Biff America: Aching but still kicking … for now
January 21, 2012
“Well my friends are gone and my hair is gray – I ache in the places where I used to play.” -Leonard Cohen.
Those were such appropriate words to come over my headphones at that moment.
It was a frustrating day, one filled with work meetings and the drudgery of household and financial chores. Other than simple work obligations, there were mundane tasks – like getting my truck’s oil changed, recycling and trying to figure out who used my check book to buy a pair of skis and signed the name “Ellen.”
My last chore completed, I headed out the door with my skis and a headlamp; the sun would set in an hour or so and it had been snowing lightly for much of the afternoon.
There were a few inches of new snow and the temps were in the single digits, but I was dressed well, exercising, and comfortable.
I’ve lived a fairly blessed and hedonistic life, but I don’t think there are many pleasures that compare to sliding on snow through a quiet forest at sunset. The clouds had cleared just enough to produce a little pinkness on the western horizon while the snow continued to fall lightly. About a quarter mile from the trailhead Leonard Cohen came on: “Well my friends are gone, my hair is gray – and I ache in the places where I used to play.”
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Perhaps caused by the release of stress, or more than likely, male menopause, I was engulfed by an overwhelming sense of gratitude and well-being. Perchance from the cold, music or just the impossible beauty of the evening, but I teared up a little.
And that was before I got back to the car and got Rick the Pup’s phone message.
Rick voice sounded measured and matter-of-fact: two emotions I guessing he did not feel at that moment, “Jeffrey, it’s Pup, Marty passed this afternoon. He was peaceful comfortable – he was looking good – so say a prayer for him. OK … Ski-Ya later.”
I sat in my cold car and watched the steam float off my sweating body. I was sad but not surprised. Marty had been sick, and actually death, when compared to his suffering, had its merits.
But rationales fall by the wayside when you hear of the passing of a friend. Your first inclination isn’t to think of his pain, or of the fact that someday we all, will be joining him but, rather, that the earth is one good man lighter.
Mary Lessow was not a close friend but a guy I knew for many years. It seemed the better you knew him, the stronger were your feeling for him. If you didn’t know him I will say this about him: He loved to ski and he loved dogs. I know a few jerks who love to ski, but I don’t know any bad person who loves dogs.
I love to ski and I love dogs, so there’s two things Marty and I had in common (three, if you count someday I, too, will be deader than Hendrix). It is that commonality that attracts you to another person.
It seems like I’ve been writing a lot about dead people lately. I know it’s kind of a downer, and I promise I’ll stop once my friends quit dying. But I guess if you want to talk true communality of experience, though, there are many reading this who don’t ski or like pets, but a trip to the great unknown is one we all will share. My old man used to look through the obituaries in our local newspaper and then go and cross the name out of his address book. When I told him I thought is was rather morbid, he defended himself by saying he was saving himself a phone call next time he was looking for cribbage game.
I drove home from skiing that day listening to a few more messages alerting me to Marty’s passing. All said pretty much the same thing: He died peacefully, as if surrendering himself to his fate. I couldn’t help but think if the skiing had been better this winter, he might have stuck around.
There is a memorial honoring Marty this afternoon, and I’m sure there will be stories told and tears shed. All who attend will agree we lost a good man, a kind man, a colorful character and a person who will be missed. Of course depending of your degree of spirituality, there might be disagreements as to the next stop on our friend’s journey. None of us knows for sure. But I’m guessing somewhere where there is snow. …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at BiffAmerica.net