Monday, May 6, 2013

Steamboat, rest in peace...

My friend, Mike Miano, sent me Stanley's obit. He died in Princeton, West Virginia, where my parents moved after I went to college. When I came home, I came home to a place I'd never been before. Princeton is a small city (25,000 when my parents lived there, probably much less than that now) near the boarder to southwestern Virginia. It was a pleasant place, but not a place I'd choose to die.

Stanley Evans went to Junior High and High School with me. He was the smartest kid in our graduating class of 99. But he wasn't the Valedictorian or even the Salutatorian of our class because he honestly didn't give a shit about grades. He cared about learning stuff, which is quite different. He was in the Honor Society since he couldn't help but do well on tests and stuff. But none of that mattered to him. He was like the mad scientist of our class. He wasn't voted 'most likely to succeed', that was me, I think. But he was simply smarter than us all.

He had three younger brothers, one of whom died before he did according to his obituary. Who knows what that was about? But one thing I do remember is that one of his younger brothers got picked up hitch-hiking by someone who then had a wreck and Stanley's father sued the driver. Well, that just didn't happen where I came from. You don't sue people who were doing your kid a favor. So Stanley's family were ostracized and no body within 25 miles would let an Evans ride in their car ever again.

I kinda remember what he looked like, gawky and lean with sharp features. I really liked him because smart kids tend to like smart kids, especially in a place like Gary, West Virginia. We had lots of fun in chemistry class and are fortunate we didn't blow up that part of Gary High School.

The only other person in our class of 99 who died already (to my knowledge) was Bobby Joe Ratliff. Bobby Joe was a star fullback/linebacker on our state champion football team. He dropped out of Notre Dame, which gave him a full scholarship to play football and got killed on what was supposed to be his last day in Viet Nam when he stepped on a land mine outside a bar in Saigon. He survived his service and died during his celebration of heading home. At least that's the legend of Bobby Joe. He's the material for a country song.

Not so Steamboat. He was the odd, weird kid in the bunch. Everyone back then knew about the 'Stanley Steamer', so his nickname came out of that. Stanley "Steamboat" Evans. A hale fellow well met.

And dead.

My son Josh, still in his 30's, has had, by my count, 5 close friends die already. How must that be on your psyche?

I heard an actress, who's name I can't come up with right now ('names' are the first to go from an aging brain) on radio today who talked about friend's dying too soon and said one of the most remarkable things I've ever heard said.

She said, "It is a real privilege  to age."

And so it is. Bobby Joe never got to. Lots of us Baby Boomer's died in rice patties half a world away. 80,000 or so have died in Syria in the last few years and I'm betting most of them were younger than me. Never mind Iraq and Afghanistan and the numberless who died in Africa from malaria and wars and those who died in events of Nature and Cancer and car and other accidents.

Lots of people die before they should

So, really, it is a privilege to age. No Kidding.

Ponder that for a while. Who that you knew or knew about died much too soon and you're still mud that got to sit up and look around.

What a privilege it is to grow older.

That is an astonishing revelation.

I'm 66 and still alive. I promise you to honor every minute I will live until I die because it is a privilege to kidding. Getting older is not pleasant in many ways, but it is a lot better than the alternative.

Age well, ok?

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.