Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Friend Died

Normally, I try to avoid speaking of non hobby related stuff here. This blog isn't meant to be serious, it's meant to be full of dick and fart jokes and stupid stuff that I take way too seriously because I enjoy it so much. However, I tend to be a relatively private person and I feel I need a place to set up a soapbox or something and Facebook is a heaping pile of horseshit, so this goes here. 

My friend Mike died this past Friday. He was a Green Beret and he was in Afghanistan shooting people who were shooting him and he was killed. This isn't exactly a surprise, he's been in the military since we got out of high school (2001) and the United States has been involved in two wars for most of the time he's been in the military. When I was in my early twenties I made peace with the fact that Mike was going to walk into a bullet someday. He joined the military. His job involved blowing shit up and shooting people, what else should I expect to happen? When you join the military, the options for how you leave it are pretty binary. You know?

Mike and I circa 2004

There's a whole heap of irrelevant bullshit on Facebook about Mike and being a hero and dying a true warrior and people praying for him and thanking him for his service and shit. He had been awarded several medals over his thirteen years of military service, all for heroism/valor or for getting wounded in battle. I don't know if he's a hero (what's a hero?) or if he gave the last full measure or what. All I know is he joined the military to get money to go to college and ended up being good at it and liking it. I know he loved blowing shit up and he got to get paid to do that. I know he hated people being proud of him for joining the military and I know I told him I was proud of him for finding something he was good at and taking it seriously enough to constantly strive to be better at it. I know he was smart and funny. I know we disagreed on several political issues, but respected each other enough that we could discuss those points for four or five hours at time over drinks and not get snarky with each other. I know he died, and that sucks. Mike was good people, a better man than me, that's for damn sure. 

Mike and I were friends for a long fucking time, we grew up next door to each other. We played Legos and DnD and Magic together. We listened to similar types of music and he got me into a lot of different bands. We got pissed at each other and made fun of each other. We drank together and lit shit on fire together. We did all the childish things young men do together as they grow up, including pissing each other off. We grew apart, we reconnected, we grew apart, connected, and so on. 

It's hard for me to stay connected to people. I'm not interested in a lot and I don't really ultimately like people (aside from a small selection of individuals that I think are really truly the bees knees). Most people are too loud or too stupid or too needy or too incomprehensible or too whatever for me. Being in the military and not having a lot of common interests between us made it harder for Mike and I to stay connected. He didn't visit Michigan often, but when he did he always made a point of gouging out some time to fit me into. When he got married, he asked me to be one of his groomsmen. It was great, I got to wrangle four shitfaced Green Berets. Hell, he got divorced quicker than I did and allowed my marriage to be slightly less ridiculous in comparison. 

I found out Mike died on Saturday morning, I happened to wake up after being asleep for three or four hours and saw some texts and a voicemail from my friend Shawn about some Facebook nonsense. Someone jumped the gun and thanked Mike on Facebook for paying the price for their freedom. 

Let me just take a moment to say that it's really fucking creepy when people do that. Like seriously. Mike is dead. His Facebook page is not his ghost. Stop it. It creeps me the fuck out. 

So that was nice.

Like I said, I've been dealing with Mike dying since high school. Not periodically weeping over it, but like a self inflicted cut on my arm. It scabs over. You pick at it a little. It scars. You poke and prod at the scar. You know it's there and someday you might poke just a hair too much and it'll get infected and scar up worse. The scar thickens up and desensitizes. That's what I've been doing for a decade or so. I'm sad and a little bummed, but I have perspective I guess. I'm not crippled by it. Is it of any real or appreciable benefit? Not really. My friend is still dead and there will never again be a four or five hour respectful conversation about opposing political views over drinks.

When Mike's sister finally got a hold of me to talk to me directly and I could confirm with 100% accuracy that Mike fell to enemy small arms fire during a dismounted operation in Afghanistan, I didn't cry or anything. I felt bad for his sister, because it was only in the last few years as adults that they'd been able to reconnect after having a lot of troubles between them as children. I felt a lot of what the fuck because at some point in the last year or two (I forget the exact date, I think it's closer to two years ago, if not more) he'd driven over an IED and had become a science project because the force exerted on his body by the explosion and subsequent deceleration and impact against the ground should not have allowed him to live. But he did. There were tests and monitoring was done and it was a whole big thing. He was the soldier that lived. He even had some sweet scars to go with it. No lightning bolt ones though. Is that irony? Survive an explosion that should have turned your insides to soup, then fall to small arms fire?

I spent most of Saturday chuckling to myself or quietly smiling. I went to work and grew pensive at times, but in my head I was mostly just smiling. Because I was remembering Mike and all of those memories are good. He was a brother and I loved him like one and he is dead now and that's real fucking shitty. But he was good people and his stupid fucking smile and bat shit crazy brain could always turn everything up to eleven. 

Was he a hero? Was he a true warrior? Fuck if I know. He was my friend and my life was better for having known him. 

In closing, Mike Cathcart was good people and I miss him. 

Oh dear. Here come the tears. This is uncomfortable. 

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