March 1, 2017 | Posted in General
I got nothing.
Well, that isn’t entirely true.
I got something but I don’t think its a good idea to back up and dump it into the already overflowing virtual landfill of Facebook. You know the usual stuff, politics, low level human behavior…politics. It would most likely cause angst among many, perhaps a few lost friends that I really have never met and wouldn’t know if they stopped me on the street or danced a jig naked on my desk. So the loss of a “friend” on this giant billboard isn’t the same as the loss of a “friend” in “real” life so the caution I am using probably doesn’t matter much.
But the loss of my “real” friend matters a great deal to me.
We went to high school in the last century together, he was one of those guys that had the long flowing locks, quick step and even quicker smiles. A bit on the shy side, once he opened up, the room lit up-especially the locker room full of lanky football heroes. He was a tailback on offense, a scat back runner that no one ever really got a good hit on, never gave the defense a chance to put a lick on him. I remember #24 dancing through the opening made by the offensive line, twisting, turning and slicing behind the block made by our big fullback #35 who was more than happy to take the pounding so “The Cat Man” didn’t.
That’s was his nickname, due mostly in part to his last name but also because he was cat-like in his reflexes and ability spring forth out of a pile for a few extra yards.
When we walked out of high school forty-years ago for the last time, our Bulldog purple and gold jersey’s handed down to the next group of superheroes, and for the most part we all went our separate ways. I would see “The Cat Man” now and then, his brother married my sister and so when holidays rolled around, we would gather in the kitchen, knock back some cheer and talk about how great we once were.
For five years I bowled with my dad and our guys in the Wednesday Night Men’s Late League, and every couple of weeks we were up against “The Cat Man” and his guys, until well past midnight. A lot of laughter, beer frames and high-fives were always in order and when bowling came to end, it would be a very long time before I saw him again.
Years passed…then one day got a call that “The Cat Man” was in a bad way.
I went to see him in the hospital and hardly recognized my friend, my teammate. Jaundice, bent and crooked in so many ways that I didn’t have the words. No longer were his eyes clear and smile quick. We talked for a long time about demons, both real and imagined. He was in a battle of titanic proportions and admitted that he no longer could see any light at the end of the tunnel.
I hugged him before I left. I told him that I loved him and he mattered to so many. I told him I would run interference for him anytime, anywhere.
That was ten years ago.
In 2013 a memorial service was held for one of our coaches, Ray Smith, and shortly after a celebration of sorts for our head coach Frank Preo and Bulldogs converged from all across the country to back slap, tell stories and bullshit our way back in time, before worry lines, broken dreams and loss.
At one point I stood back from the bar and surveyed the room that was generating enough energy to make Elon Musk jealous and over by the door, just making his way into the room…
“The Cat Man.”
We hugged, we cried and we hugged again. It wasn’t long before guys recognized him, and the huddle grew bigger. Laughter soon took over, we stood a bit taller, sucked in our guts, threw back our shoulders and in short order were basically ready to put our helmets on one more time.
That was the last time I saw him.
“The Cat Man” died on Sunday night. He was 58.
I will be at his wake tomorrow evening. We will huddle up as we always do at these things, full grown men now, swaying nervously looking for the right words at such a very wrong time, silently greeting each other as we enter the room where his mom, brother and sister, his wife and children will thank the long line of visitors and most likely we will gaze upon the pictures and images of his very short time on earth.
And the reminder comes once again.
That tomorrow is promised to no one.
If today was your last day on the planet, and you don’t wake up tomorrow are you good with how you spent the time you were given? That has been the one constant question in my mind for the past few days as it is when death becomes more than a snooze alarm, but a serious wake up call.
I had a half-dozen messages today “Hey where is the Rant? I so look forward to it.”
Well…here it is.
Nothing about Trump’s speech or Conway sitting on a couch or who is getting traded for who and that the Dow hit 21,000 or the dismantling of the EPA.
Today I could care less.
“The Cat Man” died.