He was a hugely generous man, and I never saw him without a smile.
The first time I met this gentleman, he was picking me up and taking me to his boat, which was more yacht and less speedboat.
Mike was dating a childhood friend's mother. He collected us and we first made a quick stop at UDF for chicken salad sandwiches - the kind that are cut in half and packaged in those little, plastic, triangular containers - along with some oranges and cans of soda. This was likely in the era when sodas still came in glass bottles with the stryofoam-like label wrapped around the circumference - and so we went with cans.
We got back in the big, black Cadillac and made it to a place where fancy people keep their fancy boats. I don't know if Cincinnati has a yacht club, per se, but we ended up someplace with brown, wooded docks running in all directions to the water.
This excursion was my first experience with riding on a boat, save for a trip or two on Lady of the Lake in Lake Minnetonka and the occasions when my family and I would go sailing when I was little. We'd set out on boats with a rudder and a tiny, little cabin down below where Bridge would play Barbies while I'd try my six-year-old hands out at steering.
This boat was nothing like that.
This vast vessel had two vestibules for steering - actual steering wheels - one on top, where the captain had a spectacular vantage point of all the beautiful surroundings along the Ohio River, and all of the refrigerators, tires and garbage actually floating in the water. The "main" level of the ship offered another spot to allow steering, as well as expansive seating and a huge, flat, lounging area in the front perfect for laying out (yes, I know nothing about nautical jargon).
The cabin offered a full bedroom, working restroom with running water and a kitchen area complete with a refrigerator.
I guess you could say I was pretty enamored with this ship.
We spent the lazy summer day cruising up and down the river, my friend and I occasionally diving off the back of the boat to swim in the muddy colored waters. It was a great moment that I'll never forget, especially considering it was a time in my life when I was not insecure about wearing a bathing suit.
Years passed, and I've since had several other opportunities to see this gentleman, who eventually became my childhood friend's stepfather. I've been to their lovely home for holiday parties and 4th of July picnics, and every time Mike always welcomed me with a kind greeting, a friendly handshake and a smile.
I'd wander the home and its many, expansive rooms and notice photos everywhere, showcasing he and his wife's love of travel. The pictures captured them at the foot of the pyramids, riding on camels. They were on European ski slopes and in steamy equatorial jungles. I'd admire these photos and the many journeys this couple took together - seizing life and all its offerings.
Tomorrow evening I'll go to a visitation to remember Mike's life and pay respects to his loved ones.
I guess I'm at that age - the time when, even as adult children, we are asked to grow up a little more and say our final goodbye to a parent. This is the first occasion when I'll be attending a memorial service for a friend's parent, but unfortunately I know it's not the last.
I cannot imagine losing a parent at this age.
My parents are healthy and I take more than a passing interest in making sure they're going to the doctor regularly and taking the medication they need. I inquire about their exercise habits (I am really impressed and proud that my mom has taken up yoga and palates. If you knew my mom, you'd understand) and make sure they're getting their vegetables now and then.
The shoe's on the other foot, it seems.
The world marches on through time, and each day it takes more people with it - our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors. Our family.
Life's too short to rush through it without savoring.