Heard the news this morning that a high school friend passed away. Since graduating two decades ago, we've fallen out of touch. As these things go, once we leave the cocoon that is high school, we're thrust into the world and the currents swirl to parts unknown. Years later, when we've become strong enough to swim on our own, we find messages in a bottle that bring tidings of those from our previous lives. Facebook, the mother of all cast-away message bottles, got me in touch with many past friends. In this case though, it was already too late. Sean was dying, and his old girlfriend was letting his high school friends know.
I'm 36, married with two kids. But suddenly, I was 17 again. I'm trying to make weight but not get weak. So I spend time in the weight room -- the domain of the football players, and ruled over by Sean. I remember how ill at ease I felt -- hey it's not easy getting respect when you wrestle 105. But Sean took me under his wing and treated me the same as he did with his 200lb teammates. The good-natured smack-talk he dealt was equal-opportunity :-) Looking back, while many of us sought to compensate for our lack of adolescent confidence by belittling someone else, Sean carried himself with self-assurance and easy manner that I see rarely even amongst adults.
Then flash to sitting on a creaky fold out chair in a dusty auditorium. Band was mandatory, and we both happened to play the sax, and we were both pretty bad at it. When the teacher's back was turned, we'd go odds-evens, with the loser receiving a dead-arm. Considering the 80lb weight differential, I had to get pretty good to score a good hit in Sean. I don't know how to play that sax anymore, but I still remember how to triangulate the end of the delt and between the bicep and tricep for max effect....
Flash forward to the present. I hear that Sean has gone on to represent the US as a SEAL and has served with honor and distinction. I'm not surprised. He probably did so with his trademark cackle and did it with his goofy grin intact.
"Tigers die and leave their skins....Men die and leave their names."
Goodbye, Sean Flynn. I will not forget you.