Well, it's been one Hell of a year. First I'd like to touch on the positive before I get into the emotional topics. First and foremost, I have moved my family from the voluntary exile from all civilization that we were living in out in the back end of Oklahoma's armpit known as Woods County. We have moved back over towards the northeastern part of the state, more specifically, north of Tulsa where good dining can still be had. Thank GOD for Kilkenny's Irish Pub. They have a blackened ribeye that is probably the closest thing to a manifestation of heaven that I will ever experience. The wife and the kids are adjusting well to the changes in job and schools, respectively, and I am finishing out my last 2 weeks as an over the road driver. So, my posts will be getting more and more frequent as I again ramp up for another presidential election cycle. Well enough of the feel good news. On with my real reason for firing this page up.
Late last week, I was notified through Facebook that a classmate of mine was dying. First off, you have to understand some background if you want to know why this is hitting me so hard. We had 9 kids in my graduating class. That's right, 9. As in, NINE. Even at the height of our class attendance, I think 15 was as high as it went. Out of the 15 that were in my class, we have lost 2 and are in the process of losing a third to cancer. I'm not sure what the odds of losing 20% of your class to cancer as opposed to other forms of death, or that all of these deaths occured before the age of 45, but I have got to think that it can't be normal. So that's the landscape, now for the details of this classmate that I am losing.
Yes, I put it as a personal loss. You see, once apon a time, The Oklahoma Patriot was a troubled youngster that was not at all treated well by those around him. (gasp! And blowing holes in my classmates never occured to me. Oh, yeah, I don't think we had 24 hr cable news yet.) Any way after a particularly bad incident between me and another student who WAS on the "in crowd" I landed myself in the principles office. The short version was, that I told him that I didn't want to be bothered, that I wanted to just be left alone. I was tired of the harrassment and ridicule for being different. It was a very troubling moment in my life. I felt utterly alone and utterly hopeless for things to ever improve.
That's when I heard two people behind me in the doorway. A boy named Cole and a girl named Tina. Both of them said that they would not ignore my presence or just leave me alone to myself because they liked and cared for me. They showed a 14 year old boy, who thought he had no one to count on, friendship and loyalty. And to the day we left school, they were true to that. After graduation, I, Tina, and Cole all went into the military. I and Tina went into the Army, and Cole into the Marines. He's still there, by the way. God bless and keep him. Tina got out and started her life out down by Oklahoma City and had more than her share of hard times. But her spirit kept her marching forward and she overcame pain and misfortune that would have probably ruined me.
I guess the reason I give these little biographies is so that you will understand when I say I would gladly stand in there place when death comes for them. Whether by natural or unnatural means, I'd gladly take the bullet for either of them. Other than my family, there are few that I would do that for. Both of these good people have earned my loyalty and love. The 20+ years since our graduation hasn't changed that for me.
That 14 year old boy that was sitting in that office, crying with frustration and rage, fell in love with a girl for her compassion. And came to respect and admire a young man for his honor and compassion, also. Every day I know that I could get word that Cole was killed in fighting over seas. I believe that he has returned from Afghanistan now, but who knows when he'll be asked to return. I will mourn him if it happens, but he's a Marine and he knows the job well.
Tina, on the other hand, is a different story. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago and they did a double radical mastectomy to remove all of the cancer. They thought that she was free from the cancer. Unfortunately, as I said, last week I found differently. They have said that the cancer has indeed returned and metasticized in her bones. She has not said how long they have given her, but from what she's said, it won't be long. I fell in love with her 25 years ago, and a part of me has always held that place in my heart for her. I always will because not once in those 25 years has she ever been other than my friend.
God bless and keep you Tina. God make his light shine in your darkest times. And if it be his will, may he lay a healing hand on you and take your pain.
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