Today I buried my best friend. The one I laughed with and loved. When I think about Jerry, it's always the details that come to mind. The way he carried dog bones in the pocket of his hoody so that all the dogs would befriend him. The way I've seen him tear up at babies toddling around at the levee. Small trinkets he would bring me: a purple monkey full of candy that crashes cymbals when you press a button on his back, a Hello Kitty fan on a 96 degree day. He tried his hand at buying me girly things for Christmas one year, and I ended up with lip balm labeled "Lip Shit." I loved it so much that he got it two years in a row. The way we both used our Hard Rock Cafe toothpicks and stirrers as plant decorations. His was in his peppers, and I made my fairy garden rock out. The way he wanted to stop at every gas station looking for weird flavored chips, and then he would forget them in my car and text me telling me to give them to my kids. The way we would say the exact thing at the exact time. When leaving the Jimmy Buffet show, we both rolled our windows down, heard the buzzing, and said, "Cicadas." The way he tracked everything about his tomatoes from the first bloom to each one's circumference and weight. The miniature things he kept in his mandolin case for luck. Once he showed me an app that locates the constellations. Once he pulled me up and started dancing with me when they played "Purple Rain", and it really did start raining. In the fall, nobody got more excited about eating pawpaws, and I'd bring him some from the trees in my yard. And the holidays brought out his little Christmas tree with
Street and lizard ornaments. I always liked
looking to see what was new on that tree.
Jerry was always trying to take care of his friends and made his apartment a peaceful haven. Few people know how he took care of me when I was in crisis with my son, who is severely autistic and can get physically aggressive at times. I went into a major depression when I realized my son needed a higher level of care than I could provide in my home. I hadn't slept for days and was exhausted. Jerry took me in. I fell asleep on his couch multiple times, and every time I'd wake up covered with a blanket, while he'd be scrunched up in a chair watching television. He gave the best hugs and forehead kisses. He'd let you bum his hoody. One time I fell asleep with a drink in my hand and woke to him gently taking it so I wouldn't drop it. Another time I drifted off and fell over on him. Upon waking, I heard another friend say, "I want a relationship like that...where you can just fall into someone's armpit and pass out." He was comfort to me, a home.
We had such fun at the levee and going to concerts. He knew everything about any group that popped up on the levee schedule and educated me on them. He supported local musicians and donated to charity. He indulged me by going to nearly any show I brought up and no matter where, and people from all walks of life would come up and start talking to us. Jerry became buddies with this 21-year-old guy at the Tom Petty show who kept telling us that we were old enough to be his parents and that we were concert gods because we'd been to so many and that he'd been to only three and had been police escorted out of them all. Jerry kept his patience with this kid, whose friends had abandoned him, and he stayed with us through the whole show. Once a guy on a tricycle outside of a gas station chatted us up for a good hour. I thought he was going to follow us. In the parking lot at the Buffet show, Jerry rigged a blender so that it was powered by my car battery and made margaritas. Then he sat and played "Werewolves of London" on his mandolin.
*The goober on the left does not belong to us lol.
He had a zest for life and a childlike sense of amazement sometimes. He would get this way at concerts, and I also saw it at the Hardrock Cafe. He'd get excited over something and wander off to pursue it. It might be another musician playing off in the distance, and he'd grab his mandolin and follow the music. Sometimes he'd forget I was with him, and it took me a while to find him. Courtney and I started calling him "Where's Waldo."
He had a spiritual side that was eclectic. There were Buddhas filling his apartment and he often burned incense (Nag Champa). He celebrated Yule, Ostara, Mabon, and Samhain with me. He celebrated Christmas others. I know of at least one time he went to Christmas Eve mass at the Catholic church. Heck once we even celebrated the Flying Spaghetti Monster with the Pastafarians. And he did find Jesus...hanging out beside the McDonald's just last Easter. Then he sent me a text asking if I wanted a quarter pounder with cheesus. His gentle, kind, non-judgmental nature was more Christ-like than many I've encountered in organized religion, and I guarantee you he's probably in heaven right now turning water into very good wine and hosting a tasting.
*(Do you want a quarter pounder with cheesus?)
What I'd love most were the small, funny conversations we'd have, and some of the things he routinely said. The first time I was at his house and got up to go to the bathroom, he called out, "Be careful!" I said, "Why's that, Jerry?" He said, "Because you have to walk past the dead hooker room."
Once he agreed to go see Dwight Yoakum with me who was opening for Eric Church. We both enjoyed Dwight but weren't into Eric Church. Jerry said, "Let's go home so we can get ready to watch Saturday Night Live." I agreed and left with him. It wasn't until I got into the car that I realized it was only Friday night. Thereafter, I referred to it as the concert that was so bad we left on a Friday to get ready for Saturday Night Live, and he never could remember Eric Church's name and would grumble that Dwight Yoakum shouldn't have been opening for "What's-His-Nuts" in the first place.
Another time, we had courtside seats for the Harlem Globetrotters. Jerry had his flat cap on backwards and had on a pinstriped shirt. One of the Globetrotters stopped mid-game, came up to us and said, "Are you a writer?" Jerry laughed and said no. The player said, "Well you look like a writer!" I sat there nervously thinking Jerry was going to tell him I was the writer and signal me out, but he didn't. He recently sent me the picture I took and said, "Thank you for this hilarious and priceless memory."
Jerry surrounded himself with art and music. Peace and love were happy side effects. Dogs, babies, and women loved him. He had countless friends. He was an inspiration. Anytime I told him that my writing got rejected, he would text me how many times famous authors got rejected before being published or how many times famous athletes failed or made mistakes. He was excited that I was learning banjo, and when I told him I was planning on taking voice too, he said, "and then you'll sing with me?" I'm too shy to sing, but I'm going to do this. He inspired me to start my lessons again. He inspired me to come home and make something pretty, so I planted a memorial garden today. Every time I spent time with him, he instilled me with peace and inspiration. This is what friends, artists, writers, and musicians do for each other. We need each other.
*Allow me to introduce you to the "Jer-um" of which he wrote:
"I can't put into words how lucky I am to have each of these three lovely ladies in my life! We had such a great time! As always, of course..."
*His birthday night, and he loved that cake. Red velvet was his favorite.
Nobody else in this world could give us what Jerry did. None of us will ever have a friend like him again, but I bet many of you would be able to predict what he would say or what he would do. I bet I'm not the only one who could finish his sentences. And as long as we remember the essence of him, our friend is still with us. I wasn't prepared to write this so soon, but I felt that we needed it right now.
Life is a miracle. When you find someone your spirit has known for a very long time it's magical. Of all the people in the world, there are few you can pull on like your favorite jeans, few you can fall into like the softest most gentle blanket. You connect with folks like this because you've known them before. Your spirit finds them again in the current lifetime and says, "Oh! There you are. I've been missing me some you."
I'm grateful that we got to walk on the same path for even a day. Every day thereafter was a bonus. I got him a ornament for his little tree that said, "My heart and your heart are very, very old friends." I always felt that way. As if we knew from experience that time was limited and poured all we could into every visit, packed all the happiness and silliness into every day. In honor of him, I will continue to do so. And although I would give anything to cup that stubble roughened cheek again, to plant one more kiss on that forehead, to be gathered up one more time by those arms, I don't regret anything. There's no way we could have more fully enjoyed life or each other. Rest up, my friend, I'll find you again for our next round of adventures.