Saturday, January 31, 2009

Death Visits Us All

I had a best friend in high school. Let's call him B1. Actually he was my best friend from about 4th grade until graduation. He obviously was a major influence on my life at a very formative time for me.

He had an older brother that was three years older than us. Let's call him B2. He remains to this day one of my closest friends. He is an extreme victim of his own intelligence. He is vastly more intelligent than I am, I can say that without even hesitating. He graduated at the top of his class (rightfully so)...but he should never have been given the microphone at his commencement address. He delivered a valedictory address in about 1983 that is remembered to this day. Oooh. He talked about the president having his finger on the button, and how that was going to doom us all, etc. He embarassed his family, and (if he had only been able to understand at the time) he embarassed himself.

In later years, I kept in touch with both of these gentlemen. In August of 1991, B1, B2, myself and one other mutual friend went on a trip together. Many things happened on that trip, but suffice it to say that B2 embarassed us all.

Both B1 and B2 went to the Minneapolis area, as did I. I stayed in touch. They did not. Very difficult situation. But in the fullness of time, I came to the realization that B1 simply had made a clean break with his past (except for his family), which unfortunately included me. Too bad so sad, right? Except that I am not used to losing my friends. I had not yet given up on him then, and I have not yet given up on him now.

B2 is a more interesting story. He lost himself in drugs first, then in alcohol, though he'd never admit it. At one point, I'm pretty sure I was instrumental in getting him to go back to school. The guy was a valedictorian back when it actually MEANT something after all.

I say all this to say that their father died on Monday, and B1 called me for the first time in (I think) 20 years to invite me to the memorial service. I went today. It was...interesting.

First of all, they're Methodists. The Methodist style never appealed to me. Let's all get as dressed up as we can, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us, so that God will be happy. Somehow I don't think God cares so much what we're wearing.

But I did have a chance to visit my hometown, and also visit these people and their family, all of whom had such an influence on who I am today.

You have to understand that the man who died was a judge. He was an outstanding person, besides. He was also an insufferable man, a man who caused no end of consternation among his fellow citizens...but also a man whose passing caused a lot of pain, reflection, and self-examination among those who knew him well and those who knew him at all.

Such a man is to be revered. He is to be remembered. His words are to be, if not "followed", at least to be taken to heart. The program informed me that his political persuasion runs directly against me own. This does not surprise me. It actually makes me sing with joy.

Because if this man is politically against me and yet still loves me as he so clearly did, then I am still free to believe as I do and all is not lost.

God bless this man. God bless his family, as they struggle to learn what it is to be a group without his leadership. And God please let this be a vehicle for B1 and I to become closer. I am willing. Is he?

Only God knows.


At 9:06 AM , Blogger Mary said...

I know the man. He gave me a week in jail for driving after suspension, calling me "Little Mary Whitebread." I had a three-year-old son to take care of, my grandmother's funeral was the next day, and he wouldn't let me talk. His bailiff swore at my father and threatened him with contempt of court.

And yes, I was guilty because I hadn't paid a speeding ticket. I tried to explain the error and he smacked his gavel down and gave me 30 days with 25 suspended. A bit harsh for an unpaid speeding ticket.

It's nice to know he was a decent guy IRL because he wasn't in court.

At 7:12 PM , Blogger Dan said...

Oh, he wasn't AT ALL IRL what he was in court. I know. When I was 12, I got caught shoplifting and had to explain myself to him. Eek. If you've been in his court, you probably know what that might have been like.

But he also handled a lot of the cases with my parents' foster kids while I was growing up, and my mom really thought he did a good job on those cases. I can speak personally for the fact that he was an incredibly upstanding family man and great near-neighbor. I also know he water skied until he was like 60.

And he had an ascerbic wit that sometimes bit too hard. He was sharp out of all reason and a great one to play Risk with when I was in high school. I don't think we were ever able to beat him at that, and certainly not at trivial pursuit.

I'll miss him...though I know a lot of people who had to face him in court won't. That's okay. I'm just glad I got to know the man's worth. It's one of the examples from my early life that I still strive to emulate.

"Little Mary Whitebread." Heh. I can just hear him saying that. Because besides all of the foregoing, he was one cantankerous bastard when he was in the wrong mood.

At 8:36 PM , Blogger Mary said...

You know, I'm really glad to get this perspective on him. I truly only had my one "episode" with him (and obviously on a bad day) and it's nice to know he was much more than the crotchedy guy who put me in the slammer!

Thank you, Dan, for sharing even more abut him and allowing far too many years of anger to subside.

At 3:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is the man that put me in foster care. He helped straighten out my life when I was very confused (along with the help of your parents).

On the flip side, he made me put up with you for far too long :>(

He was a good, but firm to his convictions type of guy.

At 11:46 AM , Anonymous Blend said...

Mary not just you, i too, am happy for this perspective on him......


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