I just found out a few hours ago that one of my childhood friends passed away in his sleep last night. Losing anyone so young is hard. Well young is relative but I still feel relatively young and as my former sister-in-law said earlier this year “anyone dying before 80 is young.”
So, my mother worked with his father and we grew up on the same street. His dad drank heavily and so did he but that’s what we did then. He transferred in high school to an exclusive Catholic high. I went to college with 6 boys from that school. They told me that his drinking so disgusted them that they themselves threw him off the bus. We used to drink at the same bar in our late teens and early twenties.
A memory – the New Year’s Eve I was 21, I ended up at a party at his house with my two best friends. The other Tress(same name) and I had dates. Let’s put it this way, she was going out with Donnie and when I was around we used to double with his best friend who was called Hoppy, seriously. He was far from hoppy but around 6 foot something and a solid 200 pounds plus. He was a time filler for me. Our other friend was just along for the ride. Our original plan was to have a sleepover at my parents and then the guys came up with this party plan. Somehow towards the end of the evening we ended up at J’s house. His parents were there and some others too. Not mine; not only did they no longer go out on New Years anymore but my mother didn’t like his father – read heavy drinker. And it must have been very heavy as the first time I was drunk in public was at her boss’s home(same company) when I was around 16. Different era, different mores. Anyway, Hoppy takes me over to his parents “Ma, Dad, this is the girl I have been telling you about.” Big shock to me. I don’t, didn’t do relationships, especially at that age. So I am doing the drunken nice girl chat with parents and when I get away, M, my other friend is in Hoppy’s lap, cooing to him “I want it and want it now.” Different era, stumbled out of the house and walked the two long blocks home including one block that was a ballfield. And it was a four lane road opposite parkway woods and a parkway. A drunk 20-something couldn’t do that now. Went into the house and my parents called out and asked where everyone else was. The other Tress is with Donnie at J’s house and M? M is f*cking her brains out with Hoppy” Now you have to understand that was a big evil word then and I am known for not using “bad” words. Upshot? Parents yell at me for the profanity and M comes in much later. The other Tress never spoke to her again. I am more forgiving but have to admit that I saw her in the subway 20 years ago or so and she was completely grey! Revenge is a dish best served cold.
At that point in time, J was getting his life back together. We used to hang in the same bar and have drinks. He was working at the local grocery store stocking frozen food. He was going back to school. He was very, very smart. We had always been in the advanced class. Then he said he made a girl pregnant that he didn’t even really like (it may have been the alcohol talking) and that was it.
Fast forward years and the advent of FB. He was mad crazy about his grandson and was a successful guy. Our high school always has a picnic and three years ago, I went. Topic for another day. There’s a candid shot of the two of us jabbering away.
But and there is always a but, he was far right and I am far left. I grew up in Levittown and far right is the way most people lean but back in the day things didn’t seem as absolute. I always knew that my views were not held by most. J and I had a teacher in 7th grade who on reflection probably was in the John Birch society. I vaguely reflect an argument over my not saying the Pledge of Allegiance with J. Still, see above, we drank together. However, I just couldn’t take it on FB. As we and society have aged, we have become more polarized. I hate hate speech. Uh, yeah Levittown – 99.6 or 99.7 white when I was growing up. I was at a high school dinner in Levittown a few summers ago and they were talking about how Nixon was right with Watergate not ‘Nam but Watergate. Put Obama into the picture and just imagine. I have only unfriended one person on FB and it was another elementary school onwards person with racist hate. So, I hid J. I only saw innocuous likes.
I knew he had moved back onto the Island from a neighboring state. Today, I see that he was right here in my town. He was truly a part of my growing up. Because I hid him, I didn’t know. We could have and should have been able to move beyond politics to that common childhood.
When did we as a society become so divisive? I recently read that people are deciding where to move based on the overall political makeup of an area. What happened to us? Where is the veneer of tolerance? Fake it till ya make it works sometimes. We are cutting off discourse and therefore growth. I am guilty. I am thinking of what I missed the last few years by cutting J off. It makes this loss huger.
We don’t know what Fate holds for us, why waste time.
I mourn for J and for missteps.
Carpe Diem. RIP J and I’ll be lifting a glass to Auld Lang Syne.