Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Memory and Loss

 I've been in a remembering mode for the last few days. I guess my last post on "A Christmas Memory" touched on that. Maybe it's the holidays or just COVID times. My cousin, who is deeply immersed in family history, sort of fueled it further with a Merry Christmas email that mentioned places my mom and grandmother lived before my parents were married.

That sent me to Google Street View to check out my childhood home. It's still there, though looking different on a little street across from the high school in my home town. The siding's new along with a few other features, but the back porch with its red brick steps and ornamental iron posts looks the same. It's only four or five steps, but it seemed mountainous when I was a kid.

It's hard to describe how looking at a recent photo makes me feel. It's a bit bittersweet, though that's not quite the right word. It's just a rush of emotion and memory.

I can recall the guy down the street got a pirate costume one Halloween, just one of those crappy, in-a-bag jobs with the shiny fabric they call vintage these days. I remember him before Trick-or-Treating hanging out and climbing onto that irorn work with a toy hammer and declaring: "Me gonna fix this ship."And I remember sitting on those steps and reading Superman No. 199 in which he raced The Flash. 

So that's the place I was in when I got word last night one of my old friends from high school and college days passed away. Not the kid in the pirate suit. The segue's a little awkward. 

This guy's name was Lee. 

I immediately thought of him calling and waking me up on what would have had to have been June 1, 1984. I'd started working the 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift at the newspaper, so an early call was like the middle of the night. I grumbled, but then I realized Star Trek III: The Search for Spock opened that day and we needed to find out how things turned out with our favorite Vulcan. 

Seeing Trek was a tradition. We'd been Trek fans a long time. We'd been friends a long time. He lived around the corner from me, and we rode bikes as kids. 

He'd actually been the one to purchase the Star Trek Concordance, which was a handy guide in the days before the internet. Gaming was on a Commodore 64, by the way. We explored Zork and other worlds of Infocom. 

We actually missed seeing Star Trek II together because he was running late, and we couldn't get into an opening night showing. I saw it the next day with my girlfriend at the time. She was not a Trek fan. Her friend, who did get in the night before, had been saddened. "Paula said somebody died." Yeah, that spoiler was on Lee. 

We got past that, and we continued to see movies during our early working life.

I'm not sure when our paths diverged, but over time we drifted into different circles. He went back to school, I got married. He later worked in IT at the company where my wife worked, so I'd hear of him a lot more than I saw him, then I left Central Louisiana.

We caught up on Facebook a couple of years ago. He found me, and we kept in touch via posts. He'd moved to Baton Rouge for new IT jobs and was active in a church music program. He'd always been in choir and played the piano well. 

I noted his occasional post about bad service at a quick stop or other steps along his path, noticed not too ago he was dating someone. I was happy for him. Saw pics at a high school reunion I didn't attend because of COVID. He was there in the mix of old friends. 

I shared a meme about Louisiana foods not too many days ago. How many have you had? Along with a lot of other people, he responded adding a quip, a familiar Cajun exclamation. Not something that warranted a response by me in a long thread, but a reminder he was out there living his life. 

Then word came he'd had a heart attack in his home. Someone I didn't know remembered him fondly. 

And suddenly 30 years are compressed, and I'm contemplating, amid this year of death and chaos, yet again how fast it all seems to have been when you look back.

And you start mining your memory. Yep, we saw Raiders together, my second viewing. Dune, Never Ending Story, Krull. All early '80s. 

Okay there were films and dinners. Was he in that mix of friends discussing 30's onslaught? When did we go our separate ways. 

Couldn't tell you. 

But he scored 22 out of 23 dishes on a New Orleans food test. Which one was he missing? Shrimp BBQ or turtle soup?

Ayeeeeee. I should have asked when I had the chance. 

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