We lived across the street from one another for nearly eight years. For two military families, that’s a lifetime of friendship. Like the blazing sunrise over Charleston, South Carolina, and the sunset in the west, I knew that no matter what, John and Pat would always be there, not only for me, but for my husband and children.
We celebrated one another’s birthdays and graduation parties, along with all of the surprises of life. When John was aboard ship’s deployment, I was there for Pat; and when my Louie was out to sea, she was there for me. I don’t remember a single fight that we had. We simply found ourselves on a different page than the rest of the world.
We dressed up for Halloween, and went to the mall, Pat as a six-foot tall, green faced witch, wearing a towering hat, and I, thinking I looked like a rock star, mistaken for a lady of the night. In many ways we were quite innocent, even naïve. You might say that in our late thirties and, in my case, early forties, we went through childhood together.
We watched each other’s children grow into adolescence and beyond, wondering who would wind up taller, Pat’s son or my daughter, since one year’s growth for the two of them leaped eight inches.
We went back to school together, driving through the Air Force base every day. Pat helped me to bear the insults of my father, who lived with us, and who had decided to make us as miserable as the last years of his life could muster. Pat made me laugh about tragic things, and in that gave me back half of my life.
John was always there, when his ship was in, either in the driveway chatting with Louie about guy stuff or planning a surprise party for somebody. He was a good man and a kind man. Unpretentious, John was down to earth and unspoiled by either the ups or downs of life. He was humorous, and a hard worker, a virtue not much admired these days, except for those who truly knew him. Now he is gone, and though miles have separated us, as we went our separate ways into retirement, the thought of that big man with an even bigger heart, not with us, breaks mine.
You would have liked John. He would have made you laugh. He would have surprised you with a glass of iced-tea or Pat’s to-die-for bean dip and chips. Things were simple to John. You were a friend, and that meant good things. I don’t think he had an enemy in the world. Oh, I remember so many things about John, that would mean nothing to anyone else. I guess my most revealing memory is that John was real — truly himself, unapologetic in true simplicity, he was a man without guile. Now he’s gone, and he will be sorely missed.
Pat and I went through hurricanes, separations, heartache, and wild laughter. We were always together, and always 100% in each other’s corner. We backed each other up through the serious and the ludicrous of life. My heart is with her right now, though we live thousands of miles apart. She was and still is my very best friend. We have one of those once in a lifetime friendships that neither time nor distance can separate. In fact, I think I can honestly state that we are forever friends. I just didn’t think that forever would come so swiftly.
Sittin’ on the curb, Settin’ on the stoop,
Grilled cheese sandwiches.
Buffalo nickels and silver dimes,
Penny candy and church bell chimes.
Hop scotch, jacks, and skates with keys.
Kinder words, like “thanks” and “please.”
Hop-Scotch, Butterscotch, Cracker-Jacks,
Hopping home o’er sidewalk cracks.
Walkin’ to school.
Greaser hair and being “cool.”
Jackie Gleason. Name that Tune.
“Alice, Pow! Right to the Moon!”
Licking “Eat-Ade” from your hand.
Dancing close with a dancing band.
Hoola Hoops and Poodle skirts.
Boys wore ties, and girls were “flirts.”
Chevys. Hot Rods. Thunderbirds.
Holding hands, no need for words.
Sunday chicken and mashed potatoes.
Lots o’ gravy and fried tomatoes.
Meat loaf night, sittin’ at the table.
T.V. night without a cable.
Taking a stroll instead of a jog.
Letter writing. Sittin’ on a log.
Simple pleasures, short and sweet.
Crossing in the middle of the street.
Saddle shoes and crinolines;
Eating tuna out of tins.
All those memories in my mind
Of a kinder and a gentler time.
Copyright Jaye Lewis, 2002
Good-by John. I'll see you in heaven.