Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Sad news …'

It happens more and more often these days … I'll get a little note from some old friend, most always with a subject line reading 'sad news,' reporting the death of one of our classmates. This week it happened again. An old and dear in Fort Sumner sent a note that a schoolmate of mine from 1951 to 1956 had died, burial Friday at that lonesome cemetery up on the hill north of town. The guy who died was a country boy, lived on a farm in the valley. Sometimes he and his father would come to church completely ragged out from irrigating all night. I often went home with him after church. His mother set a good table, honest and sturdy country cooking, befitting their way of life. They had freezer full of beef and pork and always vegetables she'd frozen or put up. His father raised a few fighting cocks out by the barn; he'd take them over to the pit behind the bar in Taiban. I have no idea of his success but it gave him an interest beyond working on the farm. I expect their cash income was pretty small, but they lived well as far as the things that counted.
My friend was a chunky kid, fat you might even say if you were ungenerous. I was grateful for that because I, a year younger than my classmates and tiny, could outrun him sometimes. It saved me from always being the slowest boy in PE class.
They had old mattresses set up side by side down at his house, and we'd hold wrestling matches on them. A big kid who spent his summers bucking bales of alfalfa had a certain advantage, but it was fun.
He finished a PhD in mathematics, I believe, and taught. I once saw his name on a comment in the same string I was on in a NYT forum. I expect it's been 50 years since I last saw him. Maybe three years ago his wife, a very pretty lady, showed up at a class reunion to represent him to his friends. I hope they had some good years together. Few years back he'd had a blood clot get loose during surgery and get to his brain, leaving him in a wheelchair. I assume that's what got him. He was a nice kid and I expect he grew to be a good man, as mostly happens. I'm sorry he's dead.

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