Last week I lost a brother. Not a biological brother, but a brother nonetheless.
I first met John in Junior High School. He was a big kid, and I would have described him as somewhat odd. I loved that about him. Clearly he followed his own path, and I admired that. One of those larger-than-life people, he had an offbeat sense of humor, and a laugh that would envelop you.
John wasn't rich in terms of money, but he was one of the wealthiest people I knew in the number of friends he had. Everyone knew Johnny, and Johnny knew everyone. Over the years, we drifted apart and then got back together and then drifted apart again. The best part was that every time we got back together it seemed that no time had passed at all. We picked up right where we’d left off.
Years ago, we worked together. Well, actually, he worked for me as a salesperson. I remember him coming into my office one day to tell me he was going to quit. Sales just wasn't for him. I knew he was wrong, and I asked him to give me just two weeks and to do everything I told him to do. No arguments, no thinking about it; just do it. He agreed and asked what I wanted him to do. I told him to stop trying to sell anything and just be Johnny. If he didn't believe in what we were selling, then he should just quit because it would never work. But if he did believe in it, he needed to just tell people why he believed in it, and use his own words. In other words, forget the training, forget the sales techniques, and just be Johnny.
He did that, and in just two short weeks he became one of the best salespeople we had. I knew he would; I just needed to get him to believe it. Once he did, there was no stopping him. He used that giant personality for the rest of his life, and eventually ended up selling cars. I bought my last three trucks from him, and let me tell you, he was good.
John and I were always interested in theater, and I've lost count of the number of shows we were in together. Perhaps he wasn't the best actor ever to appear on stage, but when he walked out, he had a presence that commanded your attention. We spent way too much time ad-libbing and trying to crack each other up, and I would say that our competition was a tie. He went further than I did, and became a respected director as well as an actor.
John was there the first time I ever played golf. With two other close friends, Gerry (who is also no longer with us) and Lindsey, we hit the links in Falmouth. I can't explain why, but I seemed to have a natural affinity for the game. When we completed our round, I came in second, and none of them believed it was my first time. Finally, John announced that since it was my first time and I had come in second, by the rules he had just made up it was my responsibility to buy lunch and drinks. What could I do? He got me again.
I can't think of a more devoted father than John was to his son, Jack. All you had to do was ask about Jack and John's face would light up like a Christmas tree, and he would tell you all about his son. It was how it should be.
A natural writer, John wrote mostly about Cape Cod, and the Town of Barnstable in particular. Eventually he became sort of an unofficial historian about all things Cape Cod. How he could know and remember so many people I will never figure out. His collection of local trivia was second to none, and if you had a question, Johnny wouldn't rest until he figured it out.
Anyway, another brother is gone, and he will be sorely missed. I know this probably won't mean anything to most of you, but I'm feeling nostalgic, and would simply like to say goodbye to Johnny and my other brothers and sisters from the Barnstable High School Class of 1970 who are no longer with us. Rest in peace, all of you.