Every time, it seems, every time I’m home there is death around. last night I heard that my old buddy from College, Joey, (AKA “Tomato Joe”, AKA, “Thomas Lawrence Meehan”, AKA “Lawrence”) died a few years ago. He was 48 when he died, must’ve been 2006 or 2007. Mom and I were eating dinner with John and Thelma from down the hall, and I asked if they were from Red Deer. They said, “No, Trochu” and I said, “oh! do you know my friend Thomas Lawrence Meehan?” and John said, “oh, he died a few years ago”.
Oh Joey. He came to Red Deer College in January, 1981. We became friends. He was a big lumpy farmer guy, with a face like a sack of potatoes and one weepy eye–glaucoma. we were in the same drama classes–readers’ theatre, improv, i don’t know what else. And we were both in “The Importance of Being Earnest” that spring. I was Assistant Stage Manager and understudy for the Nurse character, can’t remember her name–he was the understudy for the butler, I think.
Joey was like a brother to me. Much to his chagrin, apparently. Deb told me he was totally in love with me. Sometimes when he was hammered, he would read me his poetry. When i was heartbroken after a break up, Deb and I drove out to his farm by Trochu and hung out for a weekend. We went driving around at night, drinking beer and chucking the bottles out the window. Singing and laughing. Taking stupid chances. How Joey got glaucoma in the first place was drinking beer and driving, and he fell asleep and drove off the road.
another time, I went out there for a day, just to visit. We seeded one of his fields together. I sneezed my fool head off, and so did Joey. Both of us violently allergic. It was lots of fun driving the tractor, though. We went back to the farmhouse and by way of staving off the allergic reactions, drank vodka. I don’t know how I got back to Red Deer that time, but I went right to work, waiting tables at the Pizza joint. Drunk. i didn’t think of myself as an alcoholic, then. I thought Joey might’ve been, though.
Many years later, I heard from Frank, my former Fiance’, that Joey had nearly died–“all his organs just shut right down”. I called him up, left a message. Some time later, he called me in Vancouver, left a message. He sounded a bit drunk, he said, “I love you”, before he hung up. I called back and left a message on his machine, “I love you too”. and it must’ve been shortly after that that he died. I never heard from him again.
This morning Colin A. called for Mom. His Dad was one of my dad’s best friends (I wrote about them in a twenty-five word story somewhere on this blog, early on). We went to his twin brother, Curtis’ wedding in Campbell River many many years ago. Their mother Jean was one of my mothers’ best friends. She was such a beacon, was Jean. Jean and George had Sheila, too, older than Colin and Curtis. And Sheila took sick some time ago and last night she died.
Sheila and Rick had a garden centre out at Sylvan Lake. One summer Dad and I went out there to get a hanging basket for Mom. We had iced tea with Sheila and Rick. Sheila was so much like her mother Jean. Beautiful curls, open face, laughter and kindness spilling out onto everyone around. Rick not so much–but he loved Sheila, and I’m sure she kept him human. Much as Jean had done for George. the tenderness these women had for these men spread through them to all their relationships. Women can do that for men, it seems. George, for example, was upright and somber. But showed such tenderness and love to my father in small manly ways. He is now 95, George is. He will miss his daughter something awful. Sheila was good to my parents, too. She invited them always to the A. family reunion, and reminded Mom that the Grahams were part of their family, too.
Later on, maybe in a few days, Mom and i will go see George and bring him some Welsh Cakes.
of course death is inevitable. the older we get the more familiar we become with mortality. it creeps up and runs over our toes in the night, whispers in our ears as we’re looking for pickles in the grocery store, “I’m right here, hello.” We can’t be too confident, ever. Try to make sure we’re in shape to go if we have to.
goodbye, Joey. You were a good friend to me.
Goodbye, Sheila, you were so good to my parents. Thank you.