The other night, as I walked around a campfire, trying to stay out of the smokes eventual path: I listened as other friends talked about their children’s recent faux pas and couldn’t help but laugh. I sometimes feel at a loss for words, during these times as many of them have (perhaps) read my blog, so I would be repeating and sound boring. “I can’t believe the stuff kids can find on YouTube nowadays! Totally makes my exploration of playboy seem tame!” said one dad, as we all laughed along with a horror (not my kid!?!). thought.
This morning when I opened the obituaries section of our local paper, I perused the section looking for information, about a man I had never met before. Days earlier I had met with the deceased’s son, just by happenstance and we talked about how hard death can be on a family. He was overwhelmed by all the decisions that come, following the death of a loved one and was having a difficult time grasping his grief. I shared with him what little knowledge I had on the subject and hoped he understood grief was a life long process…but that didn’t mean you stop moving forward. A day later I received a text thanking me for listening and helping him begin his process.
As I read about this man’s father and all his accomplishments, my eyes wandered across the page until they landed on the name of a person I did know, Jerry Menden. Immediately I was pulled back in time to my fifth grade year of school, when his daughter Sue and I were best friends. He had a funny way of greeting me, “Marsh B’garsh, how are you?” He would say–even carrying it into adulthood. But I never minded. He was a warm and wonderful father to his family and a friend to me.
I spent many a night at their home, listening and sharing rock and roll music (first time I heard Van Halen’s Jamie’s Crying), playing monopoly or dream date games in their basement; enjoying pizza Tuesdays and popcorn Wednesdays. Climbing the many apple trees they had lining their backyard while also falling out of a few. As Sue and I grew older, though no longer best friends, I would travel with her parents to watch her play varsity basketball in High school. To this day I’m not sure what I was more enamored with, watching the game or hanging out with her parents. They were very special people.
The last time I saw Jerry was at my grade school reunion six years ago. He looked as handsome as ever and he greeted me the same. We made tentative plans to get together. But life got in the way and ideas and plans were lost. Today, while I send condolences out to my friend and her family members, I cannot help but feel completely and utterly blessed that I had the privilege of having them in my life. I think some might even accuse me if having a charmed life…
Right now I’m finding it difficult to disagree.
Rest in Peace Gerald Aloysius Menden and Thank you! 1931-2013.