Not to bring the room down but the Irish in me has done the requisite drinking for the situation and now the rest of the Irish in me needs to tell a story.
A man who was once my best friend died last Thursday in a car accident. We hadn’t spoken in maybe three years. Maybe five. I don’t know, the years speed up.
I thought about him a couple of weeks ago. I should call Derek, I thought. He was usually the one who would reach out, and he hadn’t. In years. That, at some point, becomes my fault. Yes, I should call Derek. I will call Derek.
And then a few days later. I should call Derek. I will call Derek.
He died last Thursday.
We were best friends in high school. Not because we had a ton in common, but because we had one very specific thing in common: neither of us had any business being in Rio Vista. What better bond than to not-fit-in… together?
I don’t have any big, bold memories with Derek; we did not do big, bold life things together. I have a lot of very mundane memories with him. We did mundane life — real life — together.
It was a life I spent all my energy trying to escape. And I did. And he was still there, not in Rio Vista but in nearby Cleburne, where he was born. We hadn’t talked in years and that’s my fault. I had a whole conversation all planned out; I would tell him how I appreciated him being a friend when I didn’t have any. I planned on telling him I really appreciated him being there when I needed someone. Those are the sort of things you should tell people no matter what.
When you hear that you missed their departure by a few days, it just feels even more devastating. They took off to whatever comes next and they didn’t get to pack the good feelings that come from knowing that they were essential. They were needed. Valued.
Not that we always got along. We moved into an apartment together when I was in my early 20s and a youth pastor and he was dealing with a divorce the best way he knew how: drinking a lot and having parties at our apartment. I was too worried about my own reputation and appearances to even know how to have grace or empathy.
I wish I could have sent him on with an apology, too.
There were times I was a good friend, but a sober (ha ha) assessment of the facts is that he was a true friend and while I loved him dearly, I was always looking for the exit. And I found it. And I should have called.
Thanks for being a misfit with me, Derek. We needed each other, and I’m glad we had each other. And I’m sorry I didn’t call.