Back Roads

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

“Running on Empty” – Jackson Browne

I was driving that night because I had enough gas in my pea green ’68 Ford Falcon to get us not only to, but back home from a dance at the Oteneagen Town Hall.  The term “designated driver” meant something completely different back then. It was all about the gas.

At any rate, there I was, chugging north on Highway 6 on a sultry Saturday night with a car full of friends I’d picked up along the way.  Dean was one of them.  I remember him climbing into the back seat, slamming the door shut and yelling, “Let’s GO!!!!!!!”

He was one of those guys in our class who was big and loud even in elementary school.  He had a great sense of humor and was mostly full of B.S. but he sure could make us laugh.  He was a guy who lived life out loud. This is what I remember about him.

I haven’t see him in years and hadn’t thought about that night in ages. And then, a couple of nights ago I read his obituary.   When you are in your fifth decade, your reasons for staying connected through the Book of Face change.

Dean was 54. He left a wife, grown children and seven grandchildren.  He lived in Texas, which seems fitting for a guy who was going big instead of going home long before anyone ever said that.  I read his obituary twice, remembering those years of running around on country roads searching for gravel pits and fire towers and campgrounds while listening to bad 70s music blasting from the radio in cars on the summer nights of our shared youth.

When you are from a small town with a small high school, you get to know everyone in your graduating class.  But kids grow up and move away from small towns because there’s a gigantic world with roads to travel all over it. And then every ten years or so, you see the faces of classmates and friends at reunions and play catch-up for an evening over beer and pizza before you get back on the road you’ve chosen.

The next time that happens, we’ll be sure to raise a glass to you, Dean.

Because we are surely going to miss that face of yours.


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