Monday, 24 May 2010

Goodbye Steve and Matt.

In recognition of true mates, Steve and Matt.
I leave these memories of my friends out here in cyber-space. This is a work in progress and, as with all my scribbling, I will edit it for the rest of my life.
Matt, and now Steve, are gone. I guess, one day, I’ll find out where. I hope it is a better place.
I met Steve through his son, Matt, at 17, and most strangely, through membership with an insidious Cult. I knew Matt from high school, but by chance we’d lost touch due to the drudgery of earning money.
One fateful day another lost school friend rang. Another Matthew coincidentally. He convinced me to accept an irresistible, yet strangely veiled invitation, to become a Network Marketing millionaire. Of course it was an Amway trap! Upon arrival Amway goons squeezed me for names and phone numbers then forced me to ring everyone I knew, including Matt, with a similar invitation to be rich.
Thankfully Matt’s idea of making a million dollars didn’t involve selling low-flow shower roses and car wash. Matt questioned the joys of being brainwashed and instead suggested we ditch the Amway circle jerk so we went out on the town to try our luck with the ladies. Needless-to-say we found this more enjoyable than cold-selling products to people who didn't want them. I never thanked Matt for his part in helping me slip the grasp of greedy corporate freaks.
Undoubtedly Matt’s philosophy of life was ‘live fast - die young'. (Both of which he succeeded in fulfilling; the last part much to my continuing regret.) Matt introduced me to Steve with none of the usual generational formalities. Matt and Steve were mates, and Steve became my mate without reserve.
Life is all about chances and choices. I'm damn lucky Fate’s dice, and decisions I made allowed me to know someone like Steve. He took on a thankless job when he accepted me into his home. He steered me when I needed it most without reservation. He lent me support and hope when all I knew was black and bitter. He got me through a grinding adolescence when even my own family couldn’t tolerate me any longer. He was the most trustworthy, generous and likeable bloke I’ve ever known.
Steve was very different from other mate’s parents. He’d lecture us about smoking while rolling a cigarette. We’d acquire yet another V8 with cheap mags and bonnet scoops hastily self-tapped in place, and he’d yell at us to “buy a 4 cylinder Jap Crap and save your money”; even though a succession of V8’s and hot 6 muscle car’s always graced Steve’s driveway over the years.
Crashing at Steve’s place in the ‘feral area’ became a Friday night ritual. We were always welcome even if some swearing was directed at our motley crew of wasted, young petrol heads. Smoky, loud V8’s turning up at all hours must have tried Steve’s patience to the limit.
Years later, in a quiet moment, Steve said he’d rather have us wrecking his house than terrorising the ‘townies’ and getting thumped by cops. However we still had the rest of the week to fill, and Steve would shake his head at our stories of near misses and insane stunts only youthful luck and stupidity allowed us to get away with.
Steve was very big on conversation and he genuinely liked talking to us if we had something valid to say. Sure, he’d bag us and tell us to fuck off if we wallowed in self-pity. His own crippling pain and uncomplaining fortitude were harsh reminders of how ridiculous and petty most of our problems were.
Steve had strict policies on TV. It was banned. We’d listen to music instead; Blues, Rock and Roll, Metal and Psychedelic Rock. Steve would tolerate most of our ‘new’ music, but when we crossed the line it was “an hour of Rachmaninoff” (concert pianist) as punishment. We’d talk shit, argue and laugh all night before passing out at our alcoholic limit. In hindsight, 20 years on, those drunken, honest discussions are still positive and happy memories for me.
As I grew up, facing the world got even harder. Yet Steve could always be counted on to provide encouragement to take the leaps of faith I needed. “Just do it!” he’d say, and then refuse to listen to excuses. He knew a boring, routine existence loomed if we didn’t have a go. He’d insist our lives would be better, or at the very least more interesting, for taking the road less travelled. There’s no lasting regret in my heart from taking those words at face value.
I went to work in Bangkok, with no visa and no skills for the complex micro-tunnelling job I was offered, mostly drawing on Steve’s ‘Just do it!’. Even these days, with a little more experience and intelligence to guide me, I’ll still follow my heart and overrule the head at times. And I still hear Steve berating me if I hesitate too long.
Steve’s death deeply gutted me. It is no less painful now, although I tell myself to feel glad his pain has ended. I know, very well, every waking moment of Steve’s life was agony for too many years. I can only imagine his relief on his final breath. I am terribly sad Steve died alone, and yet I know he did so on purpose, and for his own unselfish reasons. It is my selfishness that wishes he’d hung on, and my guilt that I never found the time for one last visit that I now must deal with.
I sincerely respect and admire Steve’s ultimate decision. It took incredible strength of character and mental will; two things he’d always maintained beneath that failing flesh.
I’ve learned several important things from Steve. I do not live in fear of obscure, religious beliefs. Steve’s integrity never relied on a Super-being’s approval. If this wasn’t good enough for other people’s God’s, he wasn’t overly concerned. Steve believed in truth unless there was a very good reason to lie (to the government mainly). He believed in causing no harm and looking after his friends. Because of Steve, the friendships I’ve made through the years are with incredibly trustworthy people simply by applying these rules. And finally, I ‘Just do it’ more often than the average man; ignoring the safe option if the risky one is what I truly want.
I’m sorry your old body couldn’t keep a bunch of medical students busy like you wanted, Steve. I’m sure they would have wondered how the hell you hung on so long.
To Steve’s extended family of ‘Ferals’; you know who you are. All who welcomed me into your homes, despite my lack of social skills, know this: you were a positive influence on the hardest and best years of my life. Thank you for looking after my old mate when I left. Thank you for seeing him off when I couldn’t.

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