January 16, 2003

The last e-mail he sent me is still sitting in my mailbox, waiting for a reply.

He dropped us a line when David and I finally finished the 2,002 in 2002 last month. "Only have a second," he wrote, "but CONGRATULATIONS!" I remember how pleased we were to hear from him: we'd been out of touch for a while, and then I'd managed to lose all of our archived correspondence in The Great Computer Crash of '02. So it was nice to reconnect with him again. I immediately moved his message into my "TBA" folder ... to be answered when I had more time, and could inquire at length about his job, his holidays, his lady love, his oft-postponed plans to visit the Bay Area.

But I never got around to answering him.

He is still subscribed to the *FootNotes* Notify List: I checked today. I don't have the heart to remove him from the list altogether, so I've simply changed his subscription option to "No E-Mail."

To tell you the truth, I don't remember exactly how or when the two of us began corresponding. Unlike most of the other people in my core group of cyber friends -- including The Bobos and The Grillaz and my darling husband and that fat grumpy old Australian bastard who never writes to me anymore -- I didn't meet THIS guy in the Baby Boomer Chat Room during the summer of '95. Yet we hung out online with a lot of the same people: our cyber social circles intersected in interesting places. I have a dim recollection of seeing his screen name pop up, from time to time, on the old Boomer message boards ... What Do Women Want, B3 Buddies, Brushes With Morons, UFO. I was more of a message board lurker than active participant in those days -- that's still the case, actually: message boards are more David's thing -- but *FootNotes* got mentioned on those early boards, every once in a while. At some point he must have written to me ... perhaps in response to something he read on my website. (I'm thinking it may have been The Great Plagiarism Scandal of May 2000.) There was never any flirty stuff between us. We weren't best friends or anything. We didn't even write to each other all that often: maybe one e-mail every other month, plus the occasional snail mail exchange, during the entire two or three years we were friends. But he was smart and funny and unfailingly kind, even towards the unapologetically stoopid, and he wrote well, and whenever I opened my mailbox and found one of his e-mails waiting for me, I usually read it before I read anything else. Plus he gossiped better than a lot of my cyber girlfriends.

I'm going to miss that.

He was a good friend of *FootNotes.* He was especially interested in anything I wrote about my relationship with David: about meeting my soulmate online, about the pain and peril of long-distance romance, about the exquisite joy of sharing our lives together at last.

It was a subject near and dear to his heart.

Yesterday I finally found his obituary on the Internet. I've been checking his hometown newspaper online, the past few days, looking for more information ... perhaps an address where David and I could send flowers. I think I was hoping not to find a death notice, actually. That would mean that maybe he wasn't really dead, after all: that the rumors were unfounded, that it was all just some sort of twisted Kaufmanesque hoax, that he was going to pop up on Super Fun Time any moment and say "Hahaha! Gotcha!"  But then I typed his name into the search window again, yesterday morning, and up popped a beautiful, detailed, thoughtfully-written public tribute to our friend.  It was all there. 44 years old. Untimely passing. No immediate family. Fondly remembered by many close friends and loved ones. Dedicated to his profession. "Among his many interests," it says in part, "[he] was an avid 'Big Car' Indy Racing fan and historian, a veteran pyrotechnician, and wild about old Warner Bros. cartoons." This makes reading his obituary a tiny bit easier: knowing that it was written by someone who obviously knew him and loved him well.

Not a lot easier, mind you. But a tiny bit.

Ironically, one of his last posts on David's Super Fun Time forum was in response to the untimely death of another SFT poster, just last month. "I'm reminded once again how many times we leave things unsaid, unfinished," he wrote on the forum on December 2nd, just after OldeRocker suddenly passed away. "And then someone dies, and we lose the chance forever." At the time, I remember admiring the succinct and eloquent way he'd expressed what we were all thinking. But now his words seem eerily prescient. Did he know? Did he sense it coming? Did he know in advance that he would go to sleep one night, slightly more than a month after he posted that message ... and never wake up?

Probably not. But it's hard to read his words now without wondering.

There really isn't much else to tell you. In lieu of flowers, David and I will make a donation to The American Heart Association, as his obituary requests. The link is provided below, in case you'd like to do the same. On Saturday morning -- at the same time that his Remembrance Gathering is taking place, two time zones away -- we'll stop on the bike trail and observe a moment of silence for our friend. In his honor, we'll try to remember to pay more attention to the things and to the people that matter. At the same time, we'll work a little harder at not leaving the important things unsaid. I don't imagine he would have required much more of us, under the circumstances.

But goddammit ... I wish I had answered that last e-mail.

to honor a friend

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