Of all the terminal diseases you wouldn’t want to have, ALS is way up the list. One day you’re fine and then the next, something’s weird. And so it was with one of my old high school buddies with whom I reunite yearly. Fine one year…and then with a cane the next.
Victims of the dreaded affliction descend into total paralysis quickly. And usually, they die within a couple of years. Eddie lasted for quite a while. Maybe 5 or 6 years, thanks to wonderful health care and an amazingly devoted wife and family. Once he was completely bed-ridden, we’d take the LIRR out to the old town and party as Ed lay motionless with only his eyes left to communicate his approval. We acted like Ed was fine until that moment we left, when each would have his personal communion with the old boy.
Joan, his wife, was effusive in her appreciation for the visits we paid. She made like it meant everything to her and Eddie. And all I could think was “What a token gesture it was on our part.” And yet, it seemed so substantial to her.
Eddie finally and mercifully died last week. The boys had already planned to convene in late January to visit. We’ve decided to go out there anyway in his memory. For her part, Joan offered to come into Manhattan to meet with us. And it looks like she’ll be joining us in Ed’s stead from here on out.
It’s hard to know where Ed is now. But if he’s looking down, I know Ed’s wearing a big smile on his face. I guess when it all gets boiled down, old friendships are the most meaningful. So Eddie…if you’re reading…we’ll keep the home fires burning and make sure we do our part to keep your faithful wife, mother to your sons, and grandmother to your grandkids happy. It’s the very least we can do. May you rest in peace.
P.S. The above photo was taken 9/13/14. Below are the boys from over a decade ago before Ed joined the group.