My mother in law told me when I got married that I didn't get one guy; I got a slew of them. You see for most of his life my husband had a tight knit group of friends. They were around so much that I started referring to our first apartment as a home for wayward boys. I suppose I could have gotten sick of them all, but the thing was I liked my husband's buddies and as time went on his long time friends became my friends as well.
The one that he had the longest was Mike. The became friends when they were around 8, when they snuck out of a Yom Kippur service geared for little kids to find a big box of Hershey's chocolate bars and proceed to eat them. Yes, this is a big no-no on Yom Kippur - but then again, there was Mike...
"Then again, there was Mike..." was a phrase that made it into lots of funny stories. There was the time Mike needed a middle of the night pick up at a Dunkin Donuts off of a highway because his car broke down. He was still wearing medieval garb from the wedding he attended when he looked at my husband and said, "They sure do get a lot of weirdos here at this time of night." There was the time he got a bit tipsy during his bachelor party and volunteered to see if the fluid dripping out his car was anti-freeze by tasting it (Mike never did have much luck with cars). There was the time we (OK me) got tipsy on Strongbow at my 30th birthday party (hard apple cider is awesome BTW).
Then there was that time Mike tried to get his friend to ask out this curly headed girl he crushed on. His friend was still too shy, so Mike went right to the girl and told him about his friend's feelings. Even when Mike told me, I was still a bit nervous, but I approached his friend and we've been together over 20 years now. My mother in law also told me never to tell that story to my father in law, as he still hasn't quite gotten over the fact that the kid who got his son to eat half a carton of chocolates on Yom Kippur was the same one who got his son to date and marry a shiksa.
Someone at work asked my husband to describe Mike in one word. "Brave," is what he said. Although, goofball is what first came to my mind, after talking about it with my husband, brave was indeed a good word. Mike was always up to try something new, no matter how weird or how likely it was he might stink at it. It cracks me up that the guy who could be counted upon to spill whatever he was having on that little rug in my first apartment at one point did ballroom dancing and was a skilled juggler. He had a lot of hobbies; Mike could never stand to be bored too long. He was a voracious reader with a keen mind. My gods, how that man could drive people crazy in an argument - he loved a lively debate. Those made him laugh. I'll never forget his laugh or how I felt the day I found out Lou Gherig's Disease (ALS) would eventually take that laugh and his life away. Brave. Yes, those last horrible years, he was very brave.
I've cried a lot since the funeral. I've been angry too. (Why didn't I make more time to visit the man my husband and I loved like a brother more often at his nursing home? Why didn't I make more time when he was still well? Oh our families vacationed together every summer and the guys got together regularly for old school table top gaming, but there should have been more time.) I've listened to a lot of sad songs too, not bothering to hold back the additional tears. But then I remember Mike, who wanted those present at his funeral to hear these words from him when he was near the end of his illness "Don't worry. I laughed a lot." He would roll his eyes at sad songs and sobriety. I think of all the moments that occurred during the funeral - among his favorites would have been the giggle loop my husband and another close friend of ours got into during the moment of silence. That friend lamented "What does it say about me that one of the most hilarious moments of my life happened at my best friend's funeral? And knowing Michael would have approved?"
I think it says that his and all of our lives were much better, and much more fun, for having known Mike.
So now that I'm at the song portion of my post, I know that sad songs are just not going to cut it. These next two came up on the radio for me this last week and they made me think of who Mike was while he was here on earth. The first one is a homage to another funny man, Andy Kaufman - REM's Man on the Moon. Bits of the lyrics make me think of card and board games we played when were young and had all the time in the world. They also make me think of Mike's wit and skeptical side.
The second is Steve Miller Band's The Joker, because well, that's what he was in our group.
And, as my husband pointed out, Mike would have gotten a kick out of this one...
Safe travels Mike. See you on the flip side.