Goodbye to a friend

January 19, 2009 | By | Add a Comment

I spent a lot of time on sleepless nights looking out my window at the other houses and watching the cars pass by. There was the vacant house next door and the house that always had the loud parties well into the night and then there was his house. It was the quiet house on the corner with the little light at the top.

My first memory of him was visiting that little house with a neighbor who knew him. He had just fished out his baseball cards from the basement and we were looking through them. I looked with great interest. He was about 10 years older and had cards from his generation that I had never seen. We found Tony Gwynn rookie cards and Cal Ripken, Jr. rookie cards and it was like gold to me.  The pictures and memories and statistics captivated me. I got to see what players looked like when they were younger and how old ballparks looked. I was in awe of the colorful uniforms of the Pirates and Astros. I learned facts about the players that I never would have known. As I examined his box of treasures, I will never forget how he treated me. He was welcoming. He asked me questions to get to know me. He was kind to me.

Later on, he became one of my coaches. There is something about a coach that always seems to stick and I can remember something about almost all of them. Many times they volunteer. That means that they’ve chosen to spend their free time in order to make others better. In many ways a coach is like a parent. They encourage, teach and discipline. They help us when we’re down and pick us up when we fall. They want us to do well and we want to make them proud. He was a passionate coach. He was about giving your best effort and being smart on the court and doing the fundamentals well. He was about winning.

During my senior year of high school he became one of my substitute teachers. I wrote an article for the school newspaper that year. I hadn’t really written of anything before for public consumption and wasn’t sure what to make of the whole experience. I was countering another student’s column and he complimented me on the article. He told me it was a fine rebuttal. The word “rebuttal” sounded important. Once again, he was placing value on me and sometimes we need others to value us before we can place more value on ourselves.

I housesat for him a few times and watched scary movies in the dark in the upstairs TV room while he was away. I could see how much he loved his dogs and knew he loved his family. I played in a few basketball games with him a few winters ago. He was happy to see me. This wasn’t unexpected, but remained impressive. From the first time I met him until the last time I saw him, he was always happy to see me.

We became facebook friends on November 21. I sent him a message. “Great to see you on here, I’m glad you saw me”. It was a short message. In hindsight, it was much too short. It didn’t come close to expressing how glad I was to be back in touch.

I heard the news yesterday. There will be no more status updates from him or opportunities to joke around. He is gone forever. And doesn’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? I will miss you, Bridegy. The world will miss you. It will continue to go on, but many lives will never be the same. I’m sure you had no idea how much you meant to me and I’m sorry that I never fully expressed it sooner. I know it’s too late, but I can’t thank you enough and will miss you more than you would’ve known. Thank you for caring about me and taking an interest in my well-being. Thank you for touching my life. You were my neighbor, coach and teacher. Most of all, though, you were my friend.

* * *

December 23, 2008
Thanks everyone for all your kind words and prayers, this helps me store many more memories of my father. He was a great man and I wish he could hear these stories and realize how many people who loved him. He will be greatly missed, and I hope he is now at peace. May you find happiness where you are dad. I love you <3
Ashley Bridgeman (Hudson, MA)

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