An old friend of mine, Jared Weaver passed away. He would've been thirty-six on Sunday. His services are going to be this weekend in Ohio and there's no way I can go. I have to pick my son up from Tennessee and celebrate Father's Day with him. I'm pretty sure Jared would understand. He was one of those big lugs who gravitated towards children and they gravitated towards him. His probable understanding, and the understanding his family has shown, doesn't make me feel any less like crap about being unable to be there to share some kind words and reminisces with his family, to let them know there is one more person in the world that cared about Jared and is going to miss him. So I'm going to do the best I can and try to do that here.
Jared would probably think it's a bit silly of me to be doing this. He didn't talk much for a guy that talked a lot. When a conversation turned serious he would just smirk and nod or shrug or sigh with his chin in his hand waiting for his turn. Then when he did speak it would be a short burst of amazingly insightful words...or complete ridiculousness. There was very little in between with him.
I met Jared when I was sixteen and started working at McDonald's. Jared and Jeff had been working there for awhile and were already fast friends. I sort of slid right in and made it a threesome. I remember one time in particular we hung out outside of work was after Jared and Jeff had found out I used to like pro wrestling but hadn't watched it in a long time. They basically kidnapped me and took me to watch Monday Night Raw with them. That episode an odd, quirky character named Mankind won his first world title and gained a little acceptance along the way and I became addicted to wrestling all over again. I was already addicted to my friendship with Jared and Jeff for the same reasons.
Wrestling was a big part of my friendship with Jared. All of us would pick stables of wrestlers we rooted for and the others weren't allowed to claim them as their own. When one of your guys wrestled someone else's guy it was a big deal. Jared's guy was always the Undertaker and he just kind of adopted Kane because he was Undertaker's brother. I think in time he came to like Kane more, though. Kane was a big, scary character that didn't talk and seemed like he just wanted to beat people up but as time went on it became clear that he was a conflicted character who deep down just wanted to be liked and he conveyed this with more expressive body language than most great actors have. It was clear to me why Jared liked him.
Music was a big part of my, and anyone's, friendship with Jared. I had somehow been immune to the hysteria over Nirvana when they first appeared but Jared made a convert out of me. In turn, he appreciated my favorite singer Alan Jackson. He had an eclectic taste in music. If during the holidays you dared complain about being burnt out on Christmas music he would find a station that was playing some and crank it up. I can remember him often declaring his love for Ruby by Kenny Rogers. We would sing big, emotional, over-dramatic ballads to each other, cracking ourselves up and making other people wonder about us. The last time Jared and I hung out, just the two us, before he moved to Ohio we sang Sarah McLachian's I Will Remember You together as we often did. It started out as goofy fun but by the end we were both almost crying. Like many times with Jared, it was stupid and silly and sweet.
Jared was a homophobe's worst nightmare. He hugged all of his friends, male or female. He would often tell guys they were looking good or compliment their fashion. He and I would joke about flirting with the gay waiter or the gay guy that worked at the video game store. At least, I'd like to think we were joking but we got free food and discounts on video games.
Video games were a big part of Jared's life, like most guys of our generation. He bought every system on launch day and bought a lot of games he never finished. He would complain sometimes about the cost of medicine, and if he had a seizure in public and someone called an ambulance he would moan afterwards because the bill was so high, but he wasted so much money on video games it wasn't funny. Still, I fondly remember the endless nights of Soul Calibur and Jared getting frustrated when the button mashers with no skill beat him.
Card games were huge with Jared, too. Spades was our main game but it couldn't be just Spades. A normal game of Spades didn't have enough action for Jared, didn't have enough chances for him to slap a card on the table with a flick of his wrist. We had to add trump cards and play with the Big Folk and jokers. Jared was often my partner and we developed that almost psychic connection that longtime card partners have. We were damn good, too. We'd get wrapped up in our games and drink too much and smoke too much without even noticing it. Sometimes, Jared would even forget to take his medicine. Of course, often the card game was just an excuse for not taking medicine he would've forgotten anyway.
It's almost impossible to talk about Jared without talking about his medical problems. He was diabetic and epileptic and he didn't take his problems as seriously as he should have. I think living with his problems day after day wore him down and he just wanted to forget about them but they weren't the kind of problems you could do that with. To spend time with Jared was to worry about when the next episode was going to happen, the next period of semi-coherence, the next seizure. Our friend Tracy talks about being convinced every ambulance she heard was carrying Jared even after he moved away. Sometimes it could be funny like when in the middle of Walmart he stood with his nose two inches from a poster and said very loudly, "I can't see N'SYNC", or when in the midst of a seizure he slapped our McDonald's manager so hard he almost knocked him out. Jared would often laugh when we gave him hell about it afterwards but it was gallows humor.
Jared had complicated relationships with everyone in his life and that's a euphemism for Jared was a pain in the ass. No matter how many people tried to help him keep track of his medicines and blood sugar he was often convinced no one cared about him. He would sometimes get surly and start arguments over nothing. I think sometimes he liked people yelling at him because that was another way he assured himself that people cared. Everyone put up with it, though, because Jared was a good, generous man. When I wasn't able to save enough money for an engagement ring by my dating anniversary, Jared let me borrow the money I was short without blinking. Later, when I was unable to pay him back as quickly as I wanted and apologized to him for it he ordered me not to pay him back at all.
Jared was an usher in my wedding and he was awesome. He and my other usher Jerry relaxed me with humor before the ceremony by explaining to me their system for determining where to sit people without asking them. If they were dressed nicely they were groom side and if they were in torn jeans or overalls they were bride side. Then after the ceremony my two ushers walked arm in arm into the reception like a proper couple. At the reception there was stogie smoking and buying me far too many shots and taking the tires off of my car and a mosh pit and Jared was in the midst of all of it. He lead a group of us in singing Bye, Bye, Bye on karaoke. The next morning he showed up at my parents' house to watch us open presents still wearing his tuxedo with a mysterious tube of lipstick in his pocket that he couldn't explain.
I'm sure he did but I find myself hoping Jared didn't know I was divorced. I hope he remembered the group of us as we were when we had few worries and Jared was the only thing complicated in our lives. There is so much about Jared I haven't talked about. So much I learned from him and about him during late nights of coffee, Diet Coke for Jared, and conversation at Denny's. There is so much I wish I had talked to and could still talk to Jared about. Stephen King, one of Jared's favorite authors as well as mine, wrote "Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant." I've always hated that quote and I think I've always hated it because it's mostly true. Unlike busboys, though, good friends leave something behind when they go. It saddens me that two members of my wedding party, not to mention the marriage itself, are already dead. Still, I hope Jared knew that parts of him will live on in me and many others. Mostly, Jared, I hope you've found peace my friend.