Sunday, January 08, 2012

Once I was afraid of love, but when it's your brother those things change

A few weeks ago I got a Sunday morning phone call. It was my dad, asking me about one of my high school friends and if I knew whether something had happened to him. My dad had seen something on Facebook that suggested that something had. Sadly, my friend had passed away early that morning. Nothing prepares you for that kind of news. I know I'm not exactly young anymore, but I'm still too young to be losing friends. It was a heartbreaking moment.

I wasn't able to attend his funeral. I tried and tried to figure out a way that I could make it all work, but just couldn't manage it. I'll probably always regret not going, but at least I sent his family a card with a little bit of cash to put toward funeral costs and a brief note telling them of a few fond memories I have of him, so hopefully they know he was in my thoughts.

I've mentioned him a few times on this blog: There was the time he and I killed Ramone, I told you about him coming up with what might be the best catch phrase ever (see the footnote on the linked post), and he also came up with the worst pick-up line I've ever heard. Of course there are other stories, and in honor of his memory, I'll share another here.

We were in eighth grade and took a class field trip to visit Fremont Indian State Park as part of our Utah history class (I think). We learned about how the Native American relicts were discovered with the construction of a new freeway, about what had been learned about their culture by the archaeologists who'd worked in the area, and we listened to some stories about some of their gods and legends. We also got to see many of the artifacts (baskets, arrowheads, pottery, etc.) that were on display. At the end of the day, we were to go on a hike to look at the rock art after having the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs explained to us.

Through some misunderstanding, a rather large group of us (15 or so boys) didn't realize that we were only to go on the hike if we had a teacher, chaperone, or park employee with us, so we took off on our own. (Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly a "misunderstanding" because at one point we heard one of the teachers with a group of students coming down the trail, so we hid from them, ensuring that we didn't have to go back to the bus just then.) We hiked around, looked at the petroglyphs, took off our shirts to get a tan, had a "contest" to see who had the most armpit hair (spoiler alert: it wasn't me), rolled boulders down the side of the mountain to see if we could splash them in the river below, and just generally had a good time. At one point, my friend (who was Navajo) sat down to eat the lunch that he'd packed, and ended up dropping some cheese on the rocks. He called out to the rest of us and said, "Look! Cheese-O-Glyphs!" then declared he would leave it there for future generations to see, because after all, he was the only Native American in the group.

Eventually we made our way back to the visitor's center and the parking lot, where unbeknownst to us, the rest of our classmates had been waiting on the bus for over an hour while the teachers were out looking for us. Needless to say, we were in a lot of trouble. As punishment, we weren't allowed to go on any more field trips for the rest of the year, and all of us who'd gone AWOL had to write a seven page paper describing in great detail what we'd done while everyone else was waiting for us back at the bus, then read it in front of our classmates so that they could experience all the fun that we'd had while they waited. Not all of us took the assignment seriously. I turned mine in on miniature notebook paper, which just infuriated the teacher and earned me an additional five pages that I had to write (a 12 page paper to an eighth grade student was sheer torture - Now, I'd love to write a paper that was "only" 12 pages long).

One of our other friends wrote about how we were gone so long because we followed the smell of the peace pipe down into the ant world, where we couldn't return until we were able to trick an eagle into flying us up through the hole in the sky to deliver us back to the parking lot. It was a derivative of one of the legends the park ranger had told us. Of course, that earned us a 30 minute lecture from the teacher on not mocking others' beliefs, and got another five pages tacked onto the end of his assignment as well. Seriously, don't ever teach junior high school kids. We were all so very annoying.

There are so many other stories to tell. There was the first time I met him: I was in seventh grade and he was the new kid seated next to me in English class. He told me he was Navajo, so I asked him to teach me some Navajo words. He told me to say, "clit" so I did. Then, when I asked him what it meant, he just laughed. Turns out he had a lot of fun being surrounded by naive Mormon kids. Then there was the time he ground up birth control pills and told everyone it was from a pixie stick and got them to taste it. Or the time we won in the playoffs in football, then stayed to watch the next game, and he went up and asked one of the cheerleaders from another team out on a date. (A year later, I took that same girl to our junior prom.)

He had the most infectious laugh. It was impossible to hear it and not at least crack a smile. I'm going to miss hearing that. And I'm going to miss getting voice messages that simply say, "Where the white women at?" followed by laughter and nothing else. It's hard to believe he's gone. I get tears in my eyes every time I think about it.

For some reason, every time I've thought about him passing away I think of the lyrics from the Jon Bon Jovi song Never Say Die. It might be because Young Guns was one of our favorite movies at the time we met. It might be because the lyrics themselves somehow describe our friendship. Maybe there are parts that remind me of his military service (he was a marine). Or maybe it's just one of the few songs that come to mind that sing about death. Regardless, I find it somewhat therapeutic (particularly the very last verse), so I'm going to post them here.

As we stood there older than the men
And younger than the boys
We were still as the wind
That blows on a hot August night

And you were lonesome as a jukebox
But deadly just the same
I could be as gentle as a newborn
Then spit into the eye of a hurricane

And we knew how to laugh
And we knew how to cry
Yeah we sure knew how to live
But we don't ever

Never say die
Never say die

I guess you'd say we had a pact
These words we knew so well
Still they remained unspoken
And we'd take them to the fiery gates of Hell

Once I was afraid of love
But when it's your brother those things change
'Cause love is just another words for trust
So hear me when I say

Never say die
Never say no
You've gotta look them in the eye and don't let go
When it's your own blood you bleed
And your own tears you cry
When you're brought up to believe
That it's the strong who survive

Never say die

Yeah and we could run like lightning
Through the pouring rain
And we'll be standing like a soldier
Who comes marching home again

They ask what it is that I want written
On the gravestone where I'll lie
Tell them it's just my bones that died there
So save the tears they'll cry
'Cause my spirit is still riding
Somewhere in this night
When it's these three words that come to me as I kiss this world goodbye

Never say die
Never say no
You've gotta look them in the eye and don't let go
When it's your own blood you bleed
And your own tears you'll cry
When you're brought up to believe
That it's the strong who survive

Never say die

Rest in peace, Elston Louis. You were a true friend, and you will be missed!


Dee Ice Hole said...

Nice post about your friend. GOOD JOB.

nobich said...

very nice tribute..:(

Boxer said...

I saw the FB and I'm glad to read ythis wonderful memorial to your friend. Don't feel bad about not being able to attened his service. When my BIL passed away, many of his friends coudn't travel to be there and I knew it had no reflection of how they felt about him. Life is for the living.

Nicely written. And I'm sorry for your loss.

fishie said...

was Elston with you at the TMBG show in Park City?

Native Minnow said...

No Fishie, that was a different Native American friend of mine from high school.