Thursday, July 22, 2021

Section 24, Red Asterisk


A childhood friend died ten years ago.  53 years old.  Far too young.

I didn't go to the viewing.  I didn't go to the service, and that's always gnawed at me.  You know how it is.  You graduate from high school.  You go in different directions, even though you are just a small town block apart.  I took a crushing credit load in college, plus work at the college radio station, plus another part time radio job.  You stop calling.  The days become weeks.  The weeks become months.  The months become years, the years become a lifetime, and this story does not have a happy ending.

I did write a long letter to my friend's father a couple of weeks after he passed.  It was the right thing to do.  It helped assuage my guilt a little, but I still regretted not doing more right after my friend died.

Several months ago, I decided I'd find my friend's grave and visit for a few minutes.  I knew the cemetery, but the cemetery office was closed by the pandemic.  I struck out on three tries.   It recently reopened and I dropped in the other day.  The person at the desk was very helpful.  I gave her my friend's name and the year he died.  She went in to a back room and returned a few minutes later with an index card.  Yes, an index card!  Bishop Bambera, it's time to computerize the cemetery's records.  I also spied an IBM Wheelwriter typewriter in the office.  We had those during the tail end of my WARM run.  They were state of the art-- in 1986.

The woman at the desk gave me a copy of the cemetery map.  With a red pen, she made an asterisk to mark the location of my friend's grave.  I got back in my car and followed the directions.  After walking back and forth through the rows of headstones in section 24, I finally found it.  A simple, dark stone.  He's between his mom and dad, and near a favorite aunt.  I'm sure he would be happy if he knew that.

I lingered for a few minutes, thinking of those bike rides, wiffle ball games, Monopoly tournaments, dart competitions, and summer days on our front porches, wasting time and watching the world go by.

Yes, I'm happy I finally found my friend's grave.  It makes up for me not being there when it counted, but only a little.