It says a lot about Mike that he never let go of friends. I’m a case in point. We’d not worked together for seven or eight years, but still met for drinks on a regular basis. And then Don died and one thing led to another and we took that friendship a step further. All of that is told in For the Love of Mike.
Last week a group of Mike’s high school friends met at the Richmond Arms here in Houston. Not all were able to make it, and at least one is AWOL, but it was still a good gathering. A lot of Mike stories were told, as well as a few about his best friend Peter who was killed in a bicycle accident a year and a half ago.
Here is an annotated excerpt about how much Peter meant to me:
It was 100 degrees when I packed up the Honda CRV, which I’d bought with Mike’s life insurance. The Gulf Coast sky was nearly white with the oppressive haze that settles in during our third full month of unrelenting heat. I’d been up since before dawn, publishing on UK time because my boss was on holiday. Now it was my turn to beat it out of town. My house had become an air-conditioned prison and, without Mike, Houston no longer felt like home. I couldn’t get out fast enough.
I knew from the time the words “no brain function” sank in, this was going to hurt. And, I knew it was going to hurt far beyond anything I’d endured up to that point. But that still didn’t prepare me for the full force of the pain. It was time to seek solace with friends and family beyond Houston, which was rife with memories.
The first stop was Tyler, four hours north of Houston, to visit Peter, Mike’s best friend. I checked into a hotel in the relative cool of the piney woods, and drove across town. My GPS had me stop at an identical house just shy of Peter’s. Fortunately, the elderly, bathrobe-clad woman who opened the door wasn’t too alarmed by a stranger ringing her doorbell after nine p.m. I apologized and drove another block.
Peter looked thinner than ever. Shortly after serving as Mike’s best man at our wedding, he’d divorced Jackie and joint custody of their small daughter had caused him considerable concern.
I thought of Jackie as I walked past the living room where Susan and Mike and I had joined them for dinner shortly before the divorce.
Peter had kept their house, a large ranch sparely but elegantly furnished. In the wood-paneled, book-lined living room, I handed Peter a guitar case.
“I’ve got something I want you to have,” I said.
He opened it to find Mike’s gold-top Les Paul edition Gibson and was momentarily speechless, blinking back tears.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes, Mike would want you to have it.”