My freshman year in High school I had an English teacher named Ms. Van Horn. Karen, as some of the boys called her and surprisingly got away with, was unconventional. At an all boys school she wore outfits that were a little too revealing for young men who spent most of their class time with not only other boys but Jesuit priests. She assigned work that was sometimes never graded and assigned an awful lot of project work for an English class.
One of the first days of class we were instructed to pull out our textbooks and take turns reading. I sat on the far-right side of the classroom second from the front and behind me was a young man who sheepishly announced he did not have one yet. I offered to share and from that small gesture a friendship was born. We talked before and after class each day and eventually both go into Magic the Gathering playing after school and whenever there was down time.
The first time I went to his house was for a project (assigned by Ms. Van Horn no less). My father dropped me off and his mom had prepared snacks for us. We did not make much progress but had a blast looking for excuses to do anything else. He had a rec room in the basement and a basketball goal in his back yard. Andy was the second of four boys and there was a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.
Somehow, we eventually got that project done but found plenty of reasons to keep reconnecting. He lived across the street from a college that had a remarkably long and large hill that was the envy of every kid, teenager and trying to be cool dad for miles around when it snowed. The taper at the top provided enough momentum to carry you more than a football fields length towards the road. The walk back up sucked but it was oh so worth it.
One winter his neighbors house was being remodeled and was empty giving us a rare opportunity to access the concrete water runoff spillway that ran behind the neighborhood. Once covered with a nice glaze of ice this made for an experience very similar to the Olympic luge and we put it to full use. The same weekend his parents were away and just the two of us were left at their house alone. So naturally we took mattresses from the bedrooms, placed them below the catwalk in the living room and proceeded to leap over the railing like WWF wrestlers leaping from the ropes. It’s a goddamn miracle neither one of us died from our shenanigans.
We were both heavily involved in school activities, he into art and music and me into sports and the outdoors club. Despite our differences there we shared a passion for gaming especially the miniature game WarZone. We built a rudimentary gaming table in his basement with Styrofoam terrain. After several painting sessions with his two younger brothers and some other close friends, Matt, Jason and Mike we were ready to play. We could kill an entire weekend gaming, arguing over rules, having breakout nerf wars and watching Andy thrash on his drums.
When it came time to choose colleges I hemmed and hawed having my original plans sidetracked by a football injury and having to change high schools my senior year. Andy told me that he was headed to St Joseph to tour MWSU (Missouri Western State University) and I tagged along. My parents didn’t take me to any other schools, I didn’t have a career choice in mind and seeing as my best friend was headed there it seemed like an easy enough decision.
Andy (or maybe his mom?) was on top of things and he got all the paperwork in early, so he was able to make some decisions on classes and dorms with real options. I however was apprehensive and lacking in guidance so I submitted right before the deadline. We called asking to be roommate but as he was an early bird he got into a room with just one roommate and I had to share with two meaning we couldn't be paired. We were able to get into the same suite though making Beshears Hall our home for one memorable school year.
Like in high school we had different focuses, he was a music major and I was undeclared so I focused on core classes (which was really all that was left for me to choose anyway). Outside of class I was working at McDonalds, again like in high school, but we hung out when we were able. Very quickly though we found ourselves in different social circles and as time went on we saw less and less of each other. I was hanging out with Harold (Andy’s roommate) and Billy a mutual friend of ours with a bright yellow truck we “cruised the strip” in.
By the time our Sophomore year came I took Andy’s spot as Harold’s roommate and he took Andy’s spot as my closest friend. Life happened and we ended up going our different ways not speaking for years on end. In 2005 I was working for a local TV station covering the Jerry Lewis telethon and on one of my breaks got a call from an unknown number that turned out to be ole Andy. He was living in Florida and just thought to give me a call one day. And so our friendship went back and forth connecting only periodically.
In 2019 Andy and I connected again so that we could break out the old WarZone miniatures for a battle but this time I had two teenage sons to participate. It was a total blast form the past and 12 hours later we were barely able to resolved the battle. Later that year Phaedra took drum lessons from Andy briefly (she loses interest in things quickly at this age). Flash forward to Christmas Eve of 2020 and disaster struck.
A brush fire had gotten out of control and Andy’s garage went up in flames getting into the rafters filling the rest of the house with smoke and the resulting water damage from the fire department equated to a total loss of his home. Our closest shared friend Matt and I went out to help Andy go through the wreckage in single degree weather. There were sharp nails sticking up in the wreckage, cold winds and the water had frozen making it hard to pry things free but I was among my oldest friends. Matt and I tried to keep things light hearted and despite the event that brought us together that day Andy was in pretty good spirits. We hauled everything to his parents house then proceeded to shoot the breeze for a good hour before once again going out sperate ways.
Andy was my best buddy for a number of years and I still consider him a cherished friend. We’ve found different ways through life but we still seek each other out and hopefully always will.