Lee was 46.
Of all the people I know, barring parents and grandparents, I knew Lee the longest. We “met”, photos and family say, when we were infants/toddlers. A few of my earliest memories include a starring role by Lee.
We didn’t see each other often, but we made the most of the time we did spend together:
- We won the Battle of Gettysburg for the south many times in Meme and Pawpan’s backyard
- Whacking the ever-loving crap out of each other with wooden swords made by Pawpan
- Climbing on the roof when Meme wasn’t watching
- Being fed the best fresh bread made by Ms Plauche, his grandmother. And listening to his grandfather talk about being a Marine fighting in the Pacific
- Watching thunderstorms rolling in
- Indulging in a love of Pizza Quick Sauce pizza – the best invention of my early childhood
- Weeks at Toledo Bend swimming, walking in the woods, reading, lighting fires (in approved places), and seeing how long we could go without going outside to pee at night since we were both scared of the dark.
- Most times when I open a jar of jalapeno slices, I remember watching him guzzle the juice from the jar on a dare. Other than a slight redness in his face, no effect. Though I like to think I heard muffled screams from the bathroom later that night.
- The second time I got drunk (that I remember – apparently I had a habit of hiding under tables and reaching up for unattended beer cans as a small child) is that we found a bottle of “blue shit” in Meme and Pawpan’s camper that was parked in the extra lot next to their house one night that we slept in there. I since found out that that must’ve been Curasau. I still don’t like that stuff much.
- We learned early on not to poke too hard at each other’s phobias – spiders (me) and roaches (him) – because retribution was harsh and brutal
It was a good, free-range childhood. I’m lucky in that I’ve got a lot of a happy childhood memories. He’s in a lot of them.
As we got older, we matured – a little – and changed a bit but our enjoyment of each others’ company didn’t. He introduced me to tons of bad 80s movies – I still can’t watch About Last Night without thinking of Lee. Camping on Holly Beach. We made pathetic attempts at hitting on chicks in bars. He was proud of his service in the Berlin Brigade – I still have the piece of the Berlin Wall he brought back for me.
Lee was one of those annoying “I’m from Texas” fuckers who think being from Texas is some super, wonderful thing. I remember him telling me once that when he was stationed to Berlin, he’d always say “I’m from Texas.” After a few much as a soldier in a foreign country, he said he started to say “I’m from the US.” He was proud of his service and country.
We once super-pathetically attempted to get drunk in Texas on $10 bucks between us. Since we were under 21, was hard to find a spot in Texas to sell to us. We finally found a spot that took Lee’s military I.D. (and we both got pissed off at the idea that he could serve as Russian cannon fodder, but couldn’t buy a beer in the States). We ended up buying a 6 pack of Black Label and one of Pearl. I don’t think we finished either 6-pack.
We even had the occasional deep conversation about life, love, and the future.
Then we sequed into cliché – between college for me and he lived in New Hampshire for a while with his Dad, then moved back to Texas and I moved to Maryland, then families, and with both of us being mostly phone-allergic, we didn’t see much of each other or talk often over the last 20 someodd years.
But it was always easy to fall back into that easy friendship when we were together. Fatherhood changed him – for the better in many ways, I think – and he adored his kids. But he still had a laugh like a hyena on helium and is one of the few people I’ve known who actually cackled with laughter.
And even though we didn’t talk much, I thought of him fairly often. And one of the benefits of a possibly moving to Houston in a few years was being able to drive up to Dallas now and then and visit a little more often.
I would’ve enjoyed that. I like to think he would have too. I would’ve enjoyed making fun of his inability to listen to any piece of music published anytime after around 1988 – I still don’t understand his Lita Ford fetish (Samantha Fox, that one I got). And there’s plenty enough ammo for him to have returned fire on me.
Now I’m about to leave to visit him for the first and last time where he made a life for himself with his wife and children.
Service at 11:00 on Friday.
He was 46.