There was a death in my extended family. I feel awkward publishing those words. Somehow this digital message on the internet is thicker than concrete but not as thick as blood. Blood is not even as thick as the water and wine and beer shared among true friends.
He was a great man. I saw several sides of him that I did not like, but in reflection, it seems so trivial. If you’ve known someone for more than a week and you cannot find something wrong with them, there is either something in the water and you should get yourself checked out, or they’re an incredible actor and you should simply check out on the relationship.
I knew him from the time I was 11 or so. He was the father to someone I must regretfully admit is my best friend. I do this regretfully, because I have so many great friends. Well I only have a few friends, actually, but most of them are amazing and have been in my life for more than a decade. Some of these great friends are in my family too, because as I’ve said that bond of friendship is a chosen bond and for me represents great respect.
When we were young we were inseparable, so his father was a steady presence in my life back then. Then due to some absolute BS, they moved 1200 miles away to Florida. We were in college then and my friend stayed up in NY, which was great, although I could see the profound effect it had on him. I got to feel that same thing in my life when my family moved away too. Eventually he moved down to Florida with his family also. There was a short stint where he moved back up to the northeast and was my roommate for a year, which was truly awesome, all circumstantial BS has been run through my mental shredder. Twice. Awesome times. So many great bear sized breakfasts shared and random drinking and video gaming.
Eventually I ended up needing to get out of the northeast and get my life back on track. I drove down with my wife and he put us up for a month. He consolidated his sons into one room and gave us a roof. I don’t know how he even brought that up to his wife or why she agreed and I often wondered about that. I can only imagine that she wasn’t given much choice in the matter. Now that I’ve gotten to know her, I consider her one of the (two?) great friends I’ve known for less than a decade. Now I live a little over an hour away from him and we don’t see each other much. However, if I have a bad day and I post anything negative, I have to call him first or within 15 minutes to make sure he doesn’t drive out here to take care of me. Thankfully that was only really a problem around the time of my divorce.
Anyway, back to his father. I didn’t know the man well. What I can say of him is this. The entire time I knew him, he was in pain. There were medical conditions I will not list out, that cascaded into worse medical conditions and so on. There were outbursts of anger and pain when I was young. I was alternately terrified and fascinated. Because whenever there was a scene of anger, there was a calming and an intentional personal effort to make sure everyone was okay. I will never forget him pausing in the middle of a pain induced scene to offer me ice cream with a smile. It was not a psychotic smile. It was an intelligent and forced smile. It was a smile that said, “I’m sorry. I’m hurting. Please, don’t judge me or worry about me.”
I see that in my friend. His father lives on. It really doesn’t matter what he’s going through. He will make sure everyone is okay. That strength is amazing. It hurts me deeply to know that pain he’s going through with the loss of his father. And yet I am so happy to see that of all the things that live on after his father’s passing, this is the pinnacle. His father succeeded at the most important thing in life. He raised two children. He showed his son how to be a man. He showed his daughter too. Because being a man is not about muscles and aggression. Being a man is carrying whoever needs to be carried when they need to be carried. They both can carry anyone through anything.
And they both have that smile. The smile that does not hide the pain. The smile that says, “My pain does not matter. Not now. Not while you’re here.”