Monday, August 04, 2008

Cheri Smith Kinney
OGHS Class of 1969

Sometimes life throws a curve ball. Not that it's all about me. Why is my friend's death hard for me to handle? I mean... she's the one who is dead.

I remember Cheri as one of my first friends at OGHS. She and I had PE lockers right next to each other. I suppose when you're naked with somebody -- especially a stranger in a strange land -- a certain amount of intimacy develops. We laughed and danced and goofed off and watched the senior guys trot out to PE every morning, all school year. At OGHS in 1966-67, classes ran all year, September to June, day in, day out. Same schedule, start time, end time, teachers, paths, faces. We were stuck with each other -- the roll of the dice that placed you in the right time and the right place, or hell in a handbasket. Cheri and I were fellow prisoners in French class for two years. That and the gym locker and the way we both approached life with a Glass Half Full mentality put us in line to be friends. Thank the powers that be.

Cheri had the most infectious smile, voice, and laugh of almost anyone I've ever met. If I close my eyes, I can hear the cadence of her voice, the pitch, the almost hoarse, breathy-yet-lilting speech that carried a smile in every word. If ever anyone could truly be said to Light Up a Room -- she was the IT girl. And fun! "Fun" should have been her middle name. She was the first person I wanted to see at every reunion. Oh, I have other friends from the Class of '69 -- Christina and Dennis -- who I see and talk to and keep up with way more than I did with Cheri. But Cheri just had this magic that drew me to her no matter how long we'd made the space between our connections.

And we always promised each other we would write. Or call. Or email. Maybe she was too busy -- I'd imagine so. I'd imagine her with a whirling social life. And I was far away in Vermont by the last time we saw each other in 2005. Still we exchanged addresses and all that info. And promised, again, to keep in touch.

I only wish we had.

All I know is that she is dead. The lovely picture in the obituary doesn't speak of illness or sadness or a lingering disease of mind or body. No mention of accident or disaster. No place for flowers or donations or special foundations for the cure of whatever happened. I have no idea. And does that matter? Knowing won't change the result. Knowing what happened won't bring Cheri back. And having Cheri back probably won't make me a better friend to her -- I wasn't that, I guess. I wish I had been. I truly do.

Mostly I'm sad that she isn't in the world... isn't in the world where I imagine she is -- partying, dancing, and living large in her effervescent way. Because I always felt better knowing she was in the world, and that every few years I'd see her again. And as always, we would pick up as if our lockers were still next to each other and the boys were jogging out to PE and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was a gas, gas, gas.

I miss you beyond belief, Miss Cheri. I miss you. Rock on.