“Hop & Scotch”
Not sure when I first noticed them. Maybe a couple years ago. Two men in their late sixties to mid-seventies, if I had to guess, taking a late morning stroll on one of the streets that make up my morning drive. One a full head taller, both barrel chested and sturdy, the tall one hefting a good fifty pounds more than the other, all of it up front. I’d noticed them but had not paid much attention at first but when you see the same faces day in and day out, you start to take comfort in the repetition and solidarity of us all being there, at that time of the day, on our way to whichever thing is next.
At first they were just shapes, much the same way certain cars parked along the street and trees are. You see them but you don’t really invest in more than that. After a few months, seeing them every day, same stride, same spot and same time, I began to take an interest in them and even gave them the nicknames, Hop & Scotch. Hop the shorter gentleman, face a bit pinker than Scotch but I suspected it was because Hop had to take double the amount of steps in order to keep up. Scotch, big, six foot five if not taller looked like a giant cask walking about on twigs. Burly, hairline starting about at his temples, always wearing jeans, a blue shirt, sometimes with a flannel long-sleeved shirt over it, bowed and straining suspenders and never, ever, without his big meaty hand grasping a large walking stick. I started looking for them every morning, smiled when I saw Scotch’s mouth open presumably telling some richly textured joke or story, with Hop and his quickly flailing legs nearly…well, hopping, to keep up with a warm toothy grin spread across his pink face. The shape of their faces so similar, the lift at the sides of their eyes, couldn’t decide if they were brothers or a couple that has been together so long they take on each other’s characteristics. Didn’t matter, they were some sort of partners and I found myself nodding in their direction each morning.
A couple of weeks ago I made it to work and as I put my car in park it hit me, “No Hop & Scotch today” didn’t think too much about it and in all honesty, as much as I found comfort in the sameness of seeing them each day, I didn’t let it plague me again until the other morning. I’m sailing (read flying, I was running late) down the street and as I turned to give the slow ass driver, that I swerved around, the, “Um, dude?! What the hell?!” face I saw him. Just him. Just Hop, no Scotch. Threw me off at first, it was as if I couldn’t see one without the other and it startled me enough to let my foot rest softly on the brake pedal, slow it all so I could process it. That was when I saw it, in Hop’s hand, Scotch’s walking stick. No twinkle, no pink face and no smile this time for Hop and my heart sank as I realized why I hadn’t seen them in a while. Scotch there in stick and likely in the heart that was walking their path and missing him, then in my car as the tears pooled in my eyes…..I was missing him too.
“You mind if I call Shaggy?” my son in my face when I got to work the same morning. Shaggy his college roommate whose real name is Daniel but due to his resemblance to the Scooby Doo character earned him the nickname Shaggy, the one he met that first day of school and whose wedding Jeremy will be going back to Louisville to be a part of later this year. They are that close. I could sense something in his tone but being frazzled myself, unsettled and sad, I chalked it up to me being off and not him. I said, “Of course” punched in, got my late ass in gear, ten minutes later my sweet son came up to me, his face seemingly 20 years younger.
Something inside made me stand as tall as Scotch, “What’s up kid?” I asked, “Pointer died” he responded. My mind raced as I tried my best to run through the faces of all the kids I met back in Louisville, the mouths we cooked for and laughs we shared, couldn’t place Pointer right away but I saw in my baby’s face the kind of heartache and loss that assured me, this was a life jarring hit. I instantly grabbed him, pulled him as close to me as we’ve been since I used to carry him around. The move as instinctual as his melting into my chest and letting the tears fall as his mother tried to soak up some of his pain. We just stood there with our arms around each other, silent until Jeremy pulled back, wiped his face and filled me in. He lost a friend to the same addiction that robbed me of a father. Fucking heroin kicking at my ribcage and breaking our hearts, again.
Found tremendous relief in the sheer volume of emails, text messages and calls I got. People checking in on the kid and making sure, without bothering or intruding on him, that he was doing okay. Never thought much about legacy before but seeing the absolute outpouring of concern and love for him, well I know 99% of that is because of him but if I can own 1% of that, I’ll proudly take it. We spent the next couple days close to one another and those we love. Nothing too heavy and again, people waiting until he was out of earshot to ask me how he was doing, but around and letting ourselves feel saturated with honest and true love. Nothing can ever really heal a bruised heart or make loss any easier, sure we can, and do, move on but having the distraction of laughter and feeling loved, well, it makes the walk forward that much easier.
Sitting here tonight thinking about it all, Jeremy, Shaggy, Pointer and the pain his family must be soaked in, Hop and his walking tribute to Scotch, moving on while clutching the big walking stick….I find myself amazed at how lucky I feel. Sounds fucking insane right? In the face of all that loss I find some demented way to feel lucky. Can’t help it, I do. I feel profoundly fortunate to have let enough things touch me for me to feel it all. I know far too many people that just float through, keep things at arm’s length and try not to let things move them too much….too much, not sure, for me, there is such a thing when it comes to feeling and love. For that there I’m grateful. I ache for Jeremy to be able to tell his lost friend to hold on, I sincerely hope that Hop was near Scotch when he…passed his walking stick and I can only crave making my eyes and heart even more open to those people, things, flavors, sights, textures and souls that desire being felt.
To those of you that read my silly ramblings
I love you
To those of you that come here looking for passion
I love you
To those of you that forgive me my fourth grader grammar and spelling errors
Thank you, and I love you
For those of you that miss me when I take too long to post
You humble me and for that…I love you
For those of you that come here to get lifted upon my tongue and desire tasting what I do
You keep my head in the glass and seeing as that is one of my most favorite places to be…I love you
Get out there people. Feel more, touch more, love and laugh more. Don’t be too afraid of losing to let yourself get lost.
Drink more Chablis and Champagne
Eat more salty and gooey cheese
Emote over bacon without shame
Kiss full on the mouth
Hug with your whole body
Laugh until you snort
Bite...just a little
Remember how many people adore you
Dazzle someone with kindness
Bury your nose in a glass of something intriguing
Curse while making love
Let wines stain you
Embrace it all….
It is all too often too short, don't miss out.