12 years old when I met him. My parents had dragged my brother and me from the only home we had ever known to this new and strange place. Our new house was beautiful. Terry and I each had our own room. But all of our friends were gone, left in the San Joaquin Valley dust, to become distant memories. Kevin was quick to approach us, his new next-door neighbors. We became fast friends and spent the next six years growing into the adults we were to become. Life took us on very different paths, and we lost touch in a world before cell phones, the internet, and Facebook. Kevin became another in that huge group of fading memories.

Facebook, for all its faults, is a great way to seek out and rekindle old friendships. I’ve been able to find old friends and make new ones, people I would have never met without the omniscient eye of the internet. Today, I find myself in a melancholy mood after receiving news of another lost friend. I think of the many people from my youth with whom I would dearly love to speak. My best friend Hank Sahota, lost to us many years ago now, a victim of that insidious and brutal killer AIDS. How I have wanted to talk to him again, to tell him how sorry I am. And Rick Watkins, run over by a careless driver while he took his evening walk. We navigated the treacherous waters of adolescence together, sometimes fighting, sometimes laughing, but inexorably tied together for life because of those experiences.

Keith Henwood, who booked my band in the early eighties, remained a good and loyal friend forever. I missed my last lunch date with him. Death couldn’t give us just another couple of weeks. Cancer took ten years to torture my friend, but he had those ten years thanks to the doctors who gave him that time. There is that. We expect to lose our parents. Somehow, that is easier to deal with, the idea that the day will come when we have to say goodbye to them. It’s the order of things. But our friends? Those kids we still see in our minds, running along with the childhood memory of ourselves? This is hard. Our children? Impossible. My entire being shakes with the torment of that possibility, a torment I know some of you endure on a daily basis.

On October 22nd, I was rushing to get myself ready to fly back home the following day. I’d had a great trip, but hadn’t got to see my friend Kevin yet. I couldn’t leave Las Vegas without seeing Kevin.

My son-in-law, Charles, bravely put on his game face and said, “Let’s go out and have a beer with him.” Charles is still recovering from multiple surgeries on his foot. It’s not easy for him. He and Harmony were happy to take me to meet Kevin.

We met at a sports bar and had an enjoyable couple of hours talking about everything under the sun. I had seen Kevin at Christmas when I made a trip with Sara and the kids. Kevin and I talked about relationships, their pitfalls and rewards, and how difficult it can be to love someone. We were both struggling with that portion of our lives, but optimistic. We agreed that we would sort things out and see each other again when we had more time.

More time… There isn’t any. Kevin died last Friday while inspecting a house, He just collapsed. I spoke to his wife this morning. I  couldn’t find the words I needed. And this has made me realize something. There will never be enough time. There will always be things left unsaid. I need to apologize for some things I’ve said, for some things I’ve done. How can I do that now that you’re gone? So I speak to the walls, the ceiling in my apartment. I don’t really believe you can hear me. Do I? Somehow, it feels right. It is cathartic. I am struggling to get used to the fact that I will never hear Keith’s voice on the phone again, or have that pastrami sandwich with him at Canter’s. No more Late Night Radio requests. And now, Kevin’s stopped calling. No more thinly-disguised political attacks on our current regime through sixties protest songs. Damn it, you guys. You can’t be gone. My life has you in it.

I will keep you in my heart and in my mind. You are a part of me. Even if my mind goes and my memory is lost, you will be there in my soul. To all my dear friends, my family, all of those gone, and to those still here. I love you. And I’m sorry that those words aren’t spoken as they should be. We are all here for each other. I am here for you. Reach out. It’s okay. It’s necessary sometimes. That’s the real meaning of life.

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