I don’t exactly remember the day I met my friend, Jerry Hair, but I remember many of the experiences we had together. I remember sleeping on his bedroom floor. I hated it, but that’s okay. He slept on my floor when he stayed at my house. We literally helped each other get through the madness of junior high in nineteen-seventy.
Jerry wasn’t my oldest friend. That honor goes to others, but during a difficult time in my life, he was one of the most important friends I had.
Over the course of my teenage years, I began to notice connections being made. I belonged to several circles of friends, from different backgrounds and I realized that I was the one thing they all had in common. Not that I had anything to do with it, I just introduced them to each other.
Seriously though, the old gang as I call them now, could’ve and probably would’ve met each other without me, but I noticed my circles kept linking. There were marriages entered into, life long friendships developed. Not everyone got along though, and some of those marriages broke up. Jerry was in one of those circles and he became a major part of the others.
When I heard of Jerry’s passing, I couldn’t believe it. Life has a way of closing doors before dawdlers like me can fully cross the threshold. I regret the things left undone & unsaid, although I believe he was ready to go.
Jerry called me about a year ago. He wanted me to visit, and talked of an incident, from our past. His sorrow was great, and he wanted me to know. To be honest I had forgotten the incident, but I accepted his apology, and told him to forget it.
What was the incident? Nothing much, in 1976, the girl I later married, and I, became the butt of a series of stupid and cruel jokes. Although I never heard the actual words, it hurt to find out what my friends had done. Not too long after, because of different directions and goals, Jerry, my other friends, and I, drifted apart. I became part of another link of circles.
After Jerry called, I planned to go see him, but never did. When he died, I waited to hear about funeral plans. I needed to say goodbye to the friend who was once, the most important friend in my life.
Jerry’s sister, Julie told me she would be giving the life sketch at the funeral, and wanted help. She asked if I could tell her stories about Jerry. I came up empty. How do you sum up a million stories when you haven’t thought about those things for years? My mind went blank, and even now, most of our experiences together have gone the way of an old man’s memory.
Then, while talking to one of our old friends, I began to remember something, but I expressed my regret that I couldn’t remember more. I also, expressed my regrets about missing the opportunity to see Jerry before he died. That’s when I learned the truth about Jerry’s later years.
As many of you know, Jerry was a carpet layer. He often had to use toxic chemicals in his job. From what I was told, it was on one of those jobs, when Jerry’s fate was sealed.
He had to use contact cement in a hospital, and as anyone knows, you must have ventilation while using the stuff. From what I gathered, the person in charge told him he had to close the doors because the smell was bothering the patients.
Jerry tried to explain that the chemical should not be used in a closed area. The container said so. It warned of health risks, but they forced him to close the doors. The job lasted a long time and Jerry was pretty much high on fumes all day, everyday.
The fumes killed brain cells and Jerry lost himself. At the funeral, Jerry’s daughter talked about the time when Jerry forgot who he, and they were. I don’t know the facts, but apparently Jerry went undiagnosed, and alienated people. After the hospital and the chemical company rejected his claims, Jerry found a little help through medication.
When I heard that Jerry still had trouble remembering, I thought of our phone call and how sorry he was about the incident. I realized that Jerry was getting his affairs in order. In our lives we, humans accumulate excess baggage. We make mistakes and hurt people.
Jerry spent his last years building relationships with his children and grandchildren. He found peace in knowing they would remember him. He will go on through them. I don’t know what other wrongs he might’ve made amends for, but I’m thrilled he was able to put the incident behind him.
The lesson there, in case you missed it, is make amends. Get rid of the excess baggage, sooth the heart of another. Express your love. Find peace in your life sooner than later, because we never know when our time will be over.
Since the funeral, I’ve been remembering. I remember us smoking cedar bark in the orchard. It was harsh, but it was a rite of passage, and it was his idea. (Grin), well, maybe my old man’s memory has become convenient.
I thought about our camping trip on the Green River in Wyoming. It was just the two of us and Jerry shot a beaver in the water. It was a pretty good shot, too.
There were a few camping trips on the family property in Mona, Utah. One trip found a group of us hunting rabbits to put into the stew. Speaking of rabbits, when Citizens band radios become popular we all developed a handle (name on the radio). Because of their last name, Joe became Tricky Rabbit. Jay was Rapid Rabbit because of his need for speed. Jerry was Porky Rabbit, I don’t know why.
When I think about Jerry, I think about listening to Jethro Tull on his stereo and trading albums with him. I still have the Beatles albums he traded to me. Of course, like everybody else, I remember trips to the sand dunes, but I remember back before the fascination of three, and four-wheelers. I was welcomed into Jerry’s family.
Jerry’s brother, Jay had built a sandrail for racing out at Sand Mountain, and I went with them. I remember the huge (6 inches long, at least) scorpion on the seat of Joe’s four-wheel drive dune buggy. As it crawled closer to sting Jerry’s younger sister, Janet, on the hand, Jerry flicked it off and saved her.
I don’t remember much about Jodie, the oldest, She was married and gone before I came along. But Jerry and I used to hang out with Doug & Kathy. Especially when we wanted to sluff school.
Julie talked about Jerry’s dancing years, she made a joke about him getting too old for tights, but I know the reason he kept dancing so long. He had a crush on the teacher’s daughter.
Jerry was very loyal to his father, Joe. Jerry made a promise to Joe that he wouldn’t drink. I think Joe had been around an alcoholic and he wanted to save Jerry from all that. Anyway, Jerry’s promise was good for us, because he became our designated driver before the term became popular. There were many nights when Jerry took care of us and got us home, drunk and stupid.
I’m not sure how long it bothered him, but Jerry had a blood circulation problem. His arms went numb when he slept on his side. When it become painful, the doctor’s solution was to operate and remove his ribs. The joke was, since God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, Jerry should’ve gone home with a wife.
Jerry had crushes on many girls in our teenage years, but I doubt any of them ever knew. He was shy, we both were, but it pleased me to hear that Jerry finally found a girl who would love and take care of him. I don’t think I ever met his wife, even at the funeral, but if Jerry cared about her I know she must’ve been a good lady.
I visited Jerry the night I came home from my mission. That’s when Jerry told me he would’ve bet that he would be the last one of our gang to take that step. Sorry Jerry, I won that honor. I married the girl my friends joked about.
These are only a few of the memories locked away in an old man’s brain. I wish I could dredge more up, but as Neil young sang, Time Fades Away. Jerry was a thinker. I used to watch him sitting on the sidelines evaluating people. We shared a love for the game of chess, and we used to play it for hours.
Jerry, you left a legacy, my friend. Some of us will never forget. I wish I’d gone to see you before you passed, but I’m glad for this chance to say goodbye.