Today is my friend, Kelley's birthday. According to my friend Susan he should be about 48 years old. Kelley's not around these days to experience his birthday today. He passed away about 3 years ago.
Some things you should know about Kelley. He was wheelchair bound, but never let that stop him from living life. He loved baseball, his family, and his friends very much. He loved music. And when I say I was turned on to the blues by a friend of mine, I mean Kelley.
Just because Kelley was in a wheelchair, I never really considered him as handicapped. I mean, there were some places we went together, because they were more accessible, and as the years progressed he used both hands to make the cigaraette touch his lips, but I never saw a flicker in his spirit when we were together. We never discussed his illness (I think he mentioned in one conversation he had MS, but I never questioned him about it, because I was his friend out of pure love for the guy, not pity)
I met him from my friend Susan, she brought him to one of my band's shows. Susan says he really tried not to like our band's music, but he ended up giving in to the genre that we played. The feeling was mutual, after a few nights out, hanging out with my band and watching a few bands play, he got me into the blues and our pastime of music trading begun.
I once mentioned to Kelley that I wanted to learn how to play the Harmonica. When he asked why I replied "In case I go to prison... In the movies, no one ever rapes the harmonica player." The next week, He had a box of harmonica instructional Cds. That's the kind of guy that Kelley was. He never forgot a conversation we had. And every gift he ever gave me was thoughtful.
One day... my friend Susan didn't come to work. The news was spread to the people on my team (who all knew Kelley when he would join us for outings). Kelley, I was told, passed away. We were supposed to go see Wayne Hancock play the next night. It was so sudden and unexpected, I didn't know how to react. I didn't think his sickness had progressed that much, it wasn't until later that night I found out how he died.
My friend Buddy called me on the phone and told me Kelley was killed. He was asleep in his bed when a vehicle crashed through the house and pinned him. It was a drunk driver they said. A kid I never heard of, under the influence of something he shouldn't be, snuffed out the life of a man greater than most I met.
The next few weeks and months were devastating. I won't go into the specifics of the case or my personal feelings on the incident. It won't do Kelley's family any good, and I don't want to use my friend's memory on his brithday to go on a crusade against drunk drivers, kids with records, and how I think a harsher sentence should have been handled in court.
I miss him. There are a lot of things I wish he was here to see... My new band Los Luchadores... he'd get a kick out of us and our mexican wrestling masks. He's going to miss the Johnny Cash movie in November. But most importantly, he missed me falling in love and getting married to my wife. I know he would have been happy for us, just like our mutual friend Susan was. He would have liked my wife, he would say she's one of my songs come to life.
Speaking of songs... a strange thing happened to me a few months ago. I found a box while I was cleaning stuff. It was a box of cassettes that Kelley had given to me. I had resolved to listen to them eventually but never got around to it, because they were cassettes and not Cd's. Well, I found these tapes and figured why not take one in my truck with me since my vehicle has a tape player. I snatched one at random, it was John Lee Hooker's "Blues Before Sunrise" album. I put the tape in the player, started up the truck and drove... What followed was about a miracle. Hooker's voice came over the speakers like a ghost and I nearly wept. Kelley, years after his death, had found a way to talk to me. In these tapes I never heard, (there was a whole box of them) He found a way to give me some new "old" music to listen to. I could almost picture Kelley, taking a drag of his cigarette, and nodding along to the words.
Anyway... today is Kelley's birthday, I'm slapping on a record for him... I hope he enjoys it.
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