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Dana was a month older than me, but a grade behind me in school. That made him one of those guys who was able to drive to Junior High School.

We had known each other for a couple of years, but we became close friends when he wrecked his Cougar and accepted my offer to drive him to school. It was a friendship that thrived until the day he died.

This story is about him, that sad time for all of us who loved him, and how he remained his own man until the end.

Dana Was Never Late

Dana was never late. If he was not on time, he was early, but let me digress a bit.

Though we had known each other for some time in junior high school, it wasn’t until high school that we became friends. I would pick up Blaine and Hazel each morning before school. When Dana wrecked his old Cougar in spectacular fashion, he accepted my offer to pick him up, also. This went on for some time until he got a Volkswagen rebuilt and began driving himself again.

Dana was grateful for the rides, and we were friends from then until the day he died in September 2006.

He was a bit crazy as a teenager and young adult. The Cougar was wrecked while he was hitting third gear on what he thought was K Street. It was L Street, though, and there were three cement pillars there to keep people like him, I guess, from going through the fence onto a playground. The Cougar ended up pushing the middle pillar over a bit with the rear end of his car resting atop it sufficiently to lift the tires off the ground. So why didn’t he see the pillars? He was trying to outrun a cop chasing him at night, so he had the lights off!

I remember one day he came to my house looking a little battered. He told me he spent the night in jail. Again, he was trying to outrun the cops, this time in his hot rod Volkswagen (and it was a fast car), but they caught him when he ran out of gas.

He settled down when we became adults. He no longer felt the need to push his luck. He was a skilled auto body man and mechanic, and focused his energies on running his business. His hobby was remodeling his houses. He was quite good at it.

The biggest change in his life happened when his daughter, Stephanie, was born. She meant everything to him, and he meant everything to her. There was no doubt to anyone who knew him who his best friend was - she was it! He took a great deal of pride in everything she did. She was his world!

Dana was many things, but one thing he was not was late. If he was not on time, he was early. Punctuality was important to him. He invited me over for dinner one time. He scolded me for being five minutes late.

More than never being late, Dana was his own man. More than he hated tardiness, he did not like plans made for him, and he did not like being told what to do, which leads me to the story of his death.

I got a call one Thursday from his girlfriend, Nancy, telling me that Dana had suffered a heart attack. He was alive, but it did not look good. Seeing him lying in that hospital bed with machines keeping his heart beating and helping him breathe was terrifically difficult. He would not be coming home. The only question left was when to pull the plug.

Nancy’s concern was rightfully on Stephanie. They talked and decided to get everything ready first. They bought a blue suit that Stephanie picked out. They were able to get a crypt vault in the wall in which his mom is entombed. They made the arrangements for his funeral for the following Saturday. Everything was set, so it was time for them to give the okay to the doctors to pull the plug that Sunday.

If there was anything Dana hated more than being late, it was for plans to be made for him or to be told what to do, and this was no exception. The doctors had estimated he would be gone in about twenty minutes. He took his last breath five days later.

Eight days after the Saturday his funeral was scheduled, we gathered to pay our final respects to my dear friend, but Stephanie’s best friend. There he lie in his casket adorned in his blue suit looking at peace, but with just a hint of a grin that suggested he died the way he lived - on his own terms contrary to the plans he always hated people making for him.

© 2015 - Goldwing Tom
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