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.


  1. My Dad said once, that when we are alone, we open up a memory box, like a jewelry box, and we take out the memories and we caress them and rejoice in them, and then when it is time, we put them back... until we are alone again. You were in your memory box. It is filled with good people.

  2. The more I hear of your father, the more I like him. The next time I'm in that area (my son and his wife are stationed up there) I'll swing by the museum and look him up.

    That's a fitting description. They're always with me and we get to enjoy those times over and over again, though not in an endless loop that supplants real life. Now it's time to go out and shovel the driveway from the first snowfall of the first day of spring. :D

  3. I saw you had a new post up, so I stopped by. Little knowing that I would come away moved and encouraged.

    Bou - I've always had that memory box, just didn't know what it was called.

    Marcus - This has to be one of your best posts. It made me pause and remember a few folks I've known who aren't around anymore. My Dad for one.

    Thanks to both of you. I think I'll pull some old memories out tonight and marvel at some of the wonderful people I've had in my life.

  4. It really is true that as long as they live in our hearts, they're never really gone. I'm just not afraid to admit it to folks publicly. Not to dwell on them, but to enjoy them when the moment is right. When we can once again enjoy each others company.

    In between life's insistent drumbeat of reality and need.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one, it took me awhile, but I enjoyed writing it.