Twisted is what my brain feels like now. Just learned a good childhood friend was killed in a car accident Tuesday. Boy, did some childhood memories start to flood back. Like hearing him dribble the basketball down the street, all the way up my hill, down my driveway and sidewalk only to hear my Mom yell at me “does that boy ever sleep?” Bob was a very good friend. The kind of friend and teammate you wanted to be with and play with. The kind of person who would stand up for right. The kind of Man who had his priorities right from the start.
We played so much basketball some summers we would go through at least 2-3 pairs of shoes because we would wear holes in them from playing so much in the hot weather. Even though his nickname was “Big Pete” he was rather short in stature. But he would drive to the hoop with the fearlessness of an Allen Iverson. His personality was unassuming and team orientated though like a Tim Duncan. But he had a smile like a Magic Johnson.
If we weren’t playing basketball, it was tennis or baseball or golf. And maybe a little football or ping-pong thrown in for good measure. I loved our tennis matches because we were so even. But we also worked together and went to school together. After high school we went our own ways to different colleges. Mostly I drifted into some bad habits and he had the good sense to stay away from those.
I remember Bob very fondly. We stayed in touch in our later years. He and his wife visited us once when he was back in town seeing his family more than a decade ago. I just dropped him a happy 60th birthday earlier this month and said I’d write soon. Well obviously I’ve missed a very important opportunity. I find it ironic I was looking up his phone number last week because I felt like it had been too long since we talked personally. And this has reminded me again there is no time like the present when it comes to contacting those important to you. And I hate that sick to the stomach feeling I have now.
I wanted to tell him that I’m still good. That I hoped he continued to improve from his earlier medical issues. That I saw pictures of his family and him for his daughter’s wedding last year and everything was beautiful and ask him when the next one was. I wanted to recall details about our youth. I wanted to remind him the Yankees were ahead of his Orioles. And of course I wanted to sing the praises of the Maryland basketball team, his Alma mater.
One thing we have been doing in recent years is singing the praises of our children and wives and the love they provide us and we have for them. And I think both of us have been loving life because of it. With both of my children and one of his recently married we were on cloud 9, especially with our health issues. For we knew what was important in life now. And to prove it here is a direct quote from his last letter – “Thank God for my wife’s strength and support, and the love of family and friends.”
I feel like a part of me has died. Bob and I could always pick right up where we left off decades or years or months earlier without missing a beat. We talked quite a bit when we were young. We were a lot alike but he had more courage. He wasn’t afraid to compete in other areas besides sports. He was good in the classroom.
I think I’m going to take a ride to the old neighborhood today. I think I’ll drop by their old home in Graelock circle. Then ride down to the courts at Hammond and maybe even take my ball and shoot a few. Bob, why don’t you grab a ball also and wander over and say hello to my Mom and Dad in heaven. And I’ll try to swing by your parents who are missing their Son.
I just thought of one of many things about him that I’ll remember as special. He had his own nickname for me, that I’ll never hear again. That is a very strange feeling. He always called me Miguel. Well my friend, thank you so much, rest in peace Big Pete. May the love and passion you had, live on through your family and friends.