Remember how you used to tease me about my preference for dating military guys back when I was in college? I hit almost every branch of the service (even the Coast Guard!) but never could find a Navy sailor who fit the bill. You used to say, “Claudia’s entertained more troops than Bob Hope!” That was one of your better one-liners. (For the benefit of my reader, I married a Marine 12 years ago and am entertaining only him – and not nearly as often as he’d like, either.)
The other day I thought of another funny episode. We were at my friend Jackie’s house (this was years ago) and an acquaintance of hers was also there. The guy was a bit of an ass and got into a debate with you (about some nonsensical topic that I can't recall). You were having a lot of fun verbally sparring with him. Convinced he had the upper hand, he leapt to his feet and loudly asked, “Do you capitulate?” And you yelled, “Capitulate?! I’m not even breathing heavy!”
Some of your jokes were legitimately amusing and others were painful groaners. Either way, you kept delivering them, undeterred. At your funeral, many of the mourners talked about your sense of humor. Sometimes I still expect to turn on my computer and find some goofy Facebook update from you, usually a veiled sexual reference with some salty language thrown in for good measure. If you could find a way to keep sending them, I've no doubt you would. Your sister still posts on your wall sometimes - she misses you terribly.
Remember the time you came to Buca di Beppo with my family a few years ago? You sat next to my niece and played with her. We were celebrating my birthday and the birth of my nephew. After you died, my grandma remembered that dinner right away and talked about what a "nice young man" you were. Don't worry, I didn't tell her any different. You were always a good friend to me, cheerfully showing up at family functions and whatnot.
Did you know that a bunch of the old crowd got back in touch because of you? We all regret that your death was the catalyst, but I thought you would enjoy knowing that some of us found each other again. I had lunch with Dave Manley a couple days after the funeral (Remember how we always used Dave's last name at restaurants so that we could be the "Manley Party?"). I know he misses you. I also recall how Khau was mad at you for about six months because you paid your portion of the tip with change one time. "I can't believe that guy pay with change!" he would say in his not-quite-perfect English. And Chris, of course, would always look at the bill and remark, "Okay, who ordered sales tax?"
Chris and his wife Beth invited everyone back to their house after the funeral. We enjoyed a toast in your honor. I think we were all a bit stunned – we didn’t expect to be losing any of our classmates until sometime after retirement. And then, unexpectedly, you left us.
I can't seem to delete your email address from my address book. Or your old emails. I can talk about you now without fighting back the tears, the sharp edges of my grief becoming duller with time. Sometimes they still come. I miss you.