I don’t think I will write anything again unless I post my blog about my friend Mike. Sometimes if I don’t let words go out into the world it blocks my other words. I wrote this a month or so ago. Mike died in March. I am still dealing with it. It has been a whirlwind of a few months and I scarcely know how to wrap my mind around it all. ….. here is what I wrote…
Seems as soon as we got the news about Kevins cancer and he began treatments we got hit with another sadness- the loss of our friend Mike P.
I have been wondering if would write about Mike. I have so much to say. But when you lose a dear person in your life you realize there is never enough words to explain the loss and grief or what they meant and represented in your life. Thats how it is with Mike. My words won’t be enough. But I think I need to write them so I can go on and write about other things. I feel like this is just something that has been hanging out there needing to be written – and I have been just to darn sad, and overwhelmed in my life to do it.
But now I am going to try to write about my friend.
Mike- wow. Sometimes he could make you laugh like hell. And other times he could make you so mad! He was smart as hell. He new how to fix almost anything and he knew the most obscure facts. But mostly Mike was a good friend. He was one of my best friends… really he became family.
I met Mike through Kevin. They had been high school friends – maybe even before. I have heard numerous stories of their antics back then…many centered around one summer in Ocean City , MD. Needless to say they had some fun.
Mike and his close buddy Reid left the Maryland area in the mid 1980’s headed for California. They made it to Arizona – in the Phoenix area- they were out of cash and tired. That stopover – that was only supposed to be for a few days – became home for the next 35 years for Mike. There, both young men found careers – Reid in teaching and Mike in surveying – and their wives – Reid married Vicky and Mike married April.
When I first met Mike in the early 2000’s he scared me. He was overwhelming. He made me a little nervous. I was a mom raising little kids. He was a rough around the edges, hard partying, and very intense guy. I think it was his intensity that scared me the most. You could feel it coming off of him. No wonder he partied like he did he needed to have something that tamped down all that fire. But Mike was a great guest in our home- sweet to the kids and kind to me. He always bought me gifts to thank me for letting him stay with us. Once he got me a nearly life-sized wooden rocking horse(he knew I collected horse things). There was hardly room for it my house!
Mike came to see us a number of times over those years. Sometimes Reid was with him – other times he flew solo. I noticed Mike’s incredible mind from the start. It was that sharpness that increased his intensity I think. But he was a blast to talk to . And he always had the most amazing stories. If you are to believe him he cheated death on more than a few occasions.
Sadly his wife April passed away in 2005. I only got to meet her once before she passed. Losing her left Mike unmoored. She was the anchor that held his ship steady. Mike went a little crazy after her death. And in the housing bust shortly after her passing Mikes surveying business began to see less work. And he had to close it down. We saw him once after April died and he was looking very poorly. I was worried for him. Losing his wife and then business was hard on him.
Turned out he needed a break and he left Arizona all together for a while and headed to Mexico. There he took a job on a party cruise boat in one of the coastal towns. In his stories of that time, he told me he worked on tourist party day cruise boats. Part of his job was to jump off the boat along some of the small barrier islands to check for sea life- the safe kind -like seals and dolphins- and the dangerous kinds -like sharks. If it was safe the party goers on the boat could jump off and swim among the wildlife. Pretty cool job unless you get too close to the dangerous things!
Mike didn’t have the best health as he was a diabetic. During his time in Mexico he got a foot infection and it became so bad he went back to Arizona where they tried to heal his foot and in the end they couldn’t and he lost his leg below the knee. We used to joke that maybe his boat job left him a good story about a shark biting his leg off. Mike liked a good amputee joke.
Eventually, Mike made his way back to Arizona and he moved into an apartment in Phoenix and this is where we pick back up with him again. He came to visit again – and I can’t recall if it was this house where we live now or our old one – but Mike was different. Yes he had part of a limb missing – but it was something else. Some of the intensity was gone. He had been through a hard time – and losing April took some of the wind out of his sails. And maybe I was just different too. Maybe I lost some of my intensity as well. Sometimes we see things in others that are characteristics in ourselves…and sometime something we find unsettling in someone else happens to be a trait we carry too. Mike didn’t make me feel nervous anymore. Maybe our auras didn’t ping against each other anymore. Maybe I was a little mellower. Maybe I wasn’t as busy with my kids as they were older and more independent.
This change in him or both of us allowed us to develop a much closer friendship. It developed over some years. But at some point we began texting – at first just the periodic check ins – then more often. On one visit he really opened up to us about some things that he had going on and I think that allowed me to see a side to him I hadn’t seen before. He carried a lot of sadness- many of us do. I think after that talk I saw this vulnerability that I myself understood. I think it made us closer and more open with each other. We shared a lot – and I got used to hearing from him via text each day “What up sis?” “Beauty day”. Or giving me the weather report for his location.
Mike could put on a lot of bravado. He definitely had some chips on his shoulders and sometimes that made him irritating. He could get stubborn – and even I as a close friend and confidant I could not sway him when he was mad. But he usually cooled off and came to his senses. And when I got mad he would let me vent but normally he had a lot less words of advice for me. He’d say “Rax it on back baby- don’t stress so much” !
Mike changed locations in 2020. He moved from Arizona to Gettysburg, Pa to be closer to his family and us (but to me by then he was my family too), His twin sister and her kids lived in Gettysburg and his other sister Lynn lived in Maryland. As well as other family sprinkled about.
Mike got set up in an apartment above a comic book store. In AZ he went on Disability because of his limb loss – as he could not hold the job as surveyor anymore. So being close to family and in a small town where he had access to family, good medical care, and public transportation was a huge plus for him in this stage of his life. And he was about 45 mins from us.
Mike was good at trying to – as my dad would have said- “keeping the nose of the plane up”. He always had a good word for anyone – and I mean anyone he met. And he met all kinds of people. In Gettysburg he made many friends. I didn’t really even know how many until after he passed away. He truly was one of a kind. If Mike liked you he would do anything for you. Literally give you the shirt off his back. If you crossed him- and there were just some traits in people that he didn’t like – you would know it. But Mike gave everyone a chance. He knew more friends than enemies. He put on a smile even when he was down.
When we found out he died on a Sunday night in March I was in shock. Despite his many health issues – it took me off my feet. He was just 59. I stayed in bed crying the entire next day. I just could not believe this person who had become such a close friend- another brother really- was no longer here. No longer would I get my morning texts, “how’s my Anne doing today?”, no longer would we spend weekends on our little farm with him helping us out with projects, or all of us just kicking back and chatting. God I miss the crap out of him. Sometimes I cuss him out for dying. We are never prepared really to lose the ones we love. But I know he is with his best love- April. He never stopped missing her. On every birthday or anniversary of the date they met or got married Mike would text me something about it. He hated being without a companion – he was lonely – despite his many friends.
But what I know is he limped on without her…that’s not a joke—-well it kind of is – I said Mike liked a good amputee joke – he would laugh at this. But the truth is he wasn’t the same without her. And I’d like to think that last day after some drinks with friends he got home and all of a sudden he saw Aprils hand reach out from beyond. Maybe she said “Hey Mikey want to come home now? It is great here you will see.” and he didn’t have to think he just grabbed her hand and off they went. I know he would not have said no – it is my belief he is missing her no more.
When news of Mikes death got around so many people reached out – from Arizona, from high school, from Gettysburg. Mikes funeral was held in a Catholic church in Maryland it was very nice, and it was hard for me – and very sad. There I met some of his Gettysburg friends I hadn’t met before. I am so glad they played a role in my friend’s life for the time they did, they meant so much to him, and he to them .
Mike was a unique soul. He was my friend- my family and I miss him so much! I shake my fist that he left me. But I thank God he is out of pain physical and mental and with his bestest friend and love once again.
I hope everyone gets to have a Mike in their lives because they will have the most dedicated and loyal friend that has their backs no matter what. Really – thats priceless…
I miss my friend.
Rest Mike…Rax it on back my friend. Thanks for everything.