For the last day or so I have been doing double-takes when I open up my email folder, and see the title of the one from my parents:
Even though I know the sad reality, it still jars me. What? ED? There's a funeral for ED???!!
Ed Smith was a friend of ours for many years, the husband of my wife's best friend Pat. Since our daughter was born almost twenty-three years ago, they had spent a lot of time with us, even though they lived about eighty miles away, joining us for birthdays, holidays (they were the first non-family members invited to share Christmas with us), summer vacation excursions to Maine, and so forth. Ed was an important part of one crew who restored our barn and another crew which, a few years later, built our house. He did a lot of work for us over the years, helping with maintenance and upkeep, and kept my motorcycle collection running smoothly.
When I started "Team Mirage", the privateer motorcycle racing team I sponsored, back in the 1990's, Ed was an enthusiastic participant, going to motorcycle races to see the guys we'd sponsored battle it out on dirt and on pavement. I remember riding with him and a small group of other dudes out to Ohio, to the Mid-Ohio race track, to see our racer Dale Quarterley dicing with the best of the AMA Superbike class… and I believe Ed was there the following year when Dale -- against all odds -- actually won that race. (Unfortunately, I missed that one!)
Ed loved motorcycles, and I think that was one of the things which drew us together when Jeannine -- who'd taught at a high school with Pat when we'd lived in Connecticut for two years -- introduced us. We both had Honda Gold Wings, and started riding together occasionally, sometimes as couples. One memorable ride took us up to the Shelburne Museums in Shelburne, Vermont, a fascinating place.
But the trip I remember most was not one that our wives went on (though they DID fly out to our destination to spend a few days with us), a twenty-three day excursion out to California -- San Diego, to be precise -- and back. As I recall, it was originally Jim Lawson's idea, and I think he was considering going out by himself, but for some reason the thought of a cross-country motorcycle trip got me fired up. (This was a couple of years after I had sworn off flying.) It ended up being seven of us -- me, Ed, Jim, Rob, Ken, Jay and Craig. I'd never gone on a trip that long, and I'll be honest -- I was more than a little nervous.
But it was great to have Ed along. He knew so much about taking care of motorcycles that I always felt that if we'd had mechanical problems with any of the bikes, we'd be okay. (We didn't have any breakdowns, fortunately.) But more than that, Ed was just a pleasure to travel with. Always up for the ride, even when he got some bad seafood in a restaurant in Utah. And he dealt with that by lying down on a strip of grass in a parking lot until the worst of the queasiness passed. That was Ed.
(Here's a photo from that trip, taken at the edge of the Grand Canyon. From left to right: Rob, Jay, me, Ken, Craig, Jim, and Ed. Notice that almost all of us are wearing long-sleeved t-shirts with the same design? That's something I did for the trip -- I thought it would be cool to give our group a name, and came up with "Digital Demons". Rob did the design work in consultation with me, and we made the t-shirt, small travel bags, and pencils with the logo and artwork. Kinda goofy, but fun. And Ed was into it... though, the more I look at this photo, I think he must have cut the arms off his t-shirt... probably to get a better tan.)
On our return leg from California, three of our comrades decided they'd rather get home sooner than later, and left the group to head directly back to Massachusetts. But Ed stayed with me, Craig and Ken, as we perambulated north up through the Dakotas, into MIchigan and around the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. I'll never forget that trip.
We had many more good times in the following years with Pat and Ed, who watched our daughter grow up. They loved her, and she loved them.
Pat passed away about three years ago. Ed stayed with her, helping and supporting and loving her through her long illness, and then entered a darker world, one without his beloved Pat. But lately, he had found new happiness with his friend and co-worker Vivian, had lost some weight and started looking less stressed and lonely. These were great signs to those who cared about him.
And then a few days ago, I got a call from Vivian, who was crying. "Ed had a heart attack! He's on his way to the hospital right now!" And no more than thirty minutes later, a second call from her told us that Ed had died.
I -- we -- were stunned. ED?! I always thought the guy -- phlegmatic, strong, low-key and kind -- would outlive us all. I'd just talked to him on the phone the day before about a heating issue in my workshop, something he was planning on dealing with the following day.
Now we're just a few hours away from going down to Connecticut for Ed's memorial service. I still can't believe I am typing those words. It just seems so… wrong.
We'll miss you, Ed.
No -- we already do. -- PL
No -- we already do. -- PL