I lost a dear old friend about a year ago. His name was Mike Kearny and he was easily one of my best friends. Mike and I grew up in the same neighborhood in suburban Kansas City and we even attended the same high school but we didn’t actually meet until college when we both joined the same fraternity. Mike was a year younger than me so we didn’t become friends right away. We both moved out of the fraternity house after a couple of years and moved into a big old apartment house that was shared by several other fraternity brothers. I told my parents I needed to get away from the excessive drinking that seems to inhabit most fraternities but the house we all shared was hardly a bastion of academia. My grades did improve slightly but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity to party.
It was really after college that Mike and I found our friendship. He was working as a trust officer for a bank in Kansas City and I had my own business. Mike even asked me to be in his wedding as an usher. That was way too much fun and my wife had to drive me home after the reception. I never touched champagne again. Mike and his wife Blanche never had children so we kind of drifted apart during my early parenting years. We stayed in touch but I just couldn’t find time to see him that often. That never mattered to Mike. He called regularly and invited me to go sailing or to come for dinner. I must have turned him down 90% of the time but he never gave up on me. After he left the bank and became a semi-retired investor, on his own dime, we finally started to reconnect.
My connection was mostly for business purposes because Mike was my source for custom made woodwork. In my graphic arts business I always needed very specialized tables, shelves and cabinets and Mike was the best carpenter I knew. His woodwork wasn’t just perfect, it went far beyond. Mike treated every project like it was furniture for the White House. A flat 4′ x 8′ table that most people would just slap together was an engineering marvel for Mike. It was glued and screwed together and hand finished to the point where you could almost see your reflection. It was so sturdy you could dance on it or in my case put thousands of dollars worth of work on it and trust it to still be there the next day. The really crazy part about Mike was his lack of interest in getting paid for what he was worth. I had to plead with him to send me a fair bill. I would have easily paid double what he asked but all he ever really wanted was my time.
Mike was funny that way. If you were among his close circle of friends there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you. His circle of friends expanded exponentially over the years due to his ability and passion for helping others. He never worked in a hurry and you had to be a little patient but we all were happy to wait for the end result that was always better than we had imagined. As I look around my house I am surrounded by Mike’s work. My tools in the garage hang from a simple hook system Mike created. My workbench was installed by Mike. I read my paper under a light fixture that Mike put up for me. I warm myself by the gas log fireplace that he volunteered to put in. We have keystone shelves in our basement that Mike invented. I kept several tables from the office that Mike hand built for me. With all of these things here to remind me of him, it just seems like he’s still here with me. I wish he was so I could tell him how much he still means to me.
Friends like Mike are like pure gold. I have so many fond memories of times we shared. Mike and I talked about everything from A to Z. There was no subject he couldn’t offer an intelligent opinion on and his sense of humor was even more wicked and liberal than my own. That was probably the basis for our friendship because I certainly didn’t have any skills that he needed. I did help him create a video production of his family history. He gave me way more credit for that than I deserved but it was my one area of expertise. I guess what I will always have to remember about our friendship was just how genuine it was. We didn’t make demands on each other and we weren’t inseparable but in every true sense of the word we were friends. He knew everything about me and he still liked me and I felt the same way about him. If I am to learn anything from his death it might be the importance of not waiting to tell people you love them. We are only here for a short time so expressing our appreciation to friends and family is the most important thing of all. We should all make time to share our feelings with others. Why would we ever want to wait? We’re not going to get a second chance and when the opportunity is gone we will regret it forever. I know I do. It has been a whole year now and I still think about Mike every day. The only thing that I find comfort in is a quote from Ben Franklin, ” A Brother may not be a Friend, but a Friend will always be a Brother.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.