I met Andrew sometime early in my freshman year at UB. He was a year older than me. He had a mustache and seemed so much older. Red hair and red mustache, people always told him that he looked like Rusty Jones. We hit it off right away. He was ridiculously smart and could converse about so many diverse topics without hesitation. He seemed worldly to me and quickly made me realize how much I had to learn about the world. He made me laugh. A lot! He had such a sharp wit. We didn’t necessarily have a ton in common. He came from a military family and was a staunch republican, even at 19. You don’t see that every day. But college can be such an awesome experience, a place where you meet people that are different from yourself and where you learn that it’s okay to have differences. Politics weren’t as harsh then either. Oh, you voted for Reagan? Oh well, pass me a beer.
Andrew lost his mom to cancer when he was in 9th grade. He would sometimes talk about it but never in a “feel sorry for me” kind of way. There was a certain quiet sadness about him though. I would listen to his stories about that time in his life and think, holy crap, he’s so much more mature than I am.
Mainly we sat around and found ways to make each other laugh, staying up late into the night with our friends, watching Letterman. He was a heavy drinker and would always want to split a 12 pack with me. He knew I’d barely get to my 3rd by the time that he sucked down the other 9. In college, with so much going on, we never gave it much thought. Everyone drank their fair share and then some. I’m not sure any one of us drank more than he did. He smoked too, which in other people would drive me crazy. I never cared with him. He was just fun to be around and I always felt lucky to have him as a friend.
Late in my freshman year, Andrew started dating Beth. It’s common for good friends to become a 3rd wheel and be left out in situations like that. I was never the 3rd wheel though. They just included me and I became great friends with Beth too, 1/2 younger brother, 1/2 adopted child. There are so many great stories, most not for sharing on a site that my kids may someday read.
We all eventually graduated. Andrew moved back to the Albany area and married Beth. They had two wonderful kids. There was no internet back then. No Facebook. No easy way to stay in touch without actually picking up a phone. We did eventually fall into a groove though and stayed in touch. It was mostly me calling him but I didn’t care. He had a successful business and traveled to exotic places, taking clients on fishing trips. Andrew was an avid fisherman and spent a great deal of his life hunting and fishing.
I probably only saw Andrew five times since our college days but whenever we did get together, it was like no time had passed at all. We quickly fell into our old rhythms. Some people just click and friendship is easy. It was like that with us.
I last saw him almost two years ago when I drove out that way to see King Crimson. I bought an extra ticket and made him go with me. We went out to dinner and saw the show. He had changed. He was off. A shadow of who he had been.
Beth called me today to let me know that Andrew died. The alcohol took him over and consumed him. He died in a very sad, very lonely way. I wish his story had a better ending. I’ll always be thankful though to have had him as my friend. I miss him already.