Memories of Mike
(6/10/1943 to 9/18/2006)

These are our friends, Mike and Flo…
 
 
















The four of us spent a lot of our working years together at Pacific Gas and Electric Company in California and retired from that world at about the same time.  We sold our homes, purchased RVs and spent the last several years touring the U.S. and Canada, occasionally together.  Prominent among the threads that bind the four of us is cancer. Flo developed breast cancer several years ago and some time later so did Kalyn.  They have both undergone successful treatment and are now cancer free. On Monday, September 18th, Mike died.  No one who knew Mike had given any thought to this possibility and to say that friends and family are stunned is completely inadequate to the reality of the situation…
 
   
















I have discovered that life is somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle that is constantly being assembled as you grow to maturity and nears completion as you accumulate years.  The puzzle pieces are comprised of your experiences, your talents and abilities, and, most importantly, the people you have come to know and love throughout your journey.  When all of these pieces are arranged they present an image of the person you have become.  Over time some of these pieces will fade or become dislodged and fall away as a result of age, health or circumstance.  But those pieces are generally the ones on the edges or corners of the puzzle and are not significantly important.  Some pieces, however, are critical to maintaining the integrity of the image and leave gaps and empty spaces that are noticeably missed once removed.  Mike was such a piece…

 
















Mike had three great loves in his life: his wife, Flo; his gun collection; and bears…
 
 






















His love of bears was near legendary and there seemed to be nothing he wouldn’t do to get just a little bit closer for a better picture or merely a better look at one of these critters in the wild.  When Mike learned that Kalyn and I were heading to the small town of Hyder, Alaska to watch the bears feeding on the spring salmon run, the cry of “Thar be bears!!” went out and there was no way he wasn’t going along.  It turned out that keeping Mike a safe distance from any bruin was something like trying to keep Steve Irwin from jumping on crocodiles.  We managed to get this picture of Mike sneaking up on a grizzly he spotted snoozing in that thicket.  We used a telephoto lens and were locked safely inside our motorhome when we took it…
 
 
















Mike also enjoyed a love of history and the four of us spent a part of one summer together touring the east coast from Alabama through Maine with stopovers in Washington, Boston and Philadelphia…
 
















 

Mike also had a great sense of humor but it was rather subdued and seldom expressed in practical jokes.  To my undoing, I told him about a bartender at an Outback Steakhouse near New Orleans that I had been teasing without pause until she finally looked me straight in the eye and asked, “What’s wrong with you!?”  This earned her a twenty-dollar tip!  Some time later, at a restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the four of us were having dinner and our waitress kept giving me openings to tease her that I couldn’t let pass.  She eventually came over, set her tray down, folded her arms and while giving me a look that could kill said, “What’s wrong with you!?”  When Mike burst into tearful laughter and nearly fell out of his chair, I knew I had been set up . . . and I knew exactly who was responsible . . .
 
 
















In all the years I had known Mike, I had never seen him drink anything stronger than a soda . . . except once.  I took special delight in introducing Mike as my father.  He was, after all, 1 year older than me!  People apparently believed this without question due to the sincerity of my introduction and because I somewhat physically resemble a “mini Mike.”  On one such occasion, at an Elks Lodge in Wareham, Massachusetts, Mike was getting into my game and began introducing himself as my father.  He was absolutely amazed that anyone could believe him and, after introducing himself as such to an Elk member sitting next to him at the bar, leaned over to me and said, in a loud conspiratorial “whisper,” so as to be heard over the music, “I told her I was your father and she believed me!”  Mike thought this was pretty funny until he realized the music had stopped at that precise moment and his voice could be heard booming throughout the entire Lodge.  I believe his tryst with Wild Turkey came to a permanent conclusion a few moments later.  Mike was our friend.  Mike was my friend.  He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.   Perhaps the memories that we each have of our time together will, eventually, fill in that emptiness we all now carry and our individual puzzles will, once more, be complete.  But if you should find it difficult to deal with memories, then perhaps this thought will provide comfort: in the night sky rests the Big Dipper, also known as Ursa Major, The Bear Constellation.  The “Great Bear” now stands just a little taller and burns a bit more brightly with the addition of one more, very special, star…
 
 





















Although Mike may be gone now, he will not be forgotten and, for those of us who knew and loved him, I believe that he will always be nearby...