Richard’s long time friend, Mike wrote this letter after a trip to see us while Richard was in assisted living.  Good friends meant so much and stuck with us every step of the way.

19 August 2015

Dear Richard:

It was really great to see you last week. I enjoyed seeing your place, meeting Joey and the others, playing basketball with you, and having lunch at Saffron. (I should have ordered what you did!)

My flight home was uneventful, but it gave me a lot of time think about our friendship. Brother, it has been a long, fun ride with you and will continue to be. I think back to the days when you went to Evergreen Jr. Hi. and I went to South Jr. You were a stud BBaller, and I thought I was. Then we both ended up at Cascade, and as sophomores we started to connect. You were on the baseball team (although you really didn’t like Coach Krause), as was I. But it was beyond sports that I saw this great friend in the making. We started hanging out, going to each other’s houses, chatting, and being guys.

I loved being at the Ping house and really liked Vernon and Marilyn and put up with Jim because he was a senior and I had to. (Since then, Jim and I have formed a great friendship, thanks to you!) I admired your peaceful nature and musical talent. We were in choir and swing ensemble together, but you were a real musician; I just sang. But basketball, man, you were the man!

I remember the first time I smoked pot was with you and we went to the end of the Paine Field runway, a little loaded, and watched as one of the first 747s took off as we lay on our backs at the end of the runway. Security was a little looser back in those days. I remember a lot of summers hanging out, talking about girls and sports.

By the time we were seniors in high school, we were very close but had to say goodbye like a lot of other friends as we went our ways to colleges. You to Central for hoops and me to Pacific for baseball. Our hopes and dreams for big professional paydays as athletes were short- lived but we ended up at Central together.

Then we began this cycle of not seeing each other for periods of time but always reconnect- ing. At first, I thought I was losing my friend every time you moved, but then I realized that we were living our lives but would always reconnect. When you met Ava, became engaged, and then married, Cathy and I were excited for you and wanted to get to know this babe you so dearly loved. And guess what? We found out quickly why you felt about her the way you did. You were great intellectual matches and complemented each other in many ways. So we saw you here; we saw you there. Seattle, San Diego, Vancouver, Tucson, London, etc. And you know what? That is what friendship is about. It took me a while to realize that when you and Ava moved, I wasn’t losing friends; I was just getting prepared to hear about new adventures that fascinated me and made the bond even stronger. We never abandoned each other; we just took sabbaticals.

When we had our 40th high school reunion, I was so glad that you and Ava made the trip to Everett for the event. People were so glad to see you and meet Ava (I actually think more of the latter). But I knew there was something not quite right. I knew that you were sick. But I also knew that you were blessed with two things— you were a fighter, and you had Ava. You were going to do your best to fight this nasty invasion of your health. And you have been a fighter. You have put up with a lot of treatment, pain, frustration, confusion, progress, then not.

Believe me, brother, I think of you all the time. I think of what I can do to be there for you. I think of our friendship; I think how tough you have been. I think of what you want to say but can’t. I think of what you want to do but can’t. But guess what? Just like when you were a sophomore in high school and most folks didn’t believe that no way in hell this skinny kid could make the varsity basketball team, much less start, much less be a star in the league, you did it because you are gritty. Still are. And I love that about you.

So, my buddy, I enjoyed my stay in Tucson last week. It was great to see you and Ava. She loves you dearly—so do I.



This is a chapter from my book Parkinson’s: A Love Story with Dementia for Dessert.  You may find it on Amazon.  Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

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