Frankly, I’ve been a bit worried lately. My childhood friend Hal has sepsis and was in the hospital. He put a picture of his right leg on his Facebook wall and it looked like a rancid polish sausage.
I called Hal every day for a while to see how he was. He sounded terrible, and he was on the strongest pain medications they had.
Then, for a couple of days, he didn’t even answer his cell phone. “Uh oh,” I thought, and looked at his wall again, just to make sure he had not, uh, assumed room temperature, as Rush Limbaugh says.
Thankfully, Hal is alive, and back home recovering. But during those two days, when he wasn’t answering his phone, I later learned, also from Facebook (of course) that Hal had been in such bad shape that he had been given Last Rights by a priest.
Hal and I first met in 1979 when we were both freshmen in high school. Before I even really knew him, he made an impression; he was big and loud and funny and had a crazy head of blond curly hair. And he got kicked out of our math class almost every day. “Lucky bum,” I thought.
Then, we got to know each other a bit. He was friends with my middle school buddy Peter. So the three of us would go and toss the football around during our free period. Then, it turned out that Hal was good friends with my buddy Don, who I met on the basketball team.
Before long, Hal got his driver’s license and became the first of us to have a car. And he drove like a cross between Steve McQueen and a suicide bomber. I had never met anyone who intentionally drove into those giant orange, trash can shaped things they put up at construction sites, but Hal did.
Hal and I developed common interests in our late teens; like beer and pot and vandalism. Once, in midtown Atlanta, when we were both in our early twenties, we were driving down Ponce De Leon Boulevard when we spotted two burger king employees chasing what appeared to be robbers. Being good Samaritans, we jumped out of Hal’s pickup truck to give chase to the robbers as well. Luckily, I had the foresight to tell Hal “Get the gun!” meaning the 12-gauge shotgun Hal kept behind his seat.
He did grab the gun and as we ran after the bad guys, he fired off a warning shot.
Within seconds, Hal and I were on our stomach’s with guns to our heads and the feet of Atlanta city police officers on our backs. Sadly, the police misunderstood our obvious good intentions. One cop mentioned something about a law against discharging a firearm within the city limits.
A policeman told me to sit on the curb and stay put, while he questioned Hal in his squad car.
And then, the mushrooms we had taken an hour earlier began to kick in.
It was the most helpless feeling in the world, sitting on that curb, starting to hallucinate, watching Hal, leaning over the front seat and blabbering at the cop. “Hal!… please God, shut the hell up!” I kept thinking.
But Hal did not shut up. Hal kept talking and talking. And pretty soon he’s laughing. And before long, the cop was laughing too. I have no idea what Hal said, and he can’t remember now either, but apparently, it worked. Within about twenty minutes, Hal and I were let go, he with a bench ticket, me with no punishment whatsoever, and we went about our business of doing good deeds. However the police did confiscate Hal’s shotgun.
Hal and I have both grown up a bit since that day. But we are still friends. We will always be friends, even though he lives in Florida, and I live in LA.
We can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends. I am lucky to be Hal’s friend. In short, I love Hal. Not in a “gay” way (not that there’s anything wrong with that… etc, etc.), but like a brother.
Most of us have a small handful of people who really know us, care about us, love us.
Be thankful for those people, every minute of every day.
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