I loved Shane the way you love an old sweatshirt or your 16-year-old family dog. Not that that’s a bad thing at all. In fact, I’d say that’s probably the best kind of love to have. It’s the kind of love you know will always be there. It’s comfortable and loyal and makes you smile when you’re tired.
He told me once that if we hit that “magical age” and still found ourselves single, we’d just have to marry each other. That’s the kind of friend he was.
I still remember the day I met him. He looked up at me with his shy, friendly eyes and grinned as he shook my hand. I knew that was a grin I wanted to get to know.
I don’t think he ever understood why we were friends, why I stuck around. He didn’t know what he was to me, and didn’t believe me when I told him. But he was the world to me, really. Whenever I needed someone to talk to so I could make sense of whatever was happening at the time, he was there. When I needed a shoulder to cry on or a good laugh at a lame joke or a Snickers® and a Pepsi, he was there. He was even there when I wanted company on a two hour drive to visit my sister for the afternoon. He was always there.
I’m pretty sure his four favorite things in the world were spaghetti, Snickers®, Pepsi and Fazoli’s®. Sure, he loved baseball and Duck Hunt, but buy him a spaghetti dinner with unlimited breadsticks and he was the happiest guy in the world. I loved seeing him like that.
I think the hardest part about living, for him, was how much he genuinely cared about other people. He tried so hard to carry the weight of everyone else’s grief so that they wouldn’t have to do it themselves. He ached for people he didn’t even know. I miss that about him. It’s a rare thing to find someone with that kind of compassion. He wanted to fix the world but felt completely helpless as to how. And I think he hated that about himself, his utter inability to eliminate suffering.
He used to call me “cowboy” and tell me that he loved me. He never failed to let me know that: “If I were a dog, I’d probably bark at you.” He always wanted me to call him “my sexy friend” and would pat me on the head whenever I complied. He was funny without even trying. He tried to let me win when we played basketball, but even then I couldn’t beat him. He had countless stories of all the pretty girls he saw on the bus that he almost had the courage to talk to that day. He called me on Christmas to tell me he missed me. And, of course, to tell me about his cool new digital camera. He listened to jazz with me. His car always smelled like peaches. I still can’t smell a peach scented car freshener without thinking of him.
When he died, my world came crashing in. I just couldn’t believe that one of my best friends, the man who had always been there for me, was gone. I ached to share my grief with him. It’s been a year now, but I still think about him a lot. There’s so much I miss about him, so much that won’t ever be the same. But I know I won’t ever forget him or his friendship. He left a part of himself with me, and that’s what makes me okay.