I have told many people over the years that those of us raised in Cape Charles (or anyone who hung out with us) do not seem to have a long life expectancy. People chuckle and think I’m kidding, but I wonder if they would still laugh watching me prepare to write a piece about the third ‘big brother’ to die in less than two years. I think about everyone from my old hood and how we lived life hard and fast. Laughter, tears, fast cars, slow walks, sand between our toes and cold beers in our hands.
Some of us have our lives together, some us of don’t.
Some of our bodies will forgive us for the years of abuse, some of them won’t.
And in those two sentences you have summed up a whole herd of people who in one way or another belonged to Cape Charles.
I want you to meet Butch, but I want you to meet him how I met him. Sure you can look at his online obituary and see a recent photo. You may even be able to check his Facebook page and find a picture of him, although the majority of his photos are of sons.
When I met Butch, I was twelve. My parents’ divorce persuaded my father into what I will call a rough patch. As a recently separated thirty year old man, my dad worked during the day and then became a party goer at night. He had recently started working at a family junkyard and in this employment found a new friend in the twenty-one year old Butch. Some of my weekends were spent in my father’s custody and part of that time was spent at the junkyard and in the company of Butch. I’m sure plenty of men of that age would find a twelve year old wandering around his job site, talking to all the junkyard dogs and stray cats as a bit of an annoyance. However, Butch always was kind and never acted like I was a bother.
Eventually, my dad moved up north and started working on a clam boat out of Jersey. He’d come down occasionally for a weekend to get my sister and I for a visit. Most the time he told my mother that we were staying at a motel, which sometimes was true. I can tell you though, that kind young man who was in the prime of his life and should have been having house parties, opened his trailer to us so my dad didn’t have to spend money on a motel. Butch may have never gotten every detail of his life right, but he was always kind and did what he could for a friend. Even if that entailed letting a bunch of people camp out in his living room.
In the years to come, I moved in Cape Charles and became just another wild and crazy product of the town. Most parents of teenage girls frowned upon interactions between their daughters and Butch. Rightfully so, he was older and he was a stoner. As mischief teenagers go, we all still upheld our friendships with Butch anyways. I remember a particular fall day that I was riding my bike around town by myself when Butch pedaled up beside me on his. We stopped at the beachfront and talked. At some point, I asked Butch,
“How old are you?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? When’s your birthday?”
He stared off into the horizon for a moment. “I can’t say that I remember.”
“Butch, how can you not remember when your birthday is or how old you are?”
“I guess I just got to a point where it didn’t matter anymore.”
I laughed because as a teenager you can’t imagine a time in your life when your birthday or your age isn’t important. I can admit now, Butch was right. There’s often times I have no idea how old I am.
I can close my eyes right now and feel the wind coming off the bay as we walked along the water one night. I can tell you it was either fall or winter because I was drinking a 40 oz of Colt 45 and not a double deuce. If you get a forty in the summer, it gets too hot towards the end of the bottle. And trust this, if you are drinking Colt 45 it is best enjoyed as cold as possible.
I was having one of those sad nights where I had parked my old Ford Thunderbird at the far end of the beach and just wanted to wander aimlessly in the dark with my thoughts and malt liquor. Somehow, he found me and I knew the minute I heard, “Hey girl,” in a slow draw that it was Butch.
“Butch! What’s going on, man?”
“Oh, not much. Saw your car parked down there all by itself. Thought I’d come check on you.”
We were about to the pavilion when I headed to the dune grass to pee. He turned his back, which was uberly polite since it was pitch black outside. “You should be careful doing that outside,” he yelled to me.
“Why? You think the boogie man is going to get me?”
“No, I’m not worried about the boogie man. Raccoons. You know when they get rabies they’ll run right up and bite you on the bare ass.”
All rabid raccoon jokes aside, I think Butch was one of the few people who realized that I struggled with depression in my teens and early twenties. Everyone always saw me as that happy go lucky wild child, when really there was a bit of darkness always brewing below the surface. I kept it tucked in and hidden, but somehow Butch could identify it and maybe even sense it. I can’t tell you the numerous times he would show up on my doorstep, text me, call me, instant message me and say, “I thought I’d just check in on my old friend. Are you doing alright, friend?”
And I know I wasn’t the only one who received those kind of calls from Butch.
For the past few days, the beau and I have stopped and stood in silence with the stillness in the room only being broke by these words. “I can’t believe Butch is gone.” I’m going to try not to think of that anymore. He’s gone, but what I’m going to start thinking is I can’t believe I was lucky enough for Butch to consider me a friend.
And let me tell you this. Butch is really not gone. There are pieces of Butch everywhere. It’s something I hadn’t thought of until the funeral as I saw his oldest son walk away. I leaned over to Ernie and said, “Jesus, he walks just like Butch.”
It was all the evidence I needed. Butch hasn’t left us for good. Look around people. He’s still here. There’s plenty of pieces of him left behind for us.
Facebook Updates From Butch Over The Years:
Life may suck now, it may suck tomorrow, maybe the next day too but remember that at the end of every tunnel there is a light! Find your light and make it shine – July 25 2012
Some people see mistakes as a bad thing but I see them as stepping stones that have to be taken, because the people that truly matter will be there at the end. April 22, 2010
Never be afraid to be AMAZING! – A message from Butch to me July 30th 2012