Another of my grandfather’s buddies died the other day. He told me yesterday morning. He’d been trying to get in touch with the widow, whom he doesn’t know but wanted to offer his sympathy. I wondered if he’d tear up again, but he didn’t (he had when two buddies of his died while he was in the rehab facility). He told me they chased girls in Lowell, Massachusetts, my grandfather’s hometown, when they were 15- or 16-year olds.
Funny, that. Aside from people I met online during that time, I don’t think I’m in contact with any of my friends from that age or before. My friend Dane, yes, from Keesler AFB. We reconnected again when his dad was in San Antonio at Lackland. He’s now a Facebook friend. I can’t really think of any others. And those I met online are, for the most part, people I met during my first round of blogging in 1997-98 and, the vast majority of whom I’ve now met “IRL.”
I have no contact with most of my friends from Biloxi – Jonathan Givens (Jones), Dixie Fisher (awesome name, right?), Robert Ward, Scott Romero, Joshua Murphy and others. I’ve looked them up online and they don’t seem to exist any longer.
During that time, we moved from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Daleville, Alabama, so my mom could take care of my grandfather after his quadruple bypass. Sound familiar? Then from Daleville to Killeen, Texas, where my mom found a teaching job. (Dad retired at Keesler.)
As I said, from there on, I didn’t make many friends. In what should come as a total surprise to no one (but took two years of therapy for me to figure out), my OCD kicked into high gear right around the time we made the move from Biloxi to Daleville. I made a few friend I could tolerate at school. In high school in Killeen, I had a car. So a group of stoners liked me. Especially since I didn’t know how to inhale – makes for a great designated driver.
Josh Murphy and I did have a chance encounter back at Keesler about four years or so after us both moved away. I was sitting in our barracks’ dayroom waiting for the buses to pick us up to take us to class (if there was lightning within two miles of the base, they’d haul us the two miles by bus instead of making us march it in the already-hot-and-humid-as-an-asscrack Mississippi morning heat). It was crowded with airmen waiting and wondering whether we’d really get a morning off from marching. I heard a loud voice.
“Are you William O. Pate III?”
For some reason, no one seems to be able to understand that I am “II,” the second, that is. I even have a Texas House of Representatives’ resolution with the same incorrect name. WTF?
I started to respond with my correction when he looked down at my nametap and said, “PATE! I knew you by the smile!”
We’d been great friends in middle school, but Josh was far more of an Air Force cheerleader than I at 18, so we had our own groups of buddies. No idea where he is now.
(I’m skipping over my time in the Air Force for now. Too many people. None with whom I’m in contact.)
The exploits of my group of friends from Ruta Maya (back when it was on 4th and Lavaca in Austin) – and, later, Halcyon in the same location – were well-chronicled in previous blogs. Beyond Brian(na) Keeper, though, I’m not in regular contact with any of those folks. (Brianna’s brother, Joe Keeper, was on NPR today.) John Williams? He hasn’t even appeared on Facebook in months, much less answered a call or text. Mike Haile? I only ever seem to run into him after I’ve had a few drinks. I then remember that it is possible to put away six beers and appear pretty okay, if a little red and angry. He proves things like that. And that the human body produces an enormous amount of its own crack in him, I think, given his undrugged hyperactivity.
I run into Just an Architect Rick every once in a while, usually while at Halcyon (the old stomping grounds). We catch up a bit each time. Others I see around town at Epoch or elsewhere – people I’m surprised are still here, have returned or even continue to exist. I rarely talk to many of them.
I’m doing a good job of skipping my college years for now. While the Ruta Maya period extended only briefly into my St. Ed’s career before becoming a Halcyon-centered experience (post-Ruta Maya Refugee Crisis – the diaspora continues), I’m not going to go into college for now. For the same reason as the Air Force, and also because I’m focusing on “buddies” – which I consider to connote guys.
The point is, it’s amazing how many people we lose over the years. Not necessarily for any reason – though sometimes for perfectly valid reasons. I’m just a sentimental bastard. I’m offering no lesson here, but, obviously, are there some. Make your own interpretations.
Were some of you waiting for the first Death Cab for Cutie song I’d use here?