Friday, September 30, 2005


I took Mom for an ultrasound of her heart yesterday. We don’t have the results yet. Mom and I had a very nice dinner out at the Cracker Barrel (real health food).

Mom gave me some bad news yesterday. The boy who lived across the street from me as a child has taken a stroke and is on life support in a hospital in Philadelphia. I haven’t seen him for years, perhaps decades, but hearing this was a sucker punch in the gut. He was my first playmate, and he is the same age as me. All joking aside, he is far too young to have suffered a stroke.

In my mind’s eye, I don’t picture the tall, kind young man I knew in high school. I picture a six-year-old boy with very blond hair and very blue eyes. We played Cowboys and Indians together, and bantered about whether or not G.I. Joe was just a copycat of Barbie. We ran around outside in our PJ’s on summer evenings, catching lightening bugs and waiting for Mister Softee to come by. We built snowmen and ice forts in the winter.

The only time we ever broke the rules (our moms were almost always watching from a window) was when we snuck down to the creek in his back yard. The creek was off-limits for the obvious reasons (drowning, muck, and mud) and for some not-so-obvious reasons (giant snapping turtles). Mom didn’t have to punish me for going down the crick because Mother Nature stepped up to the plate; I got poison ivy.

We watched the first episodes of Batman together (again, in our PJ’s). We used to climb to the tops of the fence posts in my yard, towels pinned around our throats as capes, pretending to be superheroes. We would “fly” from the fence posts, toppling imaginary villains as we soared to the ground. We ran, we biked, we played, we yelled. We went to swimming lessons at a local creek (not the one in his back yard), and came home in swimsuits yellowed from the cedar water.

I suppose we must have argued sometimes, but I don’t remember it, except for one argument about which of us was older. I think our reasoning was based solely on whose birth month came first in the year, with no regard for which year was in question.

Our mothers fell out sometime during our grade school years, which put us incommunicado as well. I had three good friends in the neighborhood when I was growing up. I lost J to our mothers’ dispute, I lost M because her family got richer and moved away, and I lost S during the Junior High years because she went places where I would not follow (and thank God I did not). Of course, change comes to us all, and I had other friends along the way.

Our mothers have since patched it up, and his mom called my mom this week with the awful news. His parents still live in the house where J grew up, though my mom has long since moved away.

J was like a brother to me in those early days, and I cannot fathom that he is in such grave condition now. Say a prayer for him and his family tonight, if you pray at all, or think a good thought for them if prayer is not your form of meditation.


PaxRomano said...

I hope all turns out well, you are right, he is much to young for a stroke ... man, life is can be such a kick in the teeth sometimes.

Merci said...

Thanks, Pax. The older I get, the more bewildered I am by our frailty. Most of the time I just don't think about it, but sometimes events conspire to remind you.

Joe Tornatore said...

when i close my eyes tonight, i will remember to think of J.

Merci said...

Thank you, Joe.

Virginia Gal said...

oh my God Merci, that is so sad. I think your friend J would love to hear this post, it is so sweet, I feel I can picture two little kids running around an idyllic "Wonder Years" kind of neighborhood.
I hope your childhood friend gets better - our humanity is brought into stark reality when such things happen and I'm always left with the questions why and where did the time go?

Merci said...

Right on all counts, VG. It really was an idyllic childhood. By no means perfect, but wonderful just the same! And the time passes far too quickly.