Growing Up, we never expect that we will one day be loosing a childhood friend. As teenagers we think we are invincible. Time will go on forever and we’ll always be connected to our friends.
Life teaches us differently!
As we age, we realize that we will lose people, but never without having the opportunity to talk to them at least one more time. Based on lifestyles, we know that eventually something will happen, but there are some we think will be with us forever.
Today, one of those unexpected friends left us.
Mike was an interesting character, someone that I have some great memories of.
In my formative teenage years, my home was in a rental townhouse complex. Most of the townhouses were occupied with single parents. Lucky for me, most of the kids were my age. The complex was three buildings of townhouses. At the end of one of the buildings was the community pool. We were the ‘kids’ hanging out on top of the pool
I moved there when I was 13. My parents had just divorced. Ironically, I don’t remember any of their divorce. (check out my podcast Divorce Exposed) Maybe it’s one of those things that kids do to cope. I honestly don’t know. I remember moving, but I don’t remember being told we were moving or the process.
In this community, there were 3 people in my class (76), one a year behind me (77), 3 before me and 3 two years behind me (78). There were a few older that we’d see after school and on the weekends and some of the kids from other apartment complexes would pop in every once in awhile.
Basically, we called ourselves, the White Oak gang Don’t think of this gang as troublemakers; we were teenagers who hung out together. Sometimes, we were on the pool top, some smoked cigarettes, some got high, did teenage stuff, but none of us were real trouble makers.
There were also a few siblings but at the time they were too young or too old to hang out with us! What teenager wants their siblings hanging out with them….it wasn’t cool.
Today, I think we would all be grateful to have our siblings hanging out with us The thought of loosing a childhood friend or a sibling wasn’t on the radar at the time.
We lost our first friend (Deanna) more than 20 years ago. She was one of my next door neighbors. Most would see her as a fighter….she had freckles and the will to do anything. Sadly, she got herself in a lot of trouble, caused her parents a lot of grief, but she was a good person overall. She had a rare disease from her freckles and left us too soon. Her husband was Mike, the friend we lost today.
Around the same time, we also lost my sister. She was one of those siblings that I didn’t want hanging around. She was 6 years younger than me. What I would give to have her back today! A prescription of Oxycontin got her!
It doesn’t matter if you are loosing a childhood friend or a sibling, isn’t easy.
Laura was the next one of our friends who left us about 10 years ago. Her demon was a brain tumor that had it’s own plans.
Being the same age, she was actually the person I was closest to. She and I hung out together a lot. During the summer when her family went on vacation, I was usually invited. I was the person that got along with everyone.
Sadly, after high school I lost touch with her. The only thing I knew about her after high school was that she had married, had a child and worked many years at Lane Bryant.
Thank goodness for Facebook.
Without Facebook, I might not have re-connected with everyone from this group and even known that my dear friend was sick. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to talk to her before she left us.
About 3 years ago, we lost one of the siblings to leukemia. This was a tough one for me. I hadn’t seen Coleen since high school and she was living with her sister in CA. I was on a business trip to San Diego and they drove down to spend the weekend with me.
It was Oscar weekend so we bought a bunch of munchies and sat in my hotel room having our own party! It was such a wonderful and memorable evening. Shortly after our exciting weekend, she was diagnosed and after a tough fight, left us a few years later.
Basically, the weekend we spent together in San Diego, was the last ‘free’ weekend she had. I am forever grateful that we had that trip and had as much fun as we did.
Then we lost Nick, another from my age group. Laura, Nick and I were in the same class (76).
As with Laura, I hadn’t connected with Nick for many years. We did have one gathering about 10 years ago, but that was brief and during my divorce, so I don’t remember much of the conversation. I recently learned that he had MS.
Nick was the first person I met when I moved into the townhouses. He lived across the hall from me. Imagine what was going through a 14 year old boy’s mind when another girl moves in next door. He always had long hair and I remember siting in the hallway on many occasions combing his hair. Back then long hair was very common. Why I remember combing it is beyond me! He was Deanna’s sister; the person I mentioned above who left us because of her freckles.
Today, July 17, 2020 is when we lost one of the group. He had already graduated high school and was working as a mechanic at the local gas station. Actually, if you lived in or near Silver Spring, MD, and had your car serviced at the Shell on New Hampshire and Lockwood, he might have worked on your car. He worked at that Shell for many, many years.
After Shell, he worked for Euro Motors where he was working when he left us. He was planning to retire in September.
Mike and Nick hung around together a lot. You know, that’s what guys do. Ironically, Mike ended up marrying Nick’s sister, Deanna. She is the first person to leave our gang.
I wish I had more memories of my friend Mike. He was always so nice to me.
One of my best memories of Mike is of a CSNY concert at the ‘old’ Capital Center. We had front row seats on the side. I drove to the concert with Mike and Nick as Mike had a car.
Mike drove a car that was yellow or tan. It was somewhat souped up and we could usually hear him drive past our house. He was a mechanic, that’s what mechanics do. Right?
I was 16, Nick was 17 and Mike was at least 19 or 20. He was just like us, so age didn’t matter. Driving there we did tequila shots. Yes, salt, tequila and a lime or lemon afterwards. I’d never done them.
This was before drunk driving laws.
I saw the first and last song of the CSNY concert! That was it!
Lesson learned, never do tequila shots.
A few years ago, someone shared the recording from the CSNY concert. To whomever recorded and posted the video, thank you. Watching the video of the concert was closure for me. For years I was mad at myself that I missed all but two songs from the concert because I was sick (from tequila).
Now, I can say I saw the whole concert.
Shortly after the concert, I began working more hours for my dads insurance agency and I was getting serious with someone outside of our little gang. I started hanging out with him and his family and over time, and unfortunately began to loose contact with everyone.
Sadly that is what happens with many people. You meet someone and they become your life.
Losing your wife, sibling, friend or someone you love is devastating. Each of us process it differently and healing takes time.
One of my biggest regrets is that I lost touch with this amazing group of people. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m not sure if we would have reconnected, but I am so glad we did. We don’t talk daily, but there is a connection that will never go away. We are there for each other even if we are thousands of miles apart!
Last year we had a mini reunion with several of the gang and the siblings. We invited Mike to join us, but he chose not to attend. When I learned of his passing, all I could think was I wish I’d reached out to him.
To say hello and thank him for his memories.
I am so grateful that Facebook allowed me the ability to reconnect with my friends from White Oak.
Most of my life has been in my own cocoon. It’s not that I don’t like people but I am more of an introvert so I don’t stay connected. Facebook allowed us to reconnect to the people that really mattered to me in my life!
Unfortunately, I missed Deanna’s funeral. I’m not sure where my head was at the time, but it saddens me that I wasn’t there.
Today I always say yes when there is a planned get together. We share the memories, love and hope for the future
For Mike, we planned a zoom call since not everyone could attend the service. We want to celebrate him together.
Tonight as I mourn his loss, I did a shot of tequila. Salt, tequila and a shot of lemon juice as I didn’t have a lemon around. I didn’t think I’d ever do another shot, but I felt I needed to do it for him.
We all mourn loss different ways. I’m sure tomorrow, I’ll move on but every once in awhile, especially when I hear CSNY, I’ll think of Mike and Nick. They were buds and now they are celebrating together. Mike is with his friend Nick and he is also with his first wife, Deanna.
Mike passed on my sisters birthday so I’m hoping there was a celebration welcoming him.
Find a way to stay in touch with the people from your past. Once they are gone, there is no going back.
Left of the original gang is Celeste, Ellen, Jane, Becky, Dan and Bill.
The remaining siblings are Theresa, Thomas, Susan, Matt and Stephen.
Together, we are all one gang of friends.
UPDATE: July 26th 2020. Several of the White Oak Gang met to share memories of our days in White Oak. It felt like yesterday since we’d all been together!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debbie DeChambeau is a native Washingtonian. She is an insurance professional who helps seniors navigate the complexities of Medicare. For fun, she produces podcasts and is the host of Seniors We Love, The Business of Insurance and Divorce Exposed.