Monday, September 26, 2011

Rest in Peace, Vlad

Last week I got a message from one of my favorite college buddies, Bob-O, that he and another pal would be in town for our upcoming college Homecoming. They're a little older than I am, so it's a Reunion year for them, but not for me. Even though it's less than an hour's drive, I typically only go for the big years: five, ten, 20, and eventually 25. But it would be great to see them I thought, and added the weekend to my calendar.

This immediately set off a "whatever happened to..." facebook search -- maybe I could re-connect with a few other old friends -- and I started first with one of my very, very favorite classmates. There's no way to describe him that would do him justice, except that I remember him best for the most contagious laugh I've ever encountered. It was impossible to keep a straight face in his company.

We saved each other seats in history class, where the new hipster professor never took roll, but instead, had us sign in. Every day, we would make up new aliases for each other and crack ourselves up. We eventually settled on "Vladimir and Buffy," and he would erupt in giggles every time the professor earnestly called on us with those names. Hey, we were 18. We might not have been that funny, but his reactions and his timing were inescapably hilarious. Whenever the professor would recount his 60s PhD memories from UW, Madison -- where police helicopters would circle over student protests as they spelled out human Fuck Yous on the ground -- his expressions would set us off, and we'd all but collapse in the aisles tittering.

We went our separate ways after college -- I went to grad school, and he went on to marriage, kids, and a long, distinguished career in the military which I'd read about occasionally in the news. He had been in officer training with my college boyfriend and I always knew he'd go on to great things, but we didn't keep in touch, except when we'd all re-convened briefly after a fraternity brother's suicide decades ago.Then he went off to war and multiple tours of duty in Iraq etc.

I had heard he'd retired, and I knew he didn't live nearby, so I figured it would be a long shot to find him in town on a non-Reunion year, but I did a quick search anyway, and immediately landed on a page that said, "Pray For..." and then his last name. When I clicked on it, I saw his daughter had last posted info for his memorial service in July, and then I read backward on the timeline and the long chronicle of his battle with cancer.

Too late, I said a prayer for him anyway. And I went straight to a basket on my coffeetable where I keep a couple dozen of my all time favorite photographs -- three of them are of him: two are from graduation day, and one is of him and several of his fraternity brothers the day we all packed to leave school.

Then I started reading some of the articles I could find about him, and was especially moved by this quote from a newspaper clipping where he described reunion festivities with his Dad during a visit home from Iraq, "'It's difficult to put into words,' he said with a smile. 'It's like you've been anticipating a movie -- something you've been waiting to see for a long time -- and now you're in the first five minutes and it's really good so far.'"

Rest in Peace, Vlad.

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