Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. In 1983, I started attending Deer Valley High School. It was overwhelming, at first, because it was so huge. I went from a school that had about 700 or so students (Madison Meadows) to a school with over 4000. I want to say there was something like 1200 incoming freshman that year.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who didn’t know a single person on that first day. I’m probably not the only one who didn’t know a single person at the end of the first week, either, but it sure felt like I was the only one.
One of the classes I took that first year of high school was typing. I could type a little bit already, so I think I figured it would be easy and I may have had to take typing because I was also taking journalism. I can’t remember exactly how I got there, but there I was. Stationed behind a medium brown typewriter, the color what I’m guessing would be fairly healthy poop, and the teacher decided that we would switch our seating assignments around. Apparently, some people did have friends and were talking too much.
Either way, my new neighbor was a guy named Derek. We became friends. Over those first few years of high school, we became really good friends. We would hang out after school, play basketball on my driveway, ride bikes around the neighborhood, and spent a fair number of quarters at the local arcade. We were very different people on many levels.
Derek was a military brat. Both his mom, Vie Lee, and step-dad, Larry, had served in the military and it was assumed that Derek would also do so when he got out of high school (he did). He was in ROTC, which I thought was pretty fucking stupid and I was a newspaper nerd. We were perfect, I guess, for being ignored by the freshmen girls.
We both liked music a lot. Derek tried and tried to convert me to the super Rush fan that he was, but I didn’t get really into them until later, and even then, I was never a “super” fan like Derek. As adults, for example, he took me and two other buddies to Vegas to see them play their 35th anniversary tour (or 30 or 25…I don’t know). It was 2003, I think, but that’s another story.
Today is his birthday, which I will probably always remember. He is 54 today. When we were teenagers, I think he was a pretty good friend to me, and I hope I was a pretty good friend to him. We went through a lot of growing up together and as life is sometimes apt to do, we eventually grew apart. For a time, I could even say that what I felt for him was bordering on hate.
I don’t feel that way anymore. I wish him well and hope that life is treating him the way he deserves to be treated. That may be good or bad, depending on the choices he has made since we last spoke. I don’t know how long it has been at this point. A decade? Not quite? I don’t know.
Things happened and as time likes to do, I have a different perspective on all the stupid things that went down. I’d be lying if I wrote something like, “it’s all water under the bridge now,” but as I learned to embrace forgiveness, I also learned that holding onto dumb stuff like anger is just a waste of time. It’s just stuff that happened and the words that were said about it over time are so long gone that it is hard to even remember the good, the bad, the ugly, etc., etc.
There was fun, though. There were laughs. No one was better at being the butt of everyone’s jokes than Derek, and he to his credit usually let things roll right off him. It just occurred to me that he had plenty of things to be pretty mad at me about over the years, so maybe in the cosmic perspective, we are even. I don’t know.
What I do know, though, is that in those lonely days of 1983 and 1984, Derek was there. We all need people sometimes and when I needed him, he was there. I know I was there for him a bunch of times when he needed me, so again, I think (and hope) we are in some way even.
Cutting people out of your life is hard to do. It’s necessary a lot of the time, but still hard. If it was easy, I guess the lesson to learn was that person was never a very important part of your life. Forty years ago, though, Derek was a huge part of my life, and he helped me feel like I was someone worthy of being friends with in a sea of unfamiliar faces.
Forty years ago today, I hadn’t quite met Derek just yet. He was turning 14 and probably, like me, wondering what high school was going to be like. I’m guessing Vie Lee and Larry got him something pretty cool for his birthday and, at some point in the following days, said something that made him feel guilty for being born. They were cool like that. I was always a little intimidated by them, although they were never anything but nice to me.
He liked hanging out at my house. My dad and Lori liked him, I think, and so did my mom. He would go across town on the weekends with me a lot and hang out. I can think back on those times and smile now. I hope he does too.
Happy birthday to the Mormon King of the Jews. (Inside joke)
See you tomorrow.
Me and one of the trolls.