Monday, April 07, 2008

In memoriam

First off, mile 52 in the books. Done and done. I didn’t gain any ground this weekend, but I didn’t lose any ground, either. That’s no small feat for me.

But more to the point…

On March 22 I got a call from my mom: “There’s been an accident, Tommy was working and hurt himself and bled to death. They life-flighted him to Dallas but he didn’t make it.”

Not quite as surprising as a sudden punch in the face, but surprising all the same.

My family always knew him as “Tommy”. His name was “Thomas”, but he went by “Tom” for most of his adult life. He was my cousin—just about 6 years older than me—and ever since the first time I met him he was “Tommy”. He joined the navy reserves and was stationed in Spain for awhile, and when he returned Mom called and said “Tommy’s back home, but he’s ‘Tom’ now.” I’ll never forget that. He made the transition from “Tommy” to “Tom”, but I still only knew “Tommy”. That boyish good humor and general easy spirit and a way about him that was … just… well, it was just “Tommy”. There really is no better way to describe it.

I’ll miss my cousin. Not every day, mind you. My family has a habit of not getting together all the time and not necessarily maintaining contact on a regular basis. However, there’s never been any distance to the separation; no substance to the time apart. We could get back together after 3 or 4 years and it would be as if we were hanging out just last weekend.

But now there will be an emptiness. Tommy won’t be sitting there by the cooler at the lake waiting for us (and he always seemed to be by the cooler). Nope, those light and easy good times are going to be … well, no less light and no less easy, just less full. At least for awhile. Eventually life will fill in the gap Tommy left behind. Eventually.

But meanwhile there will still be this gap. This enduring emptiness. This profound un-Tommy-ness.

I have no doubt I’ll see him again. He’ll be waiting there, across the shore, next to the cooler. A quick “hey” and a wave. Then the handshake that turns into the hug (3 pats on the back, no more no less, but genuine all the same). “How was your trip?” “Just fine, it’s good to be home.” “You ain’t seen nothing yet, cuz!”

We’ll see you soon, Tommy. You may not be with us anymore, but you won't be with us any less. Nobody can take away what you've already given.

Here’s to you, cousin. Keep one cold for me.

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