Long ago (really long) I had three very close friends. We saw each other daily more or less. We worked together on rebuilding a theater, we ate together, hung out together, and shared a few million laughs. To this day, we are friends. We may not see each other often enough, but when we do it's always comfortable.
As a youth, I new their fathers in addition to my friends. Each was his own man, with his own foibles and personality, just like my dad. Each of them shared traits that at the time I didn't see, but now in the long view I can see them clearly.
They loved their sons, and they were dedicated to their sons becoming men, not just bigger boys. Each of them in their own way ensured that we knew that we weren't as smart as we thought we were. None of them did this with a heavy hand, they used their wit and with gentle reminders of the facts that we, as big boys, ignorantly overlooked.
Each of these men became somewhere between acquaintances and friends of mine when I was finally an adult. I worked for my father many times, and he taught me so much about working with my hands that I can't even begin to catalog all of them. One of them graced my home as an occasional guest for some 30 odd years. I acted onstage with another one, who had been my drama teacher so many years ago. I went to work for one a few times in one of the most arcane jobs I've ever held - assistant pipe-organ technician.
None of them were young when I first met them, and one by one they have left us to fend for ourselves.
First, Dave's father Allen passed away. His son took over his business for a time, and now breeds show dogs and still works in the theater that I acted in under the tutelage of one of the other men.
Then my father passed away. That left a pretty big hole in my life, as you might imagine. No longer could I share what I had done with the man that had taught me so much.
Then Bill's father passed away. His memorial gathered about 750 friends, family, and former students - some of them famous, others just passionate about how much they had learned. A few months before he died I shared a stage with him as he portrayed Thurston Howell III. It was moving.
This last week, My friend Fred, Julian's dad passed away. He had delighted us with stories of his youth, impressed us with his skills as a jeweler, and been one of the most jolly fellow I've ever known.
I knew these good men for a good long time. Each of them was a great man each in his own way. They weren't rich and powerful, but they had a big effect on me and I'll miss each and every one of them for a long time to come.