A Friend Remembered

*Note, the name of the subject of this writing has been changed in honor of privacy to his family.

One hot Summer night in 1981, I was leaving my then girlfriend’s house to get into my dad’s 1972 GMC  pickup truck and drive back home. Home was down the street a half mile. Because I technically could not legally drive yet at 15,  I had to beg dad to let me drive the truck to her house. I guess he figured that the truck was already beat up pretty good and I wasn’t going to do much damage even if I took out a mailbox or two.

So, as she was walking me to the vehicle parked in her parent’s driveway, two idiots in gorilla masks jump up from the bed of the truck and yelled loudly.  I don’t know who screamed with the higher vocal pitch, me or the young lady. I could have killed those idiots.

One of those idiots was Joe Powers and the other was Matt.  And we were thick as thieves in those days.

Matt was possessed of a quick wit, an even quicker smile, and a goofy, endearing sense of humor. It seemed everyone loved him back then. And in those days, he was one of my best friends.

Jump on back to 1975.  My dad was still in practice and owned the Conway Animal Clinic.  A family brought in their bassett hound to get neutered, hit it off swimmingly,  and thus began the friendship between my folks and Matt’s folks.  Such good friends in fact that my folks bought a house within a stone’s throw from Matt’s parents house.  Actually, it was a bottle rocket shot in distance, but that is another story.

Matt was small for his age. At 9-years-old I was already his equal in height when he as 12. I was foisted on him and I am sure it was no fun having to entertain a kid when you are practically a teenager!  But, the years erased the differences, so by the time we were in our teens we were almost like brothers. When you added Joe to the mix, we were trouble.

We spent hours with a basketball at my house with my General Electric 8-track player blaring out tunes while we played horse or one-on-one. When it snowed, there we would be sledding down the hills in our neighborhood. It was also alleged that we may have been involved with throwing snowballs at cars from atop the hills down on highway 65. Alleged mind you.

We would spend all night, just me, Matt and other friends talking and listening to the radio in his living room. Summer days spent fishing or swimming in Lake Beaverfork. And without a doubt, Matt’s front yard was the best for games of spotlight, kick the can, or football.

This is how I like to remember him because these were good days.  Bad days were coming soon for Matt. A series of events sent him on a downward spiral.  I won’t go into all the details, because it not the focus I want here.  I will say this though, mental illness and addiction are horrible.  He passed away from this world in 1986 at the age of 24.

During the good days, Matt was liked and loved by many.  On the night when a personal tragedy struck my family in 1982, he was the one who stuck by me that entire night while I grieved. He taught me how to water ski.  He was the one who almost got me mugged in New Orleans in 1979 when we snuck outside the KOA park into a bad part of town. I will always remember that lopsided grin that would foretell another, probably, bad idea he was thinking up that would end up being a great memory. 

Matt, I miss you man. Love you brother.