He and I weren’t exactly what you would call friends although we were always friendly to each other. I can’t recall exactly the first time I have a memory of him but it must have been in the 6th or 7th grade I’m thinking. The first memory I have is that he use to race Suzuki motorcycles. There were a group of guy’s that I went to school with that use to race on a dirt track outside of Elizabeth City and for some reason I remember that Tommy was the Suzuki guy and Max was Honda and Kirk was Yamaha maybe… not real sure about that… but this isn’t about motorcycles or Max or Kirk… this one is about Tommy.
Like I said earlier we weren’t close or anything like that. I do remember that he was always taking some of the hardest classes and it appeared that he did pretty good at them. Once we got to high school he and I both were on the track team together our sophomore year. He was a 2 miler and I was a half mile guy. We use to compete a little bit between ourselves for the best time in the mile but as with most things, he was better than me.
As we got our driver licenses, he got this really cool van. It was just one more thing for me to be envious of… and to feel inferior about. Not that Tommy ever did anything directly to me to make me feel that way… as a matter of fact we almost never even spoke to each other. My feelings were just part of being a teenager, I guess.
So we graduate from high school and Tommy goes off to Chapel Hill and I head off to Methodist College, where I struggled mightily. As is the case with many young adults (I tell myself it is the way with a lot of young people so I can feel better about myself, okay?) I lacked focus and direction in my life and was teetering on a major depression.
So I’m back home in Elizabeth City for the Christmas break either my freshman or sophomore year… not sure what I am doing with my life. But during those years my dad would hire me to work in his dime store to earn a little spending money.
So one evening about closing time, I’m sweeping the floor, listening to some somber Christmas song playing outside from the Salvation Army’s booth, when I look up and there stands Tommy. He has a big smile on his face and extends a hand to shake mine. He ask me how things were going and tells me about school. He said, he saw me through the window and just wanted to come in and say hello and wish me a Merry Christmas.
I was so amazed! It lifted my spirits that he would take the time to come in and speak to me… I have never forgotten his kindness.
Recently we have reconnected through efforts associated with class reunions and such. I haven’t mentioned this to him but I probably should… we all touch people in our lives in ways we never even imagine…. remember to reach gently and compassionately to each other, my friends… And a Merry Christmas to you Tom!