A friend of mine is dying…. Well, I wouldn’t really call him a friend. I’ve always thought he was just about the pinnacle of coolness, but I’m pretty sure he never really liked me very much. In his defense, I spent most of my life as complete tool–especially most of the part that he was around me. When I started kindergarten, he was in first grade, and we went to the same school up until college…. But I never REALLY got to know him, and he never really got to know me either. As I write this, cancer is ending his life. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. Here are a few memories of a person who has touched my life in some cool ways:
Like I said, I was quite a little tool when I was a kid. I didn’t have a dad around, and it took me a lot longer to figure out who I was than most kids. Sometimes, when other kids would do something I didn’t like I would let them know that I was going to go “tell the teacher” on them…. at which point I would promptly hide in the bathroom for a few minutes, and then come back and tell them they were “in big trouble.” I knew enough about coolness to know that I didn’t want to BE a tattletale, but not enough to know that I didn’t want everyone to THINK that I was a tattletale. Anyway, Brent was one of those kids that I would fake tell on…. Not a great first impression.
He could draw like a professional even in middle school. I copied everything he did. I liked to draw, but I was the sort of kid who would TRACE a dinosaur or a Garfield comic…. Brent would make his own. He was imaginative, and I was imitative. He drew comics that were instantly recognizable as his, and they were always cool. He drew these perfect cartoon noses, with these lips that would come right down from the nostril. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I think that when you are cool, imitation is just annoying. To this day, if I am near a dry erase board, a lot of the times I will try to impress people with a cartoon that I’ve drawn. But it’s not mine. It’s Brent’s. I just got pretty good at copying him.
And even now, when I sign people out at the restaurant (to make sure they did all their side work) I sign them out with a little box with my initials in it. CJB, with the J in the middle. People ask me what it is, and I’m like “It’s my initials. See? There’s the C, there’s the J, there’s the B.” And they are impressed with my creativity. But it’s not mine. It’s Brent’s. He made one with a BTS, with the T in the middle, and I just copied his idea. I have good friends whose middle names I couldn’t tell you if you threatened me, but I’ll be able to tell you Brent’s middle name if I live to be 80 years old.
We played soccer on the same team through junior high and high school. At some point in junior high, it became funny to pull people’s pants down when they least expected it (as an aside, it remains funny to this day). Some time around 7th or 8th grade, I made the mistake of pulling Brent’s shorts down before our soccer practice. I was emboldened by our cordial teammate banter, and I “pantsed” him. As occasionally happened, the undies came down along with the Umbro shorts, and we were right there in the middle of the hallway. With people around. I don’t remember exactly how the next part happened, but in one motion Brent pulled up his shorts and leapt toward me like a pissed off spider monkey, and in a flash I was on my back with Brent using one hand to grab my shirt and the other pulled back in a fist ready to punch me in my face. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I ever touched him again he would kick the crap out of me. I learned an important lesson that day…. That lesson? At any moment, Brent could kick the crap out of me if he wanted to.
With Brent’s help, I learned another lesson as well. Fast forward to high school, and I’m in Mechanical Drawing with Brent and mostly just a bunch of other guys in the class. I left to go to the bathroom, and as I was walking back I heard my name–“Bosco”–and I waited outside the door for a bit. A couple of people were talking about me, and Brent was one of them. He said something along the lines of “Don’t you think Bosco is a complete dork?” And an amazing thing happened: Two people I admired (and who were way cooler than I could ever hope to be) stood up for me. One said, “I like Bosco.” And another said, “Yeah, he’s alright.” It was a defining moment in my life–The recognition that there were people in the world who could genuinely like me. And even admit it even when I wasn’t around…. Even though I was so clearly and unmistakably a giant dork.
And I don’t blame Brent one bit for being annoyed by me–If anyone had a reason to, it was him. I never really got to know him, and he never really got to know me. But something about that moment–when these two cool guys stood up for me against someone as cool as Brent–made me actually believe that if people just got to really know me, they would like me. And I’ve been telling myself that ever since….
I didn’t really keep track of him after high school, but through the miracle of Facebook, I got to know a little bit about him again. I know he is still a life that shines so brightly, even as that light dims. I know he doesn’t agree with some of my views on life and politics and whatnot (It’s hard to believe, but those sorts of people are out there). I know he has a beautiful wife and two beautiful boys who are hurting right now, and I know that their love has inspired me these last few months. And I know I thank God for Brent’s life, even though we never got the chance to become friends. He is still so impressive to me…. From his artwork, to his style, to playing the drums to Van Halen’s “Jump” at a school talent show. He was a giant of my childhood, and he probably never knew it. And I think if he had ever gotten to know me, he would have really liked me.
If you are interested in helping Brent’s Family through this very difficult time, and you want to make a donation to send the family on a much-needed vacation, you can do that RIGHT HERE. Thank you.