Friday, September 10, 2010

So Long, Old Friend

Yesterday, I had to say goodbye to a dear friend that I've known nearly half my life. How does one write a loving tribute to someone who has left such a mark on one's life? I met Marty the same night that I met the love of my life. And who'd have thunk that they would meet in heaven 21 years later in less than 6 months?

We don't live in the greatest neighborhood in town, but for the many years that Marty and Kim lived just up the street, this place was a much warmer place to be. We'd be invited to their kids birthday parties surrounded by their family, and it always left us feeling honored to be included.

I remember years ago sitting at Field's Restaurant listening to Marty telling us that he was going to start a Karaoke Business and thinking "But Marty! Karaoke's a fad! It can't last!" Boy was I wrong! Karaoke allowed him and his beautiful wife to feed their family all these many years and to help them afford a beautiful home that anyone would be proud to live in. He was a visionary and once he made his mind up about something, it didn't matter if someone played the devil's advocate. Your negative fears weren't going to burst his bubble. Where there's a will, there's a way, and Marty always found that way.

He had a very warped sense of humor which offended some, but endeared many. He was always willing to speak his mind, but he did it with a sense of humor so you had to listen, laugh, and then think "No shit! you've really got a point!"

A good 5 years ago, I had decided that I wanted to walk off my weight. Marty volunteered to be my walking buddy. We'd walk for an hour each day, and got further and faster with each week. And as we walked, we got to hold a lot of conversations. He'd say "I like this! When we come over to visit, you don't always say much cuz Jimmy and I are too busy talking. Now, I'm getting to hear your point of view on stuff too." And then suddenly, he'd run off behind some stranger's house to take a quick leak, and we'd be on our way walking again. What a nut!

At a time when Jim was feeling restless with the direction his life was going, Marty got him out in a restaurant cooking for the masses. Although there was a great deal of drama through that ordeal, Jim was able to make some new friends that would prove to be truly caring people, and working there gave Jim a renewed sense of purpose. Jim always wanted to open his own restaurant, and in working with Marty, he learned more than he thought he could. And of course he was thrilled to know that he was able to teach Marty a few good cooking tricks as well. They made a great team.

Life-long friends that they were, they loved talking about the old days, and spent a great deal of time playing music they shared a deep common interest in. To some, T-Rex and Pink Floyd had great mainstream hits. To Jim and Marty, those mainstream hits were crap. It was the rest of the albums that were gold. They could sing every word of Pink Floyd's "Careful with that Ax, Eugene", and would then ponder for hours about what was going through Marc Bolan's mind when he wrote various T-Rex songs they listened to repeatedly. I really never understood the T-Rex thing. But they did.

Our door has always been open to friends and family, and Marty often took advantage of that policy, showing up at all hours for a good cup of coffee. If there was none ready, I gladly made some. He'd sip his coffee, catch up on what was new with us, fill us in on his day's goals, then stand, fart, and vacate the premisis. That was the magic of Marty.

He loved a good prank. And I can think of many - one of which that still makes me giggle, but I simply cannot share with the general public. But it involves an Ab-Lounger. Poor Jimmy!

Marty was a man of tradition as well. One Memorial Day, years back, His good friend Herman said he was going to be out at the park with his kids. Marty and Kim packed up a picnic basket and joined him for a lovely day. That quickly turned into what Marty coined as "Hermanfest". Each year it grows bigger and bigger. Loved ones would always be welcome to join. I hope this tradition continues. Marty would want that. It was hard for me to go this year without Jim at my side, but I am so glad that I did.

Along with his silly side, there was also a beautiful devoted friend side to Marty. The first time Jim had his Hemalitic Anemia, it was Marty and Kim to the rescue, racing us off to the emergency room. And they stayed until things were sorted and he was on his way back to recovery. And the off-color jokes that Marty and Doug made in that little emergency exam room helped Jim to regain focus.

When Jim grew ill this last time, I know how much it saddened all of us, and still, I could count on all of our good friends to help. Marty was always so busy keeping his own life moving and shaking, but was never too busy to lend a hand. If only we could have known during the Benefit that Marty and Kim and so many loved ones put on for Jim that six months later..... It's just too absurd to even comprehend! And even though it wasn't the intention, without the funds raised at that benefit, I would still be paying for Jim's funeral.

After Jim passed, I know it was hard for Marty to stop in here for a cup of coffee. And yet he still did on occasion just to see how I was doing. Out of the blue one day, he said "You have to marry again. And don't wait forever. Do it soon. Jim doesn't want you to be alone. Don't worry about what friends and family say. You deserve to be happy." It was a very unexpected conversation, but I really appreciate that it took place.

This past Sunday night, on a whim, my sister Barb and I decided to go out. The Boathouse was supposed to have a live band, and it sounded like fun. But when we got there, the band canceled due to rain. So while we sat there having a cocktail, for some reason, I decided to text Marty and see if there was a Karaoke show going on. He told us to come on down to PJ's.

My sis and I had a fun time there, and Marty wouldn't let me leave without singing a song or two, even though I warned him that I am way out of practice.

Before we left, I gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and told him I love him. I am so glad I got the chance to do that now. Maybe there was an angel whispering in my ear that night. I never dreamed that 4 days later he would be gone.

But he lived to ride on that silly scooter. It was one of his passions. And if he had to choose what way he would leave this world, it would have been this way. For those of us who are forced to say good-bye so soon to him, it is a difficult journey. We can mourn our loss, but we cannot mourn for him. Marty lived a wonderful life filled with joy and love. He deserves to be exemplified and celebrated.

Hugs to you, Marty. And God Speed. Give Jimmy a kiss for me. I know you'll do it full- on- the lips!

No comments: