Fire and Rain

Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone
Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember who to send it to

My wife got the news yesterday. The latest edition of her High School alumni newsletter had just arrived in the mail, and she was going through it when she got to the list of alumni who had recently passed away.

“Oh my God! You need to search for this,” she said to me as she sat bolt upright on the sofa. “Robert is dead.”

Already working on my laptop, I immediately did a Google search, and there it was.

My wife grew up in a Maine seaside community with Robert, he being one grade behind her in school. I met Robert for the first time during the second season I spent my entire summer there, as the friend of a friend of a friend.

Train on the Downeast Scenic
Train on the Downeast Scenic
It wasn’t long before he and I were friends.

As time went by, we found we shared several interests. We loved trains and bicycles and car racing and going to concerts. The first concert that he and I and my future wife attended together was James Taylor. Others that he and I attended included Blue Öyster Cult and The Marshall Tucker Band. My musical tastes haven’t changed much since I was a kid.

When we got our drivers licenses, we would get together and take road trips. The weirdest one was the New Years Eve that he drove to my home in New Hampshire, and then I drove my Mother’s car to Boston so we could celebrate “First Night”.

Just imagine two teenagers, in a Lemon Yellow Lincoln Continental, in the very early hours of News Year Day, at a gas station located in a bad neighborhood of a Boston suburb, asking for directions to get back to the Interstate. One of several epic adventures we took.

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus, You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
and I won’t make it any other way

When my wife and I got married, he was our best man. Robert was tasked with several duties by my wife-to-be. The most important was to make damn sure I was at the church for our wedding, on time and in one piece. Because if he failed, he was the backup husband.

That threat, by the way, carried over for many years afterwards.

As life moves on, it takes you in different directions. He stayed close to home while my wife and I moved north, then to the Midwest, and then finally back to Maine. During this time, we stayed in touch and met up way too few times.

Eventually, he took a job move to Chattanooga, Tennessee. A great place to be for someone who loved trains. Unfortunately, we never had a chance to go visit him out there.

Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around
Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground

We had not spoken in years, which was my fault. I had withdrawn from life for a while, after the birth of my first granddaughter, and then the immediate betrayal of my unconditional love for my youngest daughter by her, pushed by the “favorite” people of a bureaucratic agency and a court system so far in that agency’s hip pocket that it could not see the truth.

Thankfully, I had recently started a new radio adventure, and being able to bury myself in it kept me from losing everything. Instead of giving up, I now had something to hang on to.

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
but I always thought that I’d see you again

With everything that happened in my life last year, I had started thinking that it was time to reconnect with Robert. It started hitting me more and more this past spring. But, unknown to me at the time, that train had already pulled out of the station.

Robert passed away on May 14th. He was only 57.

I know that we will meet again. It will be, of course, at the big train station in heaven.