Eulogy for a Friend

by Boudreau Freret

Thank you and goodbye, my favorite coffee mug, my friend.  I smiled every time I drank from you the last seventeen years.  You made my life better.

I'll never forget the day you came to me in your small brown box, a total surprise.  I didn't remember filling out and mailing the reader reply card that brought you to me.  In those days I was one friend away from being homeless, and the mail brought few, if any, pleasant surprises.  You were the best.

Mikey and I ceremoniously washed and filled you with Community (with chicory, of course) and we hit it right off.  Why not — what wasn't to love about you?  You were new, and shiny black, and heavy, and smart — a surprise gift — and you were all mine.

“One friend away from being homeless.”  That's funny, how I tried to make it sound artful, or dramatic.  I was so poor.  Mikey took me in the day after Christmas (or was it two?) when the half-way house kicked me out.  “Made a decision to leave,” they called it.

Mikey and I would run out of cigarettes (always in the middle of the night — why was that?) and we'd turn on the silly lamp we'd made out of a plaster bust of Buddha and dig butts out of the trash to come up with enough tobacco to roll a couple more, using a page out of the phonebook for the paper.  Just a couple of ashtray drags to hold us until morning, which, though we never were convinced, always came.  Then I'd fill you with fresh coffee and the three of us would set off in Old Blue, Mikey's beat-to-hell '76 pickup truck, to buy new smokes with scrounged change.

I was so poor yet so humbled, so happy to be alive.  We had no rational reason in the world to be happy, but Mikey and I were.  We lived life one day at a time, because there just wasn't any other way that we could, and somehow managed in the face of madness to laugh together rather than cry alone.  I've wondered since if that was the freedom Kris Kristofferson wrote about in Bobby McGee.

Mikey would take handyman jobs (which, if this aside may be forgiven, was a lot like Isaac Stern playing kazoo — Mikey could coax art from rough lumber with a grace I had never seen, and have never seen since) and I'd “help” him as best I could.  When the work was done and the meetings were over and we'd been to George's Grill for something unhealthy and wonderful, we'd go home to our scruffy old house-apartment, kick back in the Chairs of Power (Mikey's name for the two mismatched recliners someone had given him) and pick some music out of Mikey's big cardboard box of unsorted, uncased, cassette tapes.

With Van Morrison or Steve Earle or Robert Cray or Dwight Yoakam or (my favorite) Dire Straits (Side B of Brothers in Arms) turned up, I'd fill you with coffee from the day's final pot, and Mikey and I would recline in our Chairs and close our eyes and feel the music and smoke store-bought cigarettes.  As Mark Knopfler would sing “the man's too big, the man's too strong,” I'd imagine myself victorious over some nebulous, seemingly insurmountable, challenge, and I would daydream great adventures and fantastic successes that I hoped my future would reveal.  Heady stuff for a crippled up kid surviving on food stamps and the kindness of strangers.

But as great adventures actually unfolded in my life, and I came to enjoy successes more fantastic than I had dared to imagine, you were there with me.

When I moved out of Mikey's place and into the garage apartment in the back yard (with its alarming 30° list to one side — Mikey called it the “Leaning Tower”), you were my prized possession.  When I set off for New Orleans and graduate school, I carefully placed you into the first box I packed.  When I moved in with the woman I would later marry, you were given a position of honor in our tiny kitchen cabinet.  When we moved to Florida, you came, and I don't know that I could have passed the bar exam without you.  When we bought our first house, you were an indispensable contributor to my handyman projects (all of which used some skill or trick you'd watched me learn from Mikey).  When our children were born, you helped me welcome them into the world.

For seventeen years you've been my favorite mug and a touchstone for my soul.  For seventeen years, when I sleepily reached for a clean mug in the morning and you were next in line, the sight of you brought a smile to my face and heart that in an instant let me relive every moment of our journey together, and all the miracles that started in my life when you and I and Mikey met.  No matter what else was going on in my life these last seventeen years, when I took you from the cabinet and filled you again with coffee, you refreshed my perspective and renewed my awe at the magnificent power of the human spirit to help another triumph over its greatest foe — itself.

Thank you, my friend.  I have missed Mikey every minute of every day since he died, and I will miss you, too.  Together you changed me forever, and in so doing have changed the lives of all that have touched mine, and though I will miss you, we will never be without you.