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I wasn’t invited to my childhood best friend’s funeral.

I hadn’t seen him for 20 years.

From preschool through high school, we were best friends. Not “BFF”s. Not “He’s my closest friend”. We were Best Friends. In the truest sense of the word. We shared everything. He lived 4 houses away. Every day, every summer, every hour together.

We played on bikes, with Micronauts, we saw each Star Wars movie in the theater together. We played old fantasy boardgames — when it was all black and white art. We played our Atari 2600s. We played D&D. We showed off for girls together. We called them crazy together. We laughed. Our summers back then with bikes through lawn sprinklers, shooting toy ray guns and telling elaborate lies were longer than decades are now. Snowball fights in winter would stretch late into darkness, and although we never saw an aurora, we felt them.

We went to the local burger shop with my now wife.

We were inseparable.

Then some things changed. College. He got a job at the beach. Something turned him bitter. Difficult. The wrong people. He began using drugs. We drifted. Naturally, not forced. Saw him less and less. Soon, just funerals and weddings.

He worked in the city. Moved away. Sold pretzels.

Two years before his passing, an overdose brought a brain aneurysm. Finally, it brought death.

I was probably never going to see him again. The kid that formed my childhood was long gone, changed to something else. That kid will forever be with me. The bitter guy selling pretzels and doing hard drugs was not my friend. There wasn’t even an echo in his eyes that brought me back to those days when we were immortal kings of the streets and the parks.

I was stunned at his sudden passing. But the person I knew has been so long gone and lost. This was a shell. A faint memory.

I still have as fresh as yesterday the memory of us racing bikes up the road. The sounds of our toy ray guns as we ran from tree to tree up the block. The feel of the sunlight as we lay down in a cemetery sharing our dreams.

I was told too late to go to his funeral. No one thought to reach out. After all, it’s been decades.

While I don’t really know that person now buried, I will always fondly know the one I grew up with.

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