Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Visiting A Dead Friend

This afternoon I went down to Aquabi State Park to do some fishing. It's a beautiful park, but it was kind of windy and fishing was slow. Since I was close, I decided to drive over to Sandyville. If you don't know where Sandyville is, you are not alone. I had to look it up the first time I went. Today was my third visit. I have a friend from high school whose remains are buried in the cemetery there.

Brian Kirkpatrick was an unusual man. He had an IQ of about 150; incredibly intelligent. He could play the piano like Billy Joel. He could use words like they were knives - a quality I always admire - but, he could also be incredibly gentle - a quality I always envied. He died in 2002 in a tragic accident in his home. I was told he fell down the stairs during a bout of intoxication. Brian was also an alcoholic; scotch being his favorite. I'm sure it had to be a single malt scotch. Brian also had class, though he was not particularly class conscious.  

As I mentioned, we were friends in high school. He was the first person in my life besides God that I ever talked to about personal matters. Yes that's right. I never confided in anyone about anything until I was 15 years old.

Brian was able to put me at ease in those days and get me to loosen up and talk. He would talk to me too. It was easier for him though. He had less guilt. So we talked. We got to know each other. We shared secrets. One of those secrets was that we were both gay. Now I suppose some of you are saying, "ewooo", at this point and I fully understand that because I have always kind of felt that way about it too, but I was not offered a choice and neither was Brian. Being gay was more like an assignment that I failed. Brian did not fail. He pursued relationships throughout his life, and while Brian and I were friends, we were never lovers, so please take your "ewooo" back ok? Thanks.

Later, after graduation, I cannot remember exactly when it was, Brian was the first person to get me high. I'm thinking it was the summer of 1977 when I took my first bong hit. I was at his house. He had a stereo that was state of the art. Very high end. He would spin the vinyl all night and normally we would drink beer and talk, but not that night. He got out Big Orange. It was a bong that was about two feet long with a very large bowl. We both hit on that thing several times. Brian laughed at me and guided me as I discovered whole new worlds. The buzz was incredible. I was fully conscious and comfortably floating at the same time. Music became a new experience. Food became a new experience. Colors became a new experience. It was as if all those things were alive in some way - better - new and improved. Even reading was better. It was not until I entered the working world in 1981, that I gave up the weed. My use had become erratic after 1979 anyway, but it ended all together after I got a full time job.

Brian disappeared from my life for quite awhile. I do not think we spoke again until after I had moved to Cedar Rapids. He called me one night at home very late. I was a little shocked, but I immediately recognized his voice. This time he did all the talking. I got filled in on the missing years right up to 1998 or whatever it was. He had a life filled with sadness and tragedy interspersed with moments of joy and happiness. His current issue was over the death of his better half. His lover had died of AIDS. Brian had cared for him to the very end. They both lived very fast lives. After they met, Brian graduated from beer and pot to scotch and their lives got crazy. His roomie slept around I think, and that may be how he got the disease. Brian never did test positive for anything besides scotch. He lost his drivers license due to too may DUI's and a car crash. When we last spoke, he was working for Pioneer in Johnston as a techie at their help desk. He ended up a computer geek; an appropriate occupation. He was also in AA, working his 12 steps and that may be why he called me. He apologized to me for making a pass at me once many years ago. Nothing came of it - the pass. We were both buzzed when it happened and I forgot about it. Apparently he did not. It was nice of him to apologize, but totally unnecessary. We were good. I was hot back in the Day. He was not the only one. But I digress....

We talked on several occasions after that and exchanged many emails, then there was nothing. He seemed to drop off the planet. Then one day in March of 2002 I got an email from a new "friend" of Brian's. He had found our emails in Brian's computer and was curious. He explained to me that Brian was dead from an accident - the one described above. He said that he and Brian's sisters had tried to contact me to attend the funeral without luck. I learned later that they had called my parents house and my Mom refused to give them my number. Mom didn't like Brian for many reasons. Imagine that. Anyway, I was a little freaked about the whole thing. It was the first time I experienced a friend dying that was my own age. It was kind of a wake up call.

Other friends from my high school and college days have died, but Brian left a lasting dent in my soul. He was the first one to take a can opener to my psyche. He was the first one I ever opened up to because he did not judge. He was willing to be my friend. Now that's courageous. I would like to think that because of his grace towards others, God let him in. He was a nominal believer of sorts, though he did not care much for Christians. At the time, I didn't either. I still have my days...sorry.

Anyway, I went to visit him today. He was not there of course. There is only a black granite stone emblazoned with his name, his years and musical notes in the corners. It was kind of cool.

Brian, I miss you. I could have given you an earful today. A doobee would have been nice too, but I don't think that will ever happen again either. I think I'll put on the earphones and listen to some Elton. Shall we? Nope. Probably not gonna do that either. OK. Catch you later piano man!   

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