The pages in my memory can’t turn fast enough.
I see him sitting in a chair at the “Night of Remembrance” honoring Leroy and all those who had died of cancer that year at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He was there to remember Leroy and to offer a strong shoulder to me.
I see him standing in the parking lot of my local grocery store, waiting for me to bring out the balloons: 54 the year Leroy turned that age, then 55 the next year and so on. We would stuff the balloons into our cars until one day he said, “Maybe just one BIG balloon will be better, since we’ve run out of space.” We would get to the river’s edge and watch all the colors float up to heaven and we’d smile and tell stories.
I see him sitting next to me at the National’s game. We both loved baseball. This goes way back to when they played at RFK stadium before Nats Park was built. I caught the T-shirt shot out of the air gun one night: made him so jealous! When the Nationals moved to their new stadium, we continued to talk and watch baseball like two old pros. He loved his Yankees and I even forgave him that error in judgment! He was that kind of friend.
He suffered from Hepatitis C for many years, so he didn’t drink alcohol except on June 16th. That was Leroy’s birthday and we always met at our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner and a toast to the Big Guy. It was his one drink a year.
That is, until this past July when he called me to say that he’d been cured. No more Hep-C detected in his body. This called for a celebration and since it was also close to his birthday, back to the Mexican restaurant for our usual margarita toast and tacos. It was a joyous night.
Two days later he called to say he was in need of a colonoscopy. His voice had a sense of urgency to it. The scope showed signs of “something suspicious” said the doctor. More tests, more scans, more discoveries and a diagnosis of metastatic cancer.
His family had a surprise birthday party planned for him and they were determined to celebrate his big 6-0.
I see him walking into the restaurant and I hear the crowd yelling “Surprise.” Just a few of us knew what the real surprise was and we were sworn to secrecy.
His grandkids hugged him and laughed the night away. We all sang “Happy Birthday” and he gave a speech about how lucky a man he was to have such good friends and family. I see him smiling.
Just before I left the party that night, we hugged and he looked me the eye and said “I’m so sorry I’m going to put you through this again.”
I see him with tears in his eyes as he said those words. I told him I’d be by his side on this journey: whatever I could do to make it easier, I would do.
That was 8 months ago.
I can only see him in my memory now. Through my tears, I see him smiling.