Friday, September 29, 2006

Remembering Mike

A little more than a decade ago, we moved to the northwestern most section of Montgomery County, which is on the opposite end of the county from where my husband and I grew up. It’s the country side. I briefly mentioned the setting during those four years of my life in an old post called My Splendid Suburban Lifestyle. (After reading it again, I realize that I really sounded like a snob.) I didn’t refer to the area very fondly, even though it had its charm, but I had neighbors who we liked -- and who left a lasting impression on me.

Mike and Kathy were the lively and friendly neighbors who lived on the west side of our tall and skinny old farmhouse. The ones on the east side of our property were deceased, as we lived next to a small church & cemetery, and therefore weren’t part of our evening chats.

Our neighbor’s young blonde daughter shared the same patch of big backyard as our young blonde son, so the lumpy green carpet was a place to hang out and play in the evenings after dinner and on the weekends.

Mike arrived home from work early every evening. He drove a somewhat battered blue, Ford pick-up truck. Its ruggedness matched his. His muscular physique and hardened hands told of his long and laborious days as a mason. His handsome face, warm eyes and extraordinarily loud metal music tickled me with electricity. He was ten years older than me, but didn’t look it. I was attracted to him – and he was attracted to me. However, I tried very hard not let it show while in his presence. He was vocal on several occasions about his interest in me.

One Saturday afternoon in early summer, he pulled noisily into his driveway. I observed his arrival, while waiting on my front lawn for a girlfriend to pick me up to go to the local swimming pool. I was wearing a stunning red swim suit. It made me feel sexy and shy.

Mike got out of his truck and began crossing the lawn toward me. I noticed that his white dress shirt was halfway unbuttoned down his tanned, blonde chest. He smelled like man – a sexy, sweaty man with alcohol on his breath. He stumbled over his own feet as he approached me, but it didn’t seem to faze him. He kept walking toward me. We stood breathing a foot apart for what felt like several minutes. He explained his dressy attire, as our eyes remained locked. I don’t remember if I replied. I just remember feeling magnetized.

There were other times I walked away from the fact that I was drawn to him. He would make comments about my appearance when we crossed paths, even at our shared burn pit. Burning yard waste was even appealing in his presence. He told me I was beautiful whenever I was near him. His eyes made me feel powerfully feminine.

He often stopped by our house to offer us some of his freshly processed kills. Mike was a hunter. My husband and son appreciated his sausages and jerky. I refrained from eating it because it reeked of garlic and I wasn’t fond of the idea of eating deer.

Handsome Mike hunted with my handsome husband on a few occasions. They were buddies. They both worked in construction, loved fishing, guns, archery and the thrill of a fresh kill. Mike would knock on our door to show off a carcass whenever he scored some local game.

One warm and dark evening, Mike knocked on our door to warn us not to come outside. He told us that he was going to put down his dog, Max. The hunting dog bit his elderly neighbor’s rear end, while she was trying to give the him a bowl of water. Her husband came to our house to share the ugly photos of her bruised and bitten booty. Mike felt obligated to shoot the Springer Spaniel and bury him behind our properties, which made me very sad.

One spring afternoon, I banged on Mike’s door in a panic, after my six-year-old son wiped out on his new bike. He skidded on the rock hill that snaked through the farm behind our houses. My little boy got road rash from head to toe. Mike watched my crawling daughter, while I cleaned my son’s scrapes. He sat on the toilet in my bathroom and gazed at me, while I put ointment and band aids all over my brave son. After my son left, we were alone in my tiny bathroom. I found it hard to breathe. I wanted to straddle his lap and sit glued against him until we melted into each other, but I walked out of the room and thanked him for his help.

Mike often joined my son and me in our yard whenever we played soccer or wiffleball. He practiced shooting arrows at archery targets with my son and husband. One fall evening, he hit golf balls deep into the corn field behind our houses with my son. His shed door was open, as I followed them passed. We paused briefly at the doorway and silently considered the intimacy and privacy of the small empty shed. However, we chose not to give into temptation. We were never unfaithful to our spouses even though our senses were gripped by an almost desperate, natural lust.

He kissed me goodnight one cool evening when we were going inside from his daughter’s backyard birthday party. The taste of his lips lingered on mine as I walked away from him. I also kept thinking about how his hands felt like sandpaper.

I never offered him a reciprocal compliment, although I wish that I had. It may have cooled us down if I had been honest, too. However, I wasn’t sure enough to give it a try. I would usually just blush when he said sexy things and then walk quickly away from him.

His cute wife was a nice lady. She was a smart, down-to-earth and petite brunette. I sensed that being married to Mike was a challenge. He tended to occasionally drink too much and say inappropriate things. Neither of us ever shared our marital woes, although we lived close enough to each other to have an understanding without verbalizing our problems.

On the hot, late summer day when we moved away, we didn’t expect to see our neighbors. However, Mike had come home early. He explained that he had gotten dizzy and felt like he was having a heart attack from the heat at work. He seemed like he had been drinking. We needed to give our house a final cleaning prior to settlement. We borrowed their vacuum. Kathy told me that my yellow sundress was pretty. I smiled and thanked her.

They both came outside to share a final conversation. We stood in our backyard beside a cherry tree. Mike asked me to lie on the grass and uncross my legs, followed by three other surprising statements. Our spouses were standing beside us. None of us acknowledged what he had just said.

Upon leaving my very first house for the final time that day, I knew that I wouldn’t miss it, but I knew that I would miss Mike. It was probably a good thing that we made the move. I’m not sure how much longer my willpower would have won.

My husband and I drove by our old house about four months ago to see if the new owners had made any improvements. We also planned to knock on Mike and Kathy’s door to say hello and catch up. We were in the area to go fishing at a nearby reservoir, which is full of bass, catfish and crappies. We hoped that they would join us. However, when we arrived we noticed that there was a For Sale sign in front of their house. I tried to mask my disappointment, although my husband had been aware of our mutual crush. He was pretty cool about it.

My husband called me from his jobsite today to deliver news, which immediately stole my breath and made me nauseous. He said, “The reason no one was home at the R***’s house is because Mike is dead.” I whispered, “What?” He replied, “Yeah, I’m working with some guys at the site here who are from our old neighborhood. We got to talking about the area and they knew it. They even knew the old one roomed school house where the R***’s lived. One of the guys grew up with Mike and the other one used to work with him. They said that Mike shot himself after a standoff with the cops. There were helicopters and everything. Mike fired two warning shots and then turned the gun on himself.

He called Kathy and told her that he was going to do it. She called the cops and they arrived with an ambulance. Kathy had recently left Mike and got custody of their two children. She got half of the house, so they had to sell it. I guess that’s why he did it.”

I can’t even explain how saddened I feel, especially for his children and family.

I even feel sorry for myself, since I will never get to see him again, which is silly since we moved away several years ago.

I told my son about it when he came home from school this afternoon. He said, “I really liked that guy. He did a lot of fun stuff with me when I was little.” I said, “Yeah buddy, it is really sad that he is gone.”

*This photo of me was taken two days before we moved away.

I wish that I had a photo of Mike.

*Update 10/2/06

Dear Daniel Rubin,

Thank you for taking the time to find this obituary in your special secret midnight reporter's database, as you know I googled and came up with nothing. You're a really cool guy!

This information confirmed what I really didn't want to believe. However, I felt like I needed to read it.

Michael ****, 43, died February 16, 2006 in his home. He was a mason for the past 25 years. He attended Lutheran church. He was a member of a sportmens association, fire company and gun club. He was an avid hunter and fisherman.

*Update 10/3/06 - I was so floored by this tragedy that I let my feelings pour out without considering accuracy. I shared the story as it was told to me. I have learned that it was somewhat inaccurate.

Mike passed away on Feb 16th at 7:30 am. He died from a single gun shot wound to the head. The day that Mike died, the sheriff showed up to arrest Mike for a DUI. Mike had failed to show up to court for this offense. On the day he died, Mike fired exactly one shot, the shot that took his life. Mike never fired warning shots nor fired at the police. The Chief of Police quoted this in the local paper.

I realize that no one is responsible for Mike's death but Mike.

I also know that you cannot love someone enough to change them.


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Joe Tornatore said...

condolences. never underestimate the mixture of alcohol in a hunter that takes life indiscriminately, for one day it may be his own.

Jessica said...


I'm not sure that I have the whole story regarding his death. My facts were based on construction site gossip from guys who said they were his old friends. I hope that it was an ugly fabrication. However, I doubt I'll ever know for sure. Whatever the details might have been, it sucks that he is gone.

Mike loved his guns, but he also seemed to respect their power. He was careful in his handling of them from what I observed. He loved to shoot his rifle off up toward the stars in his backyard on New Years Eve. It was the first time I had ever heard that, since all of my prior New Year's Eve parties were in the suburbs where doing that is illegal.

Bryan said...

I'm very sorry to hear that story, there are times in life that the things we cherish, eiother privately or publicly are taken from us when we least expect it, but in the grand scheme of all things, everything happens for a reason...

Jen said...

Sad story.

deep_z said...

Sorry to read about your friend. I had read some of this earlier... hadn't gotten down to the death itself.

... just tragic.

Rae said...

That was an unexpected ending. Unfortunate.

Frank said...

That is a powerful story, Jess. Sorry from a distance.

mcs said...

C'est la vie.

For some people, life is a fragile house of cards and it requires very little for it to topple.

Who knows what lurks in the minds of some people? Like the guy in Lancaster County who killed those poor Amish girls at that little schoolhouse. What the hell triggered that madness in him?

Suicide is a selfish act. And very final.

C'est la vie.

The moral of the story is, don't be that selfish person. Things are never that bad to require such a horrible ending. EVER.

Rob said...

A wonderful memory. Very powerful and longing. I love your choice of words. I wish I had that connection in my life.