You met David in my blog last March. I’d just received word that he was losing his years-long battle with cancer, and I did the only thing I could: I wrote. I cried, too.
There are some people in our lives who are — in our hearts — always eighteen, and David was one of those. It’s a self-congratulatory thing, I know: if he’s still eighteen then I am too, right? I’m filled with vigor instead of disease. I have hormones and bones, collagen and memory!
But it isn’t so, as David’s death attests.
I am not young any more; I had my turn and it’s long over. So it’s delusional to feel those hormones. But the fact is that friends from our growing-up years awaken the eighteen-year-old that was, and that’s a real bliss point. Being eighteen was imperfect, but it had a lot going for it. People who were eighteen with us have their roots in the same imperfections and in the soil of that time, which for us was searingly eroded by the lava flow called The Sixties.
David went to college and to Viet Nam. He left eighteen behind rapidly. But whenever I saw him over the years eighteen was still there. It was unmistakable though maddeningly elusive. It was fun and melancholy at the same time: that matchbox of eighteen and the freight train of age.
David loved trains. He even knew “Up and Down the Monon,” one of several neglected classics of Indiana railroad lore. So trains bring David to mind in a very colorful, gritty, nostalgic way. We grew up in a spaghetti bowl of railroad tracks and heard the same midnight trainsongs.
May the angels lead you, David. Save a place.