Archive for August, 2003

Column 8 – Part 2

Dear Barney Continued…

You guys were the only people I knew growing up that had a computer. I didn’t find that particularly strange when I was younger, but thinking about it now, I do. Your son Mark was really into them, and he had a ton of games loaded onto your system. So many times I would come over and play the games on a rainy day, riding over on my bike. I would get to wrap up in a towel and drink hot chocolate. Sometimes we would even fix French toast. Donna made the best French toast I had ever tasted, and since my mom barely ever made it, it was that much more of a treat.

Most all of my memories are happy ones. If my parents left, we would stay with you, and there was always something to look forward to and we knew that we would have a blast. I think my real grandparents on my mom’s side were even jealous of you guys at one point and the time you got to spend with us. But all good things come to an end.

My dad lost his job. We had to move, and this was the first true tragedy in my life. Then to make things worse, you guys were leaving to go on the road. You also put your house up for sale and bought an RV, planning to spend a good chunk of the time in Texas. It was weird to think about so much happening so quickly. But Donna did say, “It made our decision a little easier to get up and go knowing that you were also moving, because otherwise, that would have been tough.”

We had some problems securing things in Grand Haven for the house we bid on. There always seems to be that kind of drama when dealing with so many homeowners. So, for a couple of weeks we were in limbo. Our stuff was in a truck somewhere, and we were living at your house out of a suitcase. It wasn’t the best situation, but you guys made it as best as it could be.

My time in St. Johns started and ended with the two of you. From something simple like playing parents playing you two in cards on Friday nights to more complex things like a change of lifestyle and location, we did everything together.

Time has passed, but I haven’t forgotten. Not completely anyway.

So when my mom called me a month ago with some bad news, these memories started to swirl around again.

Seems you’re going to leave us Barney. Funny how doctors use the phrase, “Terminally Ill.” In some regards, aren’t we all the moment we are born? Maybe doctors aren’t Christian and believe in some urethral afterlife bullhockey. But I guess in some respects, this diagnosis has a more definite timeline in mind.

But like Donna has said, you have experience a lot. This isn’t something too sudden, especially from my point of view. I know a lot worse. You have led a wonderful life. If all of the memories I have doesn’t show you that, I don’t know what will.

I am sorry that I can’t be there in Texas with you. My parents will be there to see you soon enough and will carry my wishes with them. I know it will be hard for them to see the both of you, and then leave knowing that they won’t see Barney, ever again. I don’t think that they realize though, that this is the first time in a long time that we won’t be doing this together.

We can’t go with you Barney. Which really sucks, pardon my French. Not this time. But know that these are the thoughts you leave with me.

So many people make careers around helping others, and making a difference in someone else’s life. My wife is one of them. Everyday she has a chance to help shape a child into a more prepared person later on in life. But, you don’t need to be a teacher to affect people.

There are children that don’t ever get to know their grandparents. I had five for most of my life. I had an extra set where some kids might not even have one, and you were never officially anything. We were never related, and not even bound in a “sponsorship” like my sister, but that didn’t matter. Not to mention, all of these five people were in good health for most of my life, and only now are they all going away.

We will be thinking about you, and even though we can’t go with you, our thoughts will be with you. All the fun we had, and what a good person you are to have spent so much time on me. You might think you are getting out of our agreement by going away on this trip, but you aren’t.

You’ll still be my “Best Buddy.”


Column 8 – Part 1

Dear Barney,

It has been awhile. Actually, not that long. We just spoke on the phone a couple of days ago, albeit very briefly. But in general it has been over ten years off and on. Earlier this year I believe was the last time we saw you when you and Donna visited and met Sarah for the first time. It was good since you guys weren’t available in May for the wedding and is turning out to me more important than we would have known.

I have been mulling over this letter for just short of a month now. That time period seems eons longer than it probably is.

When I called the other day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I found that things were not at all different from what I had remembered. I also had a second purpose in my contact. I was hoping my conversation with the two of you sparked something in me to write. I wanted to write you a personal letter because one phone call hardly justifies the end to something of this magnitude.

You know Barney, when I look back at the time in my life I spent in St. Johns Michigan, I remember one thing in particular. The two of you were two of the most influential figures in my upbringing outside of my parents.

Many of my childhood memories were spent at your house. When we had major events, birthdays, school functions, church activities, we did them all together.

I remember watching the second Ninja Turtles movie at your house on my birthday with some of my closest friends and eating pizza. I remember how cool it was that Donna had that waterbed, and how I had never looked forward to going to bed early ever before in my life. I remember the back of the garage and how for the longest time Mark had some skating ramps back there. Donna told us not to play on them, but we were kids, and that is exactly what we did. My reward for my disobedience was a healthy thick splinter or two in my hands when I tried to get down from the top. I also remember that there was a wall of tall spruces that had a small passageway for a child to take a shortcut through to the church a block away.

I remember the neighbor. Their driveway was separated by a foot and a half of mangled grass, and that was weird because our house had what seemed like 40 acres of land to play on. I knew they seemed to have different priorities because their whole yard seemed to be run down. But that didn’t bug Donna. It seemed like she knew everyone, when in fact, she was just friendly to anyone she met. One time she took me over there to borrow books and I remember the strange foreign unwelcome smell of a strangers house. I didn’t really borrow any “books”. I borrowed collections of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts and Jim Davis’ Garfield. I used to take tracing paper and redraw my favorite Garfield strips on your puffy carpet.

When I look back, one of the more predominant memories was how I was your “Best Buddy”. But I can’t remember how you got that title. Maybe it was because I didn’t have many friends. It always seemed like when my parents met a new acquaintance, there would always be a girl Jessica’s age, but never a boy that I could play with. Maybe it was because you felt sorry for me because I was a selfish brat that said things that I shouldn’t have, distancing myself from other children my age. But Donna jogged my memory with the true story.

She reminded me of how disappointed I was that Jessica had the both of you as Godparents and you were so active in her life. I hardly ever saw mine, and you guys just seemed like a natural fit for not just her but me as well. As it was, you were always giving us stuff. Why not give you a more formal title.

I started to pity myself. “Nobody loves me” was my weak defeated response. But Barney, you humored me. “Well, I love you, and that makes one.” It was soon after, that Donna, in a ceremony as formal as a knighting I am sure, anointed us “Best Buddies”.

I remember how cool that was. Here was this outlandishly tall guy, with cool whip white colored hair (thick and plentiful might I add), and funny colored big toe nails, and he wanted to be my best buddy. You always had this big cuddly bear aura and were larger than life with your slow motions and comical laugh when we would try to tickle you.

Since our families did everything together, I got to be around my buddy a lot. Every Halloween our family’s final stop would be your house. There would always be a full sized candy bar waiting for us there, not those stupid little miniatures that everyone else handed out.

My sister and I would sit and sort through our candy as my parents and you conversed. I would always take that time to eat the best stuff right away, and a lot of it. I thought that if you weren’t sick on Halloween, then you were probably doing something wrong. You guys certainly didn’t stop me, and that is why it always seemed like your house was beyond any strict rules my parents set. Donna even relayed to me that one Halloween, you guys ran out of candy. We got to sort through our own and the stuff we didn’t want was what you guys handed out the rest of the night. My parents never would have encouraged that, seriously. My dad got pissed off when I brought a quacking duck to decorating the tree at church.

Then there was the camping. How many times did we go camping together? I know we went to Old School Lake, I believe was the name, a number of times. There really wasn’t much to do there in particular, but it was always a ton of fun with you guys. We would sing silly songs and roast marshmallows and do bananaboats. (For those of you who don’t know what Bananaboats are, they’re a wonderful conglomeration of marshmallows chocolate and banana wrapped up in the peel and some tinfoil and chucked into the fire to procure.)

Continue to Part 2…..