As I was on my way to Little Rock a few weeks ago, on a one-day trip for a work meeting, I sent a quick text near Russellville to a friend who lives there. (No, I wasn’t driving.) I hadn’t heard from him in a while. It was just a quick note: “Hey stranger! I’m driving by Russellville, so I’m waving in your direction!” It went unanswered, and I went about my day not thinking about it again.
John and I met on Match.com almost 12 years ago. I thought he was cute, and his profile was hysterical. He may have even included some Monty Python references, which sealed the deal – I had to meet him. We chatted by email quite a bit, and finally decided to meet at the Little Rock zoo with our daughters for a Saturday afternoon. It was fun, and he was still cute, but it was obvious there wasn’t a lot of romantic spark there. He was a bachelor who pretended to be looking for a relationship, but was really just happy to keep looking. We became great friends, and he even stood up with me at my wedding to the Hubster.
We didn’t speak to each other often, but we’d send an occasional email back and forth. Hecommented on my Facebook posts, and I would on his… it was one of those friendships that would have faded away completely were it not for the advent of social media.
Then early last week while I was on Facebook, I thought of him again. He’d been in NWA for the Bentonville ½ marathon in March, and he met my husband and I for lunch. We had a great time catching up and parted ways with big hugs. But I hadn’t seen him out there online for a while, and when I remembered that I hadn’t heard back after my text, I wondered. I sent him a message: “hey, where are you man?”
Then I felt that knot in my stomach as I looked at his Facebook timeline and saw that there had been no activity for a while… and I did what any friend would do. I Googled him.
“John Russell Baskin age 44 of Russellville died Sunday, July 8, 2012. He was born December 7, 1967 at Chula Vista, CA…”
I hate that I don’t know what happened. I hate that I don’t know how to find out. I hate that I wasn’t at his memorial service because I didn’t know about it. I didn’t know one of my friends had died. I hate that I didn’t know.
John was a great dad, a terrific softball coach, and a good friend. He was a listener, an encourager, and a caller of “bullshit” when he needed to be. He was funny, a smart-ass, loved his Cubs, and could quote Monty Python episodes by heart. He was a former member of the United States Army, and was proud to have served his country.
Even though I didn’t talk to him often, I’m so terribly sad that he’s gone. I will miss him dearly. And my husband reminded me the other day of something that kind of exemplifies our relationship. When we decided we were not really made for each other romantically, we made a pact that if we both turned 60 and were still single, we’d just shack up together. So, if I’m single at 60 with no one to shack up with, I’m gonna be pissed, John!!!
Rest in peace, my friend.