Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another Friend Passes Away

We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...
There's no need to say goodbye...

All the friends and family
All the memories going round, round, round, round

I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today.

After battling a host of cancers for the past coupleafew years, Tom Brown, father of one of our oldest, dearest friends, and a dear friend of ours in his own right, passed away this morning. After being diagnosed with lung and bone cancer he was given 6 months to live. Being a cantakerous sunnuvabitch who never once listened to anybody or did a single thing he was told, he instead chose to hang around for over 3 more years. In the process he got to welcome his son back home from a tour of duty in Baghdad, and to see him remarry later that year. Not to mention getting to spend a lot more time than anyone expected with his grandkids and friends. And he lived on his own and independent up until the last month or so.

Time well spent, I'd say.

And as for me, I'm just incredibly grateful I got to see him again, back in October. I grew up without a father -- my dad died when I was 6, and my former step-father was never much interested in trying to assume the responsibility of being a father figure to two boys. As a result, the fathers of my friends often filled some part or other of a pretty sizable vacancy in my adolescence. Some did it tangentially, representing a father I didn't have but never really taking an interest outside of being a friend's dad. Others recognized a need and made some effort to address that need. Tom, or "Pops" as I always called him, was of the latter variety. Never exactly a warm or cuddly guy -- far more of a cranky curmugeon who would happily bust your chops whenever he could -- he still never failed to make me feel more welcome in his home than I sometimes felt in my own, particularly as a teenager.

Here's Tom last year, on a sunset cruise off Key West.

We had such a great time seeing him -- he could be a true pain in the ass, but in the most frustratingly endearing ways. I can only imagine what a nightmare he was when he was drinking -- he stopped drinking decades before I met him -- and being married to him must have been a real kettle of fish. Sue (his ex-wife, a.k.a. "Mom") and he became good friends once they got divorced, but while married they could barely stand to be in the same room. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Or more patient. Whichever.

This one is not a shock. We knew this was coming, and actually expected it so long ago that it hardly seemed real anymore. He had some particularly nasty surgery a month or so ago, and it did not go well. He never really recovered, and surrendered to the inevitable early this week, finally slipping away this morning. But still, expecting a thing and experiencing a thing are not, as it were, the same thing.

So I'm sitting here at my desk, fighting back a few tears yet again. I've had too much sadness in my life this week. I'm ready for some light.

Tom Brown, Rest in Peace.

Mood: Sad
Now Playing: Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism"


melanie said...

sorry to hear this Gregg.

Ray in New Orleans said...

Dude, you are so in need of a hug.

Rich said...

I can remember times when I was a kid where people described dad as a “good man.” In fact I heard it so much so that I would describe him to my friends as a good man. When many of you heard the news that dad had passed away, somewhere in your thoughts or in your response were the words, “he was a good man”. Even as I took care of his affairs after he died, many people told me how much they though of him. Dad was, and still is, a good man.

Dad was a serviceman. In 1953, the country called on him and dad spent his year in the military driving much needed supplies (ok – it was beer and cigarettes) from the port to the PXs all over South Korea. He knew his truck so well that even to his last days he was able to recite his trucks serial number from memory. Like every Soldier who answers the nations call without hesitation or reservation – he was a good man.

Dad was a fireman. For over forty years he was a member of the Mombasha volunteer fire department and served as Chief. On many nights I can remember him going out to every conceivable call; from complaints of chest pain, to fires, to horrible accidents. One of dad’s favorite pictures was of him and other good men like Frank Faber, Mike Daly and others on the antique fire truck they had restored. Like every one who voluntarily places there life on the line – he was a good man.

Dad was a community man. One of my favorite pictures of dad was him, sitting behind the wheel of a Monroe Lumber pick up truck in the dead of winter. The truck was sitting on the ice in the middle of Mill Pond where dad had just plowed an ice skating rink for the town. Like every person who gives a little back to the community – dad was a good man.

Dad was a business man. He ran Monroe Lumber – the third and last generation of this family to do so. The smell of fresh cut lumber brings me back there in my mind. I remember one particular story of dad giving coal (we sold coal) to a family who could not afford to heat there home. His customers included many men from Kyrius Joel. He was so well liked that he was invited into that community to attend their weddings. Like some businessmen who see wealth beyond the bottom line – dad was a good man.

Dad was a family man. He raised two sons. He attended the little league games, endured the school plays, and wrestled with us in the middle of the family room until one day we were too big for him. At separate times in our lives, dad was there at his our side, defending us. He was a devoted grandfather to Alyssa, Samantha, and Lucas. Although at times he couldn’t keep the names straight – his refrigerator and walls are adorned with pictures of the kids. Like any parent who loves his children – dad was a good man.

Tom Brown taught us a few things in my life: he taught us have integrity in everything that you do and that is a lesson I have carried with me to this day. Dad taught us to help other people, even strangers, only because it is the right thing to do. Maybe this is why Andy is a fireman and I am in the Army. I learned that not all wealth is financial – it is in the friends you make along the way. I learned that you need to be good to your family. He leaves behind two sons, who in turn, became good men. I look back on the things that make him a good man and he makes me proud.

I will miss him. Andy will miss him. You all will miss him. He was a good man.