For You, Nathan

May 7th, 2005

I went to an old friend’s funeral and memorial service on Friday. It was an odd experience. I haven’t spoken to Nate in over 10 years. I went to grammar school with him and knew him through Bethel Church’s youth groups throughout my jr. high and high school career. I used to go over to his house for Monday Night Football every week. We formed a “club” called CCA (Church Cutters Anonymous) that wasn’t a serious club, but we took our church cutting very seriously. Along with a gaggle of anywhere from 1 to 5 other people, we’d stealthly slip out the church doors, dash across the parking lot (a place with surprisingly little cover for a group of adolescents escaping from the bounds of a 2-hour church service), and wind our way down to the Winchell’s. I remember that he liked coffee, too. We’d drink a few crappy cups, eat a few donuts (I liked the cheese muffins at that age), and scamper back to the church in time for the end of service, pretending all the while that we’d been there for the thrilling sermon on…who knows what.

At First
My mom told me about Nate’s death on a Sunday and I can’t say that it affected me immediately. I mean, how much can that news affect you when you haven’t seen the person in over a decade? Certainly, I was sad, but only so much. That Monday, I received an email from a long-lost friend and several things fell into place. Seeing Daniel’s name (the long-lost friend, as in 5 years long-lost), along with Kevin’s name (a third associate) and Nate’s name, brought back memories of dinner theater, a flooded car during a Sunday evening session of CCA, viewing Streetfight together (and creating Bear and Rabbit nicknames after a complete failure to understand the film), and a summer where the four of us spent considerable time together.

Ducks on the Pond, Ducks on the Pond!
I wasn’t the closest of friends with Nate or Kevin, but those two and Daniel played a large role in the development of who I am today (like it or not). And when I met up with Daniel and saw Kevin on the cemetary grounds, I almost felt myself slipping back into my old role, my old habits. I even did something at that moment that only a young Todd would have done and I was shocked to have done it (it wasn’t a major thing and probably no one noticed, but I did and I felt a fool for it).

Seeing Nate’s mom, Mackie, brought back another flood of… emotions more than specific memories. Another old friend (Chris) was there and I fell into the same casual conversation with him that I always do, one that takes place as if no time at all has passed since we last spoke. Steve was there, too, and he offered his “cup of pain” shortly after his patented iron-grip welcoming handshake, a handshake we all tried to outdo from the ages of 14-18. We never could outdo that grip.

But past all this, I wanted to see more of what Nathan had become, to hear stories of the crazy things he’d done in the past decade. During the funeral and the memorial, I heard a few things that let Nathan creep back into my head as if he’d never left (Kevin’s memories were perfect: the leather jacket, the Cavaricci pants, the mustard-yellow shirt, spot on!). I imagined him bursting through the door with the posture and strut that Nathan had back in high school.

Where’s The Memorial?
Instead of memories being shared and Nathan living on in our heads, what we got was an extended alter call. We got a sermon of sorts, one that the Nathan I knew would be bored to sit in on and would draw pictures with me on the donation envelopes to pass the time (those envelopes were great because the closed envelope flap would show one expression, the opened envelope flap would show another, and an instant animation would take place!). I want to remember the things I forgot about Nate. I want to sit around and talk about old times. I want to see pictures of who he was back then and who he became later in life. I don’t want to get into an ideological argument over the existence of God. Yeah, maybe Nathan would have wanted us all to “come to Jesus” over his passing. But maybe he wouldn’t want to cause arguments, either. Maybe he’d want us all to remember him, to laugh at the things he used to do, to keep him alive in our memories.

That’s what I want to do for him.

The details are foggy, but the conversation is clear. The year is 1993 (or is it 1992?), late in the year, and I am showing Nathan the ’86 Bronco that I’d bought after my accident in April of my senior year. I feel so happy about it and am thrilled at the condition of the vehicle, so much so that I call it “almost like new.” Nate is a car salesman and he expertly points out problem after problem with the car and just shakes his head about my purchase. He makes a sarcastic comment about the car being “almost like new.” He could be a jerk sometimes.

I am not in the popular crowd in high school and that stigma carries over to church youth group cliques, too. Nathan doesn’t care about that and we hang out anyhow. There are times when he wandered off to be with the popular kids, but we are friends. In the company of Daniel and/or Kevin, Nathan and I get together to eat or watch movies, celebrate anything we can, go to church parties, whatever. There’s a faint memory of talking about literature, but I can’t quite place it. Maybe it’s a late night dinner at Marie Calendar’s.

I remember camping trips that the church took. At one in particular, this guy Jonathan throws an unopened can of root beer into the roaring fire everyone’s roasting marshmellows (or just *being* mellow) around. I am afraid it will burst open and hurt people so I take to getting the can out of the fire with a long stick. Jon is laughing his ass off, pointing. The can explodes and I am covered in hot, sticky root beer. This cinches it for Jon and he completely loses it with laughter. I see red and scream at him “I’ll kick your fucking ass, Harwell!” Mind you, this is a church function. After I stalk off to clean myself up and a few hours pass, everyone is asleep. I run into Nate while wondering over to the bathroom later that night (he doesn’t sleep at all during this trip, I think) and we talk about what happened. I seem to recall Nate says that he supports my taking Jonathan down. It isn’t much, but it is typical of the kind of support Nathan had for his friends. This is all just to say that I remember talking with Nate about significant things (well, significant at the time) and him helping me reach conclusions. Maybe it’s Nate I talk to everytime I overanalyze things in my life.

What do you remember? Have any pictures to post? Have I forgotten things? Am I way off base?

One comment on “For You, Nathan”

  1. Daniel Ferrante Says:

    Nathan was my side kick in “Tied to the Tracks”. I was the villian, he was my yes-man. But in that play, Nate’s character (whose name escapes me) was working against me (and he wasn’t an indian, he was a vegetarian!). This is how it was with Nathan. He always appaeared to be on my side, but sometimes he was working against me.

    Maybe that’s why I said what I said to him back in 99. To piss him off for what he’d done to me in High School. It was a cheap and ruthless comment I made. And I’m sorry that it’s the last thing I ever said to him.

    I miss him now. And while I can’t apologize to him for what I did, I’ll make a point to not be so shallow and cold in the future.

    I’ll see you on the other side.

    Daniel

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