Sometimes, in this world, a momentous occasion is often marked with the remembrance of one which is not momentous. This is the balance between life and death. For every Winter there is a Spring. It is with recognition of this cycle that my thinking bounces between that of my daughter's impending first birthday and the anniversary of the death of a friend. My daughter was born on July 5th of last year. We called her the firecracker with the long fuse. Actually, her due date was the 7th and I can't tell you how much I was hoping that she would have been born on that day. Perhaps having a birthday of 7-7-07 would help to break any bad luck our family has had in the past, especially around holidays. But, she was breach and unfortunately, scheduled Cesarean sections are not usually performed on Saturdays in the hospital where she was born. At this point, I'm glad she is happy and healthy. That trumps perceived lucky number birth dates every time in my book.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, on July 5th, 2004, a high school friend of mine, named Dave Laws, drowned in the river that separates the East and West ends of my home town. What is ironic is that the day before I was having a 4th of July cookout with friends and families and had made mention of Dave to my father. I had not thought of Dave in a few years as we had not seen each other in almost a decade since I graduated from high school. The reason for even bringing Dave into conversation was that three days earlier, one of Dave's iconic heroes of film, Marlon Brando, had died. I said in passing to my father, "I wonder how Dave Laws is handling the death of Brando?" The next day, while wading near the shore in the river, he stepped off into a deep area and went under.
There is not much I can say about Dave's life with any great depth as I really didn't know him until I was a sophomore in high school. I wasn't struggling to blend in or find acceptance as the little fish in a big pond, but I did find myself being pulled towards a group of social misfits. We were, for all intents and purposes, those oddball A/V types who loved swords, anime, Conan (The Barbarian...not O'Brien), and explosives. We listened to Hendrix, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin. These were the times when you could exhibit these traits and not be red flagged as an individual who would walk into the school one day and start opening fire on the student body. Dave was our oldest member, being a second year senior at the time of my enrollment. While, I didn't exactly win over this new group of friends from the beginning, it was hard to deny that I got under their skin and became accepted as one of their own. Dave was first to crack and nicknamed me in our little world of stage crew elite as Gowae, The Cimmerian Dog, guardian of scrolls. I said we were oddball, did I not?
That first year of high school consisted of indoctrination into all things weird. Imagine an Almost Famous style adventure with the cast of Freaks and Geeks. Late nights at the high school building sets led to even later nights tooling around the back roads of our town in search of an empty smoking table at Eat N' Park. There sitting in the seat of power was Dave spouting philosophy on why high school is a joke all the while doing it in a Brando accent circa The Godfather. He was jaded yet continued to soldier on towards that elusive diploma. At some point during the year, Dave had surgery, and was laid up in the hospital for a few days. Extolling the virtues of Demerol he related the side effects of such a wonderful pain killer by stating that he had the most surreal of dreams that involved all of us individually driving our Broncos around the high school and rolling them down the steps. While being transported to the hospital he would hang out the window tossing sheets and all manner of hospital gowns and linens. It further cemented his nature as being truly demented yet probably one of the most honest and real people I had ever had the chance to meet. In fact, he finally caved to my charm completely and amended my name to be Gowae Nice Guy as I was still somewhat annoying but truly a good person to have around.
The fact that his passing came out of nowhere after years of being off my social radar only serves as an omen that as I get older I will begin to see or hear of people, who I considered friends in my youth, dying without my knowing. We cling to memories of our childhood as a way to remember the good times, when naiveté and lack of responsibility were two traits we held dear. We experience, we grow up, we move on, we forget, we remember, and we lament. There are some times when we have the opportunity to reach out and reconnect with those we saw as close friends as I have with the introduction to my newest vice, Facebook. The Internet has given us the ability to track down those individuals with greater ease than we ever had. Those few moments captured in thought or snapped picture serve as a placeholder in our minds of a time when we thought that friends really were forever. While we pack away photo albums or struggle to remember little details about a fun day or exciting adventure we forget to truly realize that we had the best times when we had everything to look forward to. Without warning or chance for resistance responsibility crept in and matters of money and security overtook the spaces in our minds reserved for happy thoughts of childhood. We throw away those childish things that we said we would keep forever because we just don't have the space in our homes just like our minds. Soon, Peter Pan grows up and gets a job and forgets that he was an eternal child with wonder in his eyes.
So, as I make preparations to go out and watch my daughter tear into her own birthday cake, which I'm sure will just be obliterated into a carnage of flying icing, I keep a thought reserved for the one guy I knew who would probably act just like her for a chance to be a kid once again. I remember Dave Laws (aka Evad) and I miss him. He could have been a contender. He could have been somebody. However, he did have class all of his own.
Gowae 'Nice Guy' The Cimmerian Dog.