A friend recently ask a group of people who they missed in life. The answers were what you’d expect, a parent, a spouse, a child, etc. I didn’t get into the conversation but I gave it some thought.
Like most everyone I miss my parents and other relatives who’ve passed on but mostly because I didn’t spend enough time with them when they were living and I didn’t mine them for their wisdom and stories. But, they are not the people I miss. With but one exception they lived long and full lives and when they passed they weren’t enjoying much quality of life.
The people I really miss aren’t even related, they are friends who held a special niche in my life. One is a person who would have driven me crazy if I had to be around him all the time but when I was around him it was a true trip. He could be spontaneous, quick-witted, unabashed, irreverent, independent, obnoxious, vulgar, and much more. He was also a walking encyclopedia of Greenfield’s social history. If you wanted to know who Jane Doe was cheating with in 1957 you just gave him a call. And if he didn’t know there was a woman I taught with who did. Both are gone and no one has come forth to fill the voids they left in passing.
Another unfilled void followed the sudden death of a man I knew from childhood. After school we went our separate ways but years later our lives touched again. In our lives we had shared lots of experiences. While not together we had both served in the Navy, gotten married, raised a family, and been basically gainful in life. We both enjoyed the outdoors, liked traveling, knew the words to every Hank Williams song, would consume an occasional beer, shared a similar sense of humor, were spontaneous, and had wives who didn’t mind seeing us go fishing and leave them to their peace.
Before retiring we had agreed that spontaneity would be our rule. We had both been stationed in New England, he in Connecticut and I in Rhode Island, and knew that a better sandwich, called grinders, couldn’t be found than what were common in that part of America. He once said, “I’m going to pull into your driveway someday and say let’s run up to Connecticut and get a grinder at Elmo’s.” My response was, “Absolutely!”
We never made it to Elmo’s but we made more than one spontaneous decision. While sitting on a very cold Lake Maultrie in South Carolina one March I suggested we grab a fishing pole and some warm weather clothing and drive south until the thermometer hit 80. Two days later we were sitting in John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo, Florida eating fresh fruit and drinking a cold Hatuey (Cuban) beer. That evening we spent the night in Key West eating stone crab claws and conch fritters. Next morning the cold front that drove us out of Carolina caught up so we headed back north.
Today I heard a man say we shouldn’t bemoan the passing of such people. Instead we should feel blessed that they once existed and we were fortunate enough to have known them. That’s a comforting thought but the void remains unfilled.