A Small Circle Of Friends
m dennis paul
It’s December 21, 2019. Winter’s Solstice. I have, a few minutes ago, ended a phone call I have dreaded for some time. I thought a lifetime of endings might have ended differently.
Deep connections, formed early in youth, grew ever deeper as years moved on from teens to young adults… from young adults to midlife and from this succession to denouement. How we all came to meet is a collection of tales both humourous and sad. I’ve threatened that I would reveal them all with each its own puzzled place in a peculiar world. I’ve sworn to ignore myself and abide by the expressed desires to leave such histories to memory and let them go wherever memories go post usefulness. In all our ways, we found each other and the clarity of purpose that arose from this connection.
Grueling days and nights, and any moments in between, passed by until we had defined the rules that would hopefully keep us together…. safe and productive. To be sure, there would be many others who would meet us in various ways and refuse or accept what we were determined to provide. We had joined together at a time of great need… much like this time.
In the beginning, and to this day, nothing was simple or easy. While some who shared certain ideologies in common would venture into the world to effect change while still living a life of accumulation and personal benefit, we had vowed to shun assimilation… especially with corporations wholly aligned with war and injustice. We’ve spent our lives working nondescript jobs, non-profit jobs, service jobs. We managed our lives in ways that allowed us to maintain certain trappings of comfort and enjoy cultural and educational pursuits as well relationships, children and a healthy dose of fun and pleasure. None of us were monks, by any means. Though at times we might be public, none of us sought fame, notoriety, spotlights. Most of us could easily have taken those paths… or others more ”glamourous”. We did what we had to so we might do what we had chosen.
In the time of teens we were physically close. Like many friends, as we aged our locations changed and soon we were close enough to live distant lives without feeling separation. We started out as 8… each of us wild and frequently crazy. Each with our own pet projects and all with our collective imperative. As we physically grew and changed, so too did our mission. With changing times, variations of tactics needed to be countered, changing life situations, political, local and global situations shifting and shaping, we helped each other through. The lessons learned were invaluable.
Without exception, before our 18th birthdays, we had tasted and felt the fire of teargas, nursed welts and gashes from assaults and saw the insides of many jails. Charges ran from the catch-all ”disorderly” to ”rioting and property destruction” and on up to ”associating with avowed enemies of the United States Government”, ”threatening a president’s life”, ”aiding and abetting AWOL’s and conscientious objectors” and ”destruction of government property”. This is a short list. A bit later, Feds attempted to entrap one of us in a bombing, bank robbery, arson and murder of a state trooper. All of these charges … as funny as some were and as nonexistent as others… were dismissed. They never figured fully what was our collective mission. What they might have figured out, they couldn’t prove.
Into and beyond midlife, the rebel yell turned to mentoring, service projects, coordinating and management. In the past 12 or so years, our numbers dwindled. Just a few years ago, while working on and raising funds for the expansion of a Domestic Violence and Abuse shelter, J-Mac passed away. That left only two of us out of the original eight. The shelter was J-Mac’s project which he, sadly, never saw completed. A few weeks ago, the Domestic Violence org was able to sign a MOU for purchase of the buildings we had rehabbed.
In our last conversation I was chatting with my co-survivor, mostly about the recent surgeries I had, the experimental meds I would soon be taking, and the progression of dystrophy since last we spoke. We also shared our joy over the great turn of events for the shelter and remembered some pretty good J-Mac tales and tales of all the others who were now only memories. I told him about my fear that I would be the last out the door and we talked about how we should close out this chapter. He said it no longer made sense for us to hang onto our go bags and travel pay as we both had nowhere left to go and it made sense for us to donate… and so we did. He said that no matter who exited before the other, the survivor would eventually follow. We marveled some of how far our work had traveled and the peoples it effected. North, South and Central America, Canada, Africa, the Middle East and more… and all without being known, or only marginally so… perhaps more for some but we made it through this life with only minor scratches.
And then the phone call…. Sia has passed away in his sleep. Winter’s Solstice… the darkest day. Just like that all those incredible memories were entrusted to me. No longer a small circle of friends.
In memory of Sia, J-Mac, Jake. Ken, Alan, Anna and Mama Max. It was a life of pain and sadness, joy and laughter, loving and learning from each other and making it happen while raising our middle fingers to the profiteers, politicians, feds and pigs, and all the scum that needlessly make life hard.