After a lengthy and valiant battle with cancer, the father of one of my long-time, very dear, friends has passed. I wrote, and posted, the following upon hearing of his initial diagnosis. The date was June 24, 2008:

“What’s up, Jack?” was usually the greeting when we entered the house, even though none of us were named Jack. “Nothing much, Russ – just getting ready to head out” was usually the response. His son was a part of him, as well as part of our crew, and since his house was centrally located in town it was usually the launching pad for our nights on the town.

Having lived many states away for eighteen years, and only seeing him a handful of times during that period, does not diminish the day-in and day-out of the eighties, and the good times in his pool and the hangovers slept off on his couch, as he was as important as a supporting character could be.

He was unlike the other dads because not many of them were the mayor, or hosted kick-ass crab feasts, or crashed the July fourth parade by driving a go-cart down main street beside the high school marching band. Russ was a freewheeling dad in my own father’s buttoned-down world.

And now we receive the news that Russ is hospitalized with tumors in his back, and then the follow up conversation with his son confirms that the mass is cancerous, and this has hit me like other cancers have not. In a world where every day we are struck with the news that this uncle or that grandmother have been shot at by this nasty bullet, and either dodge it or not, I cannot shake this one.

So while we all begin to pray, I take the liberty of mental side trips to the Bel Air, Maryland of a quarter century ago, and along with the thoughts of reading schoolbooks and chasing ponytails, and cheering for the Orioles and Colts, are vivid memories of a tough little shit who drank Natty Boh, had a huge smile, and loved us like his own.

Best of luck, Jack.

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