Monday, March 17, 2014

ode to Joe

I met Joe during my second year of Junior College.  He was a basketball recruit and a nice guy, I don't even remember our initial meeting nearly 30 years ago, but I remember Joe.

He was an easy going guy and he made friends easily.  Basketball and soccer were his sports.   He wasn't all that tall, but he was fast and coordinated and it was clear why the coach had recruited him.  I thought he had very nice legs too :).

We used to hang out.  My art class got out after dark, and Joe would often be waiting for me outside the art room to walk home with me.  I remember one time, he borrowed a friend's bike so we could go for a bike ride.  One of his tires popped shortly into our ride, though, so we ended up just going for a hike.

I vividly remember sitting on a ridge in the sun, looking over the little sex change town, just relaxing.

"This is really nice", he said.  "We should do this again... bring food and stay up here longer".

One night after work, I met up with Joe.  We went to a friend's apartment for a while.  Joe seemed different.  I sensed that he'd been drinking.  He got a little too aggressive with me, and I decided to leave.

A few days after that, a friend and I were going up to the city where I live now for a long weekend, and Joe asked if we could give him a ride since that was his home.  So we gave him a ride and dropped him off.  The next time I saw him back at school, he was covered in hickies.  I didn't hang out with him much after that.  He stopped coming around the art room.

I graduated and left town, and didn't think much about Joe after that.  Until yesterday.

The local newspaper ran a story about a local homeless man who'd recently died.  The story retraced his life as a gifted athlete from a local high school with a loving family and how drugs and alcohol had changed everything.

I didn't recognize the 48-year-old man in the obituary photo, but I recognized the photos from his high school yearbook.  It was Joe.

I read the long story, partly in shock, remembering the Joe I knew.  How could this be the same guy?  I never would have foreseen his life ending up that way.  

the Joe I remember

Rest In Peace, Joe.



Anonymous said...

Wow. I imagine that news is quite shocking. Sad too. Especially since his troubles seemed to start so young.

terri said...

We hear about the deaths of homeless people often enough that most of us are probably pretty numb to the news. But when you're able to put a face to that homeless person, as you were with Joe, the tragedy of it all is suddenly so much more obvious. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. May he rest in peace.

Riot Kitty said...

That is so sad. Addiction is such a powerful thing. I thought that journalist did a great job of showing your high school classmate as a real person - someone with dreams who got into a terrible cycle. So sad. I'm sorry.

Guano said...

We grew up with a lot of people like that.....relatively happy, marginally talented, seemingly promising futures....and all the cusp of ending up a "have" or a "have not". I didn't know Joe, but I knew a lot of guys & girls just like him when we were in that high school-to-college transition. His story is a reminder of the fragility & precipitousnous of the paths taken take in that chapter of growing up.

Rock Chef said...

Another sad story that makes me more and more conscious of the fact that we are entering an age where most of the news we get about friends is going to be bad rather than good...

Anita said...

Yes, I can imagine that you were shocked. A recent drunk driver incident happened in my county. As I was watching the news, my ex neighbor's mugshot pops up on the TV as the driver. I almost screamed. He's a doctor with 3 kids whose wife was killed in a traffic accident 10 years ago. Ironically, the woman (running with her husband) he hit was a mother of 3 also. Addiction is horrible.

agg79 said...

Very sad. We all make choices in life and many of those choices have consequences. Seems like he started down that path a long time ago.