One of these days…

“one of these days I’m going to sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends I’ve known. And I’m going to thank them all for the good times together though so apart we’ve grown.” -Neil Young

I let one day too many pass.

I met Mark Chapman in 1993 at the West End Bar and Grill in Delaware, Ohio. I had recently moved there and didn’t know a soul but a few people from work. A friend and I were hanging out enjoying the best jukebox in any bar I’ve ever been in. I saw this long-haired, very drunk man sitting at the bar just smiling and listening to the music. My friend and I visited that bar several times before I ever spoke to Mark. He was a man of few words. But, he was kind and pleasant and we both enjoyed Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and the bluesy jukebox.

We began seeing each other on a regular basis. Mark didn’t drink during the week but rather he was a binge drinker and every Friday he would be at the West End or one of the other bars in town. He was never a mean drunk but I soon realized that hanging at the bar wasn’t something I enjoyed. But I would often pick him up from the bar and make sure he made it home ok.

He taught me how to play Euchre which is a card game that EVERYONE in Ohio plays. The Chapmans take their cards seriously. I’m sure I tried his patience in teaching me how to play.

In 1996 we bought a house in Marengo on 28 acres. It was a beautiful place but after Mark left his job at Western Auto, it was clear it was a bit more than we could handle. I remember turning onto our long driveway and if I could hear Hank Williams at full blast, I knew Jonesy was there and It was party time. We enjoyed having family visit and picnics and fires.

I then bought a house back in Delaware and Mark lived there for a couple of years. He decided that the chaos of having 2 kids and their friends was not his ideal situation so he moved out but we were still together. It worked for us. We would go to dinner, watch ball games and camp. He loved going to Rick and Mary’s to build a fire and listen to music. We had a small tent so after enough music and Kessler, he could just crawl in and sleep.

We enjoyed being Brent and Kathy’s guest many summers at Lakeside on Lake Erie. Hanging with family and playing shuffleboard, mini golf and Euchre was a great treat. Mark was such a homebody but he enjoyed Lakeside.

After my job moved me out of state, we remained friends and we would visit occasionally. My kids are fond of him and would visit him when they could. My son has 3 children and we’ve always referred to Mark as grandpa.

Mark is an old hippie. He has the kindest soul and I have seen him literally give someone the coat off his back. He could not carry a grudge. There were people who took advantage of his kindness and generosity but he never begrudged them. He was slow to anger and quick to recover from it. I can hear his laugh. And him singing along to whatever was on the radio. Many times singing the wrong lyrics–it was endearing and often funny.

His heart problems began in 1994 with a triple bypass. He has had countless surgeries and procedures since then. He now lies in a hospital, unresponsive with his body shutting down.

I meant to call him last week.

Fly high, my friend. I love you.

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the bittersweet memories…

“There was a time when you would have had me,
There was a time I could have had you,
But it’s too late, another path has come and gone again
I’m at the back door with a broken window view thinkin’

And it’s a shame
That we ain’t lovers
We could’ve been something, so big and grand…”

Hayes Carll

At the urging or my daughter, I attended a Hayes Carll concert this week. I’m sad that I’m just now becoming familiar with his music. It was an outstanding show. But what really hit me was the story of a woman and her friend I met at the show. They had driven a couple of hours to see the show. I’ll call them Rose and Lily just because those are lovely flowers and they were lovely people.

Rose told me that Lily knew Hayes. I asked Lily how she knew him and she averted her eyes and just said ” we are old friends.” I could tell it was more than that.

She knew the words to every song and she asked me to dance with her to a slow song. I know I let her down with my klutzy attempt but she was lost in thought of another time and I’m sure she forgives me for that.

I asked her if he broke her heart and she said ” we broke each other’s hearts.” At that moment, every friend’s story and my own memories of every every past relationship flooded my heart. Her pain was so real to me. She finally had enough liquid courage to make her way towards the stage because she just needed to look at him.

It reminded me of all those feelings of love lost and the feelings of regret–not so much in the ending of a relationship but more for not appreciating the experience for all the things it was. And how all those things shape you into the person you are. There are, of course, some toxic relationships in my past that should never have happened but I have taken something from each one. Some are sweet memories and some are more bitter than sweet. But they are a part of my journey. And a journey is never all smooth sailing.

I think Lily made peace with her journey. Sometimes those memories sneak up and can squeeze your heart and take your breath away. The key is to take a deep breath and continue traveling.