Saturday, March 16, 2013

The friends in the room

I've been reminded of some past comrades folks I know. They've been haunting my life over the past few weeks. Like they were around me, behind me and making me think of them.

Unbidden they've managed to insert themselves back into my life.

Not for any specific reason that I know of.

Except for one. My dad.

It was two years ago this last month that he passed.

At the time it was not exactly a surprise, but it was a surprise in the end. Even when you see it coming, it always is a surprise when it finally occurs.

I started calling my dad the Energizer Bunny because every time he went in to the hospital, very sick, he always came out.


He always beat the odds and the prognostications of the doctors.

Until he didn't.

Finally, even the Energizer Bunny ran down.

I still miss him. I still talk to him. I still relive memories of past times together, so that he's not really gone. When I remember these times, I laugh again, I feel joy again, I relive them with him again like he was still here.

And for those moments, he still is. He and I are still living, laughing, and loving.

So, the anniversary of his passing causes me to miss him, logical.

Fred, not so much. Fred Bozek passed this past summer, something that we saw coming. Fred is another old time SF guy. One of the senior guys when I joined 10th SF, who'd been around awhile. He'd seen things. He'd done things. Done combat things. The sorts of things that a young, impressionable troop with brand new shiny jump wings and a desire to be one of the action figures found fascinating.

And so not one of those. So such a new, wet behind the ears kid wannabe. But Fred was cool, gracious, and nice guy. He was equally at home with his buds that he had served in Viet Nam with and with us new "VolAr" kids.

Volunteer Army (VolAr). It started in 1977 when the military started only accepting folks that volunteered to enlist into the military. It was to be the end of a decent, effective, US military fighting machine. Well, that was the common take and prevailing wisdom of those in the know at the time. Actually, not so much.

But I digress.

Fred popped into my head for some reason. Turns out that he had been living around Palatka, FL, a town that I had driven through many times and watched Fourth of July fireworks several times with my aunt and uncle that lived near there. Had I known that Fred was there, I very much would have linked up with him, but twas not to be.

I'm saddened for the missed opportunities. I knew him for over 10 years while in 10th, during which time I became SF qualified, got experienced, and became a peer.

His treatment of me never varied. Not a bit.

I last saw him while he was working at Range Control at Fort Devens, having left group to get away from a spate of chicken shit mis-focused leaders that we went through for a time. Folks concerned with pole vaulting over mouse turds vice some operational issues that deserved attention.

That's the worms eye view.

I saw him during a HALO night jump when I landed off the DZ in a junk yard. The guy that owned the junk yard was used to this and graciously ran me over to range control in his pickup truck. Where I ran into Fred, who had more jumps then than I did by the time I retired years later. Gracious, of course, as ever that night. 

And David. My best friend for most of my life. He passed a couple of months after my Dad. Stood up at his desk and fell over dead of a heart attack.

We had known each other from the crucible of elementary school where we were the odd kids out, receiving the ire of the teacher and the scorn of our classmates.

David was distinct. He was avant-garde before folks were.

In the '50s he would have been a beatnik.

In third grade he was just weird. And I was his sidekick. Or visa versa.

He grew into himself as time went on, but he was always avant-garde.

I first heard Kansas, "Carry on" over at his house sitting around in his room. 10cc, Mott the Hoople, Queen, and many others I first heard because of David.

He had tickets to see Queen, ninth row center at the Santa Monica Civic Center in 1975. When he bought the ticket, no one on this side of the Pond had heard of them. Two weeks before the concert "Bohemian Rhapsody" hit big and the tickets were impossible to come by. I cannot remember how many folks tried to buy my ticket from me on my way in to the concert.

Yeah, my ticket. David got grounded (a common occurrence) and sold his ticket to me, after convincing me to go. I'm really glad he did. It was a great concert. Freddy Mercury and Queen were in great form, that night they presented an inspiring performance that made me a fan for life.

I cannot hear Dust in the Wind or Carry On without thinking of David. Never. We were friends through elementary school, attending school together first at one school, then another. His dad became more successful and they moved to a more toney neighborhood about Jr High School time.

Yet we remained close friends. I would ride my bike the three and a half miles to his place, or he to mine. Though it was mostly me to his, David spent a lot of time grounded even before he could drive. Once I could drive I would drive to his place to visit and/or pick him up and we'd drive around or visit other friends. Even when grounded, his folks allowed me to visit. I was a good influence? I guess so.

He went to Israel for awhile in the 70s while I went in the Army. He came back after a few years, I made a career in the Army and never really came back. But we reconnected via email and chatted online and on Facebook. He popped up while I was on a business trip to Germany and we had a good chat. That was the last time we "spoke" before his death.

Frequently, while sitting "alone" I'll start laughing as I remember something from my time with one of them. And I'll toss out a comment to which ever one of them I'm reliving a moment with. Just like before, with my friends in the room like nothing had ever changed. They'll be with me for the rest of my life, and I with them.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Time and tide wait for no man

A year.

A year ago today he was still posting. We were still reading, discussing, chatting.

Life was normal, my morning online routine started with him. I checked back again over the course of the day, as usual.

It was during the thread of "Streamer", during our chattering, that the first harbingers of something amiss came to light. Niggling chunks of news that were unconfirmed while we mused over their meaning.

Calculated the odds. Figured how many of this and that were there, who was flying, what it could mean. As the bits trickled in it became increasingly clear that it looked bad.

Increasingly the picture emerged that it would involve him.


Our host. Who had walked away from something that he loved, that was a part of him. The Dream lived and put aside as Life moved on.

He got his chance again though. After doing the contractor thing, the cubeville thing, the Powerpoint Ranger thing, opportunity knocked.

"They" wanted him to fly fast movers again. That life among the skies was asking him back, to return to the pulse pounding life of flying for a living. Flying in high performance aircraft again, paid to roam the skies and tangle with others similarly attired. To live the Dream again.

How many of us get to go back and do it again, to live the dream and the life that others only dream of, that we walked away from, glad to have had the chance at all.

And not only get to do it again, called back.

He had to work to get back, sweating, panting, exercising for high G turns. Going back to school to learn a new air frame, older, slower than he used to fly, but still high performance fun.

There were niggling things that kept popping up. Tower folks who should have known how to guide in this craft but kept missing marks. Little things that a more manual, older bird demands that are nothing like what he spent a lifetime of flying doing.

Streamer was just that, a discussion of something gone wrong with the bird. Nothing bad, but it was one of series of things that seemed to haunt the bird. It turned out that it was a practice run for what finally happened to him. He ran out of options, air speed, gas, pretty much everything.

And in the end, he died as he lived. Doing what he enjoyed.

And we grieved and we moved on.

Unfortunately, life continues. His family still lives and deals with life suddenly without him. We do the same. We've had surgeries, graduated, changed jobs, and otherwise had to keep dealing with the current of life coming at us.


We remember.

We bear witness.

We blog, we live, we chatter, we remember. For he was of us, and we of him.

And now a year later, most of us that started blogging to keep his memory alive are still doing so. Still bearing witness. Still adding our voices to the blogosphere.

That I think is the greatest tribute. Inspired by a man most of us never met, we muddle through life, adding our viewpoint in an inviting manner. Hosting sites of discussion and tolerance for opinions that diverge from our own.

I still have issues with the airfields that handle mishandle these birds on a regular basis.

I miss him and hold him in my heart. Though he is gone too soon we deal with the aftermath, for the tides and time wait for no man.

No matter how much we miss him.