Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Memories of John

He had the most infectious smile, with the personality to match. I met him for the first time when I was 18. He had come with some friends to the apartment I had in Chicago. I always worried what people would think of the place because my roommate and I had no furniture in the living room or dining room except for an ugly green swivel chair my parents had donated and a desk my girlfriend had shipped in from her home in Colorado. Most everyone either sat on the floor or popped a squat on one of the many phonebooks we'd somehow acquired.

Most of my friends at the time were still living at home in the suburbs because they were all younger than I was and still in high school. They'd come out on the weekends to hang at my place, wander the streets or to go to Medusa's, the local punk rock juice club for those of us not yet legal to hit the real bars and clubs.

I liked John immediately. Everyone did. That's the effect he had on people. He loved life with a passion I'd never seen before and cherished his friends. You didn't realize it at first, but once you met him, you'd found a friend for life. I'd never met someone with so many friends. The guy didn't have a single enemy.

As soon as he graduate he moved into the city. Used to tell everyone that the reason he moved there was because of me. He loved coming to my apartment, even with its sparse decor. His first apartment was with my ex. Surprisingly, for all the times my friends and I stopped by his place, I never once met my future ex there.

John and I would run into each other every now and then at concerts and what not. After I'd gotten a place of my own, and more furniture, he'd stop by with friends but we never maintained close contact. Didn't matter. The moment he saw you his face would light up like you were his best friend and no time had passed at all.

I saw him once after I'd gotten married and had my daughter. There was a party at my ex's ex-girlfriend's place. The ex and her maintained a friendship even after they had broken up, nothing that I was threatened by. Anyway, we'd brought our baby to the party, she was about six months old at the time. Set her portable crib up in a room upstairs and put a sign on the door that no one could enter. The ex and I stayed in the room with her the whole time with a few close friends popping in every now and then. Once John found out we were there, he insisted on staying in the room with us. Wanted to help watch after our daughter.

The ex and I ended up moving out of the city shortly after that because we didn't want our daughter going to Chicago public schools. I didn't see John again until our daughter was about five or six. Turns out his father was living in the same apartment complex we were, in the building directly across from ours. Unfortunately none of us realized it until the day he came to help his father move out. Again he greeted me like all those years without seeing each other had never passed. I wish I had known then that it would be the last time I'd ever see him.

A couple of years later I received a phone call from someone saying she was John's sister. She told me that he had passed away. I remember he had a brother, but didn't remember a sister so I thought this was just some cruel joke someone was playing on me. I called the ex immediately because he was out with some buddies from work and asked if John had a sister. He said yes, and the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. It was true, he was dead. I told the ex to sit down and gave him the bad news. He came home right away.

John had been riding his bike to work downtown. We never got the full story because I think it was too painful for anyone to talk about. Somehow he was hit by a dump truck and killed instantly.

His family held two wakes. One in the suburb where he had grown up and one in Chicago, the city he called his true home. I attended the one in the suburbs because we knew the one in the city would be far more crowded and we had our daughter with us. I left the ex and the kiddie in the back of the funeral home where most everyone was congregating and went to sit up near his coffin. It was the first time I had ever cried over someone's death. It was so unfathomable that John was no longer with us. Think it was made harder to believe because of the closed casket.

The next day was the wake in the city. I stayed home, but the ex went. He said there were so many people there to pay their respects that they couldn't all fit into the funeral home. There were hundreds of people and the crowd spilled out onto the street. I don't think a single person was surprised by the crowd. To know John was to love him.

To this day I have never met a more friendly, honest, caring human being. I don't think of him often because of the whole borderline "out of sight, out of mind" problem. But his memory was slammed into my consciousness today because of a video we watched in DBT. It was a tape of Marsha Linehan talking about radical acceptance. In it she described a boy on a bicycle racing down a hill, going into an intersection, being hit by a truck and killed.

The tears started immediately. I tried to hide them as best I could. Resisted the urge to run out of the room. I didn't hear another word on the tape. All I could think about was John. The sense of loss and pain as fresh as the day I got the news of his death. Even now, hours after the group ended I can't get him out of my mind, nor get the tears to stop.

I miss him. I'm sorry that I don't think of him more often.


Blogger Maggs said...

Do you remember reading my posts about Dana? Your post was all too familiar.

As always, here to talk if you need to.

god borderline sucks ass.

12:19 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger mizeeyore said...

wow. what a wonderful tribute to a good friend. i'm so sorry for your loss, because John sounds like he was a great friend. i understand all too well the pain of losing someone near and dear to your heart.

as you told me, it's okay to cry and grieve, but hold the good memories close and think of them often.

i'm leaving my IM open if you want to chat.

Big hugs

10:24 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Polar Bear said...

It's ok to grieve. Don't apologise for not thinking of him more. We need to let go sometimes...

Take care

1:19 PM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger the depressed nurse said...

I'm sure he would be happy to know you remember him so fondly. I lost someone dear to me a long time ago, but still grieve for him and miss him every day. Keeping your friend in your heart is a wonderful gift to him and yourself.

2:00 PM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Cinthia said...

John would have wanted you to move on. It's alright that you didn't think of him more often. A couple of months after my grandma died last year, I gradually began to think of her less and less. Sometimes I felt really guilty for it and would cry about it, but then I realized that it was a part of the grieving process to eventually let go and let life resume.

At times, certain things will trigger the pain and grief again. But I try as hard as I can to focus on the happy memories I had with her and to smile again, as my grandma would have wanted me to do.

Warm hugs,

10:23 AM, March 10, 2006  

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