This blog is usually about music and radio, but sometimes it isn’t.
My friend Rick should be turning 52 today, except he’s dead.
I mentioned one day about a month ago on Twitter that I had to give a eulogy. It was his. What you’re reading here isn’t the speech I gave, although perhaps it should have been.
I hadn’t heard much from him in recent years. The last time I saw him alive was two years ago. Not long after, I got an oddly worded letter from him that seemed to suggest I had abandoned our friendship. I tried to write a response but never got very far, probably because he was right. He still lived in our hometown, but I didn’t make the effort to keep in touch. The reasons why don’t matter now. Some are legitimate, and some are not.
We first became friends in grade school, 1968 or 9. I am not sure how or why we became friends—a shared interest in sports, probably, but also maybe a feeling on my part that he needed friends. That makes me sound more like a hero than I deserve to be, but I had that impulse when I was very young, to befriend people who seemed like they needed befriending. And he needed befriending, because Rick was the kind of person who got picked on a lot. Among other quirks, he had a bad stutter, which made him an easy target. I have one, too, and he used to accuse me in jest of stuttering around him to make him feel better.
Rick was raised by his grandparents. I can see us even now, running around in the big house they had for a while. He lived in lots of different places around town during our growing-up years, although I was surprised to find two years ago that he still had the phone number that had belonged to his grandparents when I first knew him.
In high school, he sometimes would say to me, “I don’t know why you want to be friends with me,” as if to suggest that somebody like me—class officer, good grades, etc.—shouldn’t want to pal around with him. But I liked him. He was funny. (Some of the greatest laughing fits of my life were inspired by things he said.) He was kind, and he was enthusiastic about things that were important to him.
I was not always a good friend to him. I sometimes fell in with the crowd and picked on him in a way I hated when people did it to me. I’m sorry about that now. I’m also sorry I never figured out what to say to him two years ago, and that he had to die before I could.
He would have been surprised at the turnout for his funeral, not just how many people showed up but who they were, and at the things people said about him. I am pretty sure he never knew how much people loved him.
That’s not his fault, however—it’s ours.