Tag Archives: friend

That day Spaz tried to kill me

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It was spring break, we were at the movies, and I hurt with the
“hands-around-my-throat, can’t-breathe” type of hurt
I was laughing so hard. Finally, I managed to get enough
air to gasp pleadingly for him to stop—and that is when he
flicked his box of popcorn in my face. If it had been funny
before, it was hilarious then and I remember ending up on
the dirty, ticky-tacky floor of the theater, wheezing and wondering:
is this it?/am i dying?/what will everybody think?
And as God is my witness, that only made it funnier.

It turns out that at that point Spaz had already lived over
half of his life, while I only a third (thus far) of mine.
What fairness is that?
Perhaps that is the point—my point, or his point to me—
or at least someone’s point to someone.

Because the funny thing is, I can hear him laughing as I write this—
my little buddy, laughing—and all I want to do is laugh with him.
And as God is my witness, I’m still not sure what we’re laughing about.

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Tony told me at our first meeting (we were in university together, taking our engineering degrees) that ‘Spaz’ was his nickname. I could go on and on about him, but the simple truth is that he was a wonderful person and I loved him very, very much. He was a good and dear friend and I cherish all those years we were together.

The tragedy is that we had not spoken since shortly after we graduated; my moving to Africa did that to many relationships. And yet, when I recently heard from a fellow classmate that he had died at the very young age of 40, still, I was very saddened by it. As my mother often said, “Only the good die young.” That’s not true, of course, but what is true is that we get to regret their passing for far longer than if they had not.

And that story about us going to a movie and me feeling I was going to die from laughing? Absolutely true. That was Spaz.

Thank you for reading That day Spaz tried to kill me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Wolf Den state park in Connecticut.  To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh  blog.

john

Photograph, notes and poem © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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I remember him best shyly smiling

Another good man has gone
to his good grave, his dim days
dim now no more. Below the blue sky
the green bush trims the stream
while the water shushes over
the old dam. In the cool shadows
fat speckled trout glide to and fro
and hide from us just beneath the foam.
We do not fish, not here, not anymore,
that world is long gone and so nearly
too are we. But he is still there,
of this I am sure, waiting and smiling
and fishing evermore, he is there—
I am sure.

This poem is dedicated to Mark Higgins, my father’s dearest friend who died in April, 2007;  he was 81 years old.

When I was growing up Mark was very much an uncle to me and I loved him very much. He was a quiet, sweet, gentle man, a logger by trade who was happiest in the woods, fishing, hunting and trapping. He built his own home in the forest and logged his own firewood, as well as fish for his winter supply of cod which he would split, salt and dry. One of the happiest memories I have is accompanying my father and Mark on just such a late summer fishing trip and working myself exhausted catching enough fish to make him proud.

Mark and my father spent much time together over the years. They were both humble, quiet, Godly men. They were human, of course and could and did laugh and shout and have fun, and Lord knows the two of them could enjoy a drink, or many. But in the end they were both most comfortable in each other’s company because they both loved the quiet of the woods, the hushed sound of their own conversation and the simple joy of being with a friend that they could trust and in whom they could believe in and depend on.

I believe there is a special world after this one and a person as special as Mark is there for his just reward. I imagine him waiting for us by my favorite fishing spot, not catching the “big ones” but just waiting there, saving the big ones for me.

Thank you for reading I remember him best shyly smiling. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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To see all the better

As you go, raise up old friend,
that lamp higher. And if in so doing
the shadows cast darkest at your feet,
well is that not but the way of the world?
You said yourself that we are meant to stumble
the many noble paths as we walk them.
Now is just the time to laugh about it.

This poem was written for a dear friend, Carl Russo, just after his passing. I met Carl and his wife Jane when they came to our home some years before to repair our piano.

A Vietnam veteran, Carl had, like so many before him, suffered emotionally after his tour of duty; his post war years were marred by excessive drinking and drugs. He fought his way out of this morass with hard work and a deep probing questioning of God in general and Carl’s place in the spiritual world in particular. He was a great reader of Buddhism and we often discussed spiritual matters late into the night.

Just before Carl passed away (from pancreatic cancer, probably developed from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam) he was able to re-discover his Jewish faith and to be re-enrolled in his birth religion. It brought him a calmness and serenity as the time for his leaving this world came closer.

Whenever I think of Carl I see him as the Happy Buddha, content at the end, knowing the door was opening, not closing, and not at all regretful of going through it. I clearly remember him in our last meeting a few hours before he passed away; he smiled deeply and warmly and thanked me profusely for our friendship. The cares and woes were gone and a new adventure was beckoning. No wonder I felt his laughter as he went.

Thank you for reading To see all the better. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Patrick (plus also Marian Burnett’s “After Seven Years”)

Patrick didn’t wait for me,
how like him to go on first, alone.
He was to me the essence of touch
made into flesh and bone—
his laughter, robust and yet so light,
had a way of bursting out
and rising up through the hole in your heart
and resting there, lingering long after
the echoes had departed.
I could, and did, take him with me
everywhere I went, but still, I confess
I can’t quite grasp it yet,
wherever did the time go?
It was as if the jingle jangle
got to be too much for him
and now, here in free fall, I wonder
what it was I missed that he caught
and looking at thought, no more?
Sweetest man, you probably told me
but I wasn’t listening just then.
I am now.

Marian and Patrick Burnett were my best friends in university, all those many years ago. A young Bahá’í couple, they opened their home and hearts to an awkward, shy, newly minted Bahá’í youth just arrived into the big city. They were wonderful and I quickly came to think of Pat as the older brother/best friend/spiritual guide/mentor that every young man needs.

Pat was amazing. Smart, wise, strong, experienced, kind, generous and funny…gosh, so very, very funny, with a wonderful, subtle sense of insightful humor. And too, a wonderful taste in music. Much of the music I listen to today was guided by him; he had an incredible ear for good music and was the first to teach me to slip through musical genres to look for the magic of emotion in the layer below.

Let me share just one story about Pat. My mother loved him (she loved to cook and he loved to eat so they were a pair made in heaven) but, still he was outside of her sphere of experience. Then, one year, she became quite ill and spent quite a bit of time in a hospital where Pat, and often Marian, were rigorous about visiting her. She told me years later that there were times when the drugs would knock her out and Pat would be the last thing she saw as the light faded, sitting there reading a book, and he would be the first thing she saw as she came to some time later, “Still reading his book!” she would say, and picking up the conversation just where they left it off. After that she loved Marian, and especially Pat, with a devotion that she held for few outside of family (and not many even in that group.) He was thereafter her Pat and Marian, and that was that and God help the poor person that did not love them too!

Sadly—and I confess this was all my doing—after I graduated and moved away we drifted out of contact. (Of the many faults in my makeup, the fact that I have trouble sustaining long distance relationships is the one that betrays me the most.) The odd email or call is no replacement for being face-to-face and able to hug and to touch and to laugh.

The day that Pat’s son, Justin, was able to find me on Facebook and to tell me the sad news of his father’s death, was a hard one for me. As I was trying to take it in, I could hear my mother, long since passed, with one of her tropes, “Only the good die young!” And while that may not be true, what is true is that he was far too young to be gone from us. I still appreciate Justin’s kindness and tenacity in tracking me down, but I am not surprised that he did; he is very much, I think, like his father and his mother: kind, considerate and loving. I wish I was closer to them both to know him better.

Thank you for reading Patrick. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

January 20, 2013 Postscript:

Marian, Pat’s beloved wife and someone I am lucky and proud to call a dear, dear friend, recently shared this beautiful poem with me and then graciously allowed me to add it to the original post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

After Seven Years

All there was before the shock
I have been clearing, sorting,
using the best
for my foundation.

He was the one
who introduced me
to the Maker of Blueprints
and encouraged me to build
My spire toward heaven

The poem Patrick, and the notes that accompany it are © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poems and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

The poem After Seven Years is © 2013 by Marian Burnett; all rights reserved; it may not be reproduced in any way without the written approval of the author.

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