About my friend, “Gene”

I was seven years old when we moved to the new town. I remember the ride into the little village, my face pressed against the passenger side rear window looking with wonder at the fields of very tall “Daisies”, I later found out they were Sun flowers, dark faces with bight yellow petals facing the sun. My parents were having a conversation about whether this was going to be a good move, or not. It was an unexpected change from where they had thought they were being assigned and my mother wasn’t happy about it. As we turned onto the tiny street that led to the “parsonage” of the little country church where my dad was sent to pastor, we saw the humble white building and it sat directly across the street from the house that we would be in for the next several years. In the yard of the neighbor house were a middle-aged couple sitting and seeming to be studying a large book, which my dad later discovered was the church roll. I guess they were expecting us (?).

I started school in the big elementary school across the highway and being the new kid was shy to make friends. There was one girl who became my instant friend and has remained so from then until now. This girl had an older brother, two whole years older than us and I had an instant crush on him.

This story would be too long if I told you about our close relationship and how we ended up in high school together where her brother was on the basketball team, Captain, on the baseball team and winning awards for both along with being voted the “Most Popular” boy in school in his senior year. My crush had only grown bigger but I never said a word to my friend about him, after all he had a gorgeous girlfriend, and who would have thought he would have given this girl who was too short, too plump, hair too curly/frizzy a second glance?

Fast forward to a few years ago when I saw them and he confided to me behind his cupped hand that he had always had a crush on me. “Oh my goodness”, I thought, “If only I had known that back then”.

I have never been out of communication with him or his sister and have remained close. This week, knowing that he had been in the hospital for a procedure and having not heard from him I contacted his sister to find out why. He was at home but on hospice care. The text came to her early one morning this week, “He’s gone”.

It’s not easy saying goodbye. I didn’t see him as the silver-haired man he had become, walking with a slight stoop and having to use oxygen, I only saw that 6’5 boy that ran like the wind across a basketball court, black flat-top, olive skin and vibrant eyes that were so dark they looked black, and I’m sure that’s the way he looks now as he looks back at the old body he walked out of and I think he was happy to be through with that vehicle.

Yesterday’s gone, tomorrow never comes, do what you can today to show someone you love them and say it out loud, not whispered behind your cupped hand.

Rest in peace “Gene”.

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