Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Returning the Favor

Some things in life are just too coincidental to be pure coincidence. Meeting my friend Mike is one of those things.

It was my first semester in college, and I was sharing a dorm room with my best friend from high school. Everyone told us it would be a bad idea, but we didn’t listen. It was a bad idea, so I quickly made friends with some people on my hall. Quite possibly the girl I got along with most was Megan – a crunchy kinda-sorta hippie who was from the Jersey Shore. She had gotten stuck as the 3rd person in a 2-person dorm room, since there was a housing shortage that semester. Really, either of her roommates could have been that 3rd person, but Megan showed up last of the three of them on move-in day.

One day I received a call from a guy who was in the Navy looking for his buddy who had lived in my room the previous year – he was coming to visit and I quite obviously was not this guy’s friend, and no, he could not stay with me if he could not locate him. I wound up tracking the guy who use to live in my room down via the university e-mail system and hooked him up with his buddy.

Several days later I was having a smoke downstairs, and Megan was standing with me, waiting to be picked up by some random guy she had just met in the cafeteria or somewhere else no one else ever gets asked out. He eventually shows up and comments that he used to live in our building last year.

“What floor,” we ask, to make conversation.

“13th,” he said – same as us.

I asked him what room, and he gave me my room number.

“Wait,” I said, “Do you have a friend in the Navy?”

“Yes!” he said, “Are you Tara?”

No shit – it was the guy who I had tracked down earlier in the week. What are the odds? We were at a major university full of tens of thousands of students, after all.

The guy (I can’t remember his name) asked me if I wanted to come along on his and Megan’s date to a party across campus. After some reluctance, I decided to go. The guy told us that we were heading to the basement of the Residence Tower where these guys lived that held a party every Thursday night. It had apparently been going on for a while and was a lot of fun.

I don’t remember much about that night, except that I know I met a lot of my best friends there, including Mike. He lived in the big room on the end, and I’m sure we chatted a fair portion of the night, because he wound up asking me out.

Fast forward to that date, and that’s really my first coherent recollection on Mike. He took me to the Towson Diner – the old one that was dreary and brown with orange shag carpet. We chatted over coffee, and the usual questions came up – where were you born, where did you live, etc. Turns out that we had both lived in Phoenix, Arizona as kids. Mike went on talking about his house there and how there was a playground across from it, describing my playground and my neighborhood to a "T".

“I broke my leg on that playground when I fell off the fence,” Mike said.

“Wait!” I said, “That was YOU? I was there – I remember that! I was on the swing just to your right!”

Turns out that we had lived on the same street as kids and played at least amongst each other on the playground. Since then I had lived in Georgia, Mississippi, and Maryland, and Mike had lived in France and New Jersey. We both found it completely random that the circumstances allowed us to meet again, 14 years later, but we also found it kind of cool. Mike and I didn’t wind up dating, but we did become good friends.

It’s through those parties held in Mike’s dorm room that I met many people I know and am friends with today – either directly or indirectly. The two of us actually helped bridge some of the various friend groups into one massive group. My mom always use to tell me that my friends shouldn’t be more important than my family, but what she didn’t realize is that these people had become my family and still are to this day.

When my dad died, Mike was there – he called, he e-mailed, and he came to the wake and funeral. His mom had passed away not too long before that, and having someone who knew what that type of loss was like and who I could talk to was really wonderful.

I remember Mike saying, “Welcome to the club, kid – it’s not something you can voluntarily join, but you’ll realize that we’re here for you, and after the shock of this passes you’ll be able to welcome others into the club and provide support for them too.”

Luckily I hadn’t been put in that situation – until now. After I finish typing this, I’ll be heading off to Philly to attend Mike’s dad’s funeral.

I remember celebrating Mike’s college graduation with his parents at our old haunt, The Kent Lounge. His parents were the first parents I remember who treated me as an adult, and not just as their kid’s friend. I think Mike’s dad became an even closer friend to him in the past several years, once he moved out to Vegas. I can only guess that’s why Mike proposed to his girlfriend, Megan (different Megan), while they were out visiting his dad several weeks ago.

It’s bittersweet. I found out about both the engagement and the passing within a matter of days, and although I was super excited that Mike was now engaged, my heart also hurt knowing this moment couldn’t ever fully be enjoyed.

But today we are going to celebrate the life of Edward Snyder – dad and friend. I hope that as Mike’s extended family we can help ease the pain by providing him all our love and support.

Coincidence or not, we love you, Mike.

1 comment:

Big In Day-town said...

That was a beautiful encapsulation of college, friendship, life, death ... everything. Especially how you noted your friends have become your family - I feel the exact same way.

Kudos!