He was never my date because he was wee bit on the wild side for me. He wasn’t much of a student either although his life was to prove him very smart in building a business and being successful. He had no time in high school to spend on books much less the desire. His free time was spent helping his step-father eke out a meager living from the Kansas earth. By the time we were seniors, he was sipping cherry vodka from a cherry cough syrup bottle (at school no less!), and his record of speeding, fender benders and DWIs began to mount.
He got married, had a few kids, left them all…It was Vietnam years, off to war and then home again with more drinking, drugs, car wrecks, broken back, jail time, and then a religious experience he found in the Bible. He came home to the Midwest and began to rebuild some bridges of his life. He started his own millwright business and became very successful. He indulged himself with four-wheelers, cars, clothes and women. But he also began to give to others, to bail others out of their own messes. He loved kids and had patience with them, more than he had with his own children years before. He reestablished relationships with those grown children too.
Anyone who met him thought him an unusual man. Odd he was called. He definitely heard a differently drummer. Our son helped him on an odd job or two when he was about twelve. We thought it would be a few hours one day and it turned into twelve. They had driven miles between jobs on construction sites, eaten loads of hamburgers, and apparently driven WAY too fast coming home. My mother’s instinct took over and it was a last time.
One day he showed up at our house with an older style Rolls Royce convertible. Oh, it gleamed with black paint shiny as a starry night sky. He took me for a ride racing around the country side. It felt wonderful and free, hair blowing in my face and wind whistling past my ears. He loved seeing me enjoy the ride and for just a bit we were both carefree young teens not burdened, responsible adults.
He died this week from breast cancer. He probably waited too long before checking it out as was his way. The time he reached under a deck and was bitten by a copperhead, he did not see a doctor for nearly a week. His arms swelled like a balloon and pain, well he did pain well. Finally when others feared he would lose his arm, he was convinced to get help. He was dauntless and reckless and fun-loving.
This was our fifth loss since Christmas. Only one at age 98 could be said she might have been ready to go. The others all died with the murmur of “to young to go now”. The minister kept repeating my friend was a man of a big heart, of a good heart. So he was. Goodbye pal, and I do hope there are fast cars, curvy roads, and wind for your face in Heaven.