Well. I’m headed to Texas. I’m lucky in that after nearly forty years, I still have my childhood best friend, and we’re still extremely close even though we don’t live anywhere near each other. I’m in Cleveland and he’s in Lubbock. He called me Tuesday afternoon and said he was on his way to our hometown, that his dad had reached the end of the road, and has soon as he and his brother arrived they were taking him off life support. It was an emotional day. This morning I get in the car and drive to meet the family. Cause they’re my family, too. Growing up I slept at their house as much as I did my own. I called them mom and dad like I did my own folks, just as my friend did with mine. Back then Lee Smith was a big, strong guy. Vietnam vet. Navy Corpsman. Combat medic. The dude got shot at in helicopters and tramped through jungles with his gun and his bandages, trying to keep kids from literally falling apart. He was a legit hero. By the time I met him in 1981, and his son and I became instant best friends, he owned his own tile laying business. That left his weekends wide open. My own father was still in the army, he stayed til retirement. His schedule was not all that flexible. So it was Lee that did the overwhelming majority of Boy Scout troop camping, canoeing, and fishing trips with us. He taught me how to fish, to track, to shoot, and loads of other stuff. And on weekends my dad did get off, or when he took some leave to take a trip with us, we really had a blast. Lee Smith loved things that went fast. He had a ‘72 F250 short cab that he never stopped messing with when I was a kid. It had a 429 police interceptor engine, amongst other goodies that made it look like a farm truck, and run like it’s ass was on fire. When Brent and I got older and started driving we never a lost a race in that truck. He souped up his wife’s LTD. much to her chagrin she had the most screamin’ grocery getter in San Angelo, TX. He loved Kung Fu Theatre, and Lethal Weapon. He really loved Lethal Weapon. Early on he adopted Danny Glover’s signature “I’m getting too old for this s#!t” line. He wasn’t musical, but he always supported Brent and I playing, and helped out whenever he could if we needed something. Senior Prom Brent and I were over at their house getting dressed and prepped to go to the dance. As we were leaving the house to go pick up our dates he handed Brent a bottle of aspirin. We were confused, and he smiled and said “In case she gets a headache!”. Brent’s mother turned bright red and screamed “Leroy Smith you take that back RIGHT NOW!!” He was laughing like a maniacal little kid. It was beautiful. He showed us how to rig booby traps to mess with our other friends. Water, fireworks, etc. He helped us make an atomic potato gun that must’ve launched 300 yards. As he got older, life got harder for him. The last twenty years have been a daily battle for him as depression and ptsd set in deeper and deeper. He always kept his chin up, but his struggle was 24/7, and got worse as time went on. He found help with veteran’s support groups, and private counseling, and he started to open up and talk about the war, which he never did when he was younger. It helped him a lot, but it could be really hard to listen to according to his sons. I wasn’t around for those years, but apparently he got to the point where he was incredibly candid about unspeakable things. It was his way of trying to come to terms with what he’d seen and dealt with. The last couple years he’d gone down hill fast. ALS got him and tore him down to nothing in no time flat. Tuesday afternoon the war was finally over for him. I’ll drive to San Angelo today, to be with my best friend, his little brother, and my second mom, and tomorrow I’ll help carry his casket and say goodbye. Lee Smith was one of my biggest heroes and mentors as a young person. He had every bit as much influence in my life as my own father did. I feel like my childhood is truly gone now. Having lost my own father back in ‘96, I have a pretty good idea what Brent, and his mother and brother are feeling like. I’m gonna go to them now. Thanks for letting me ramble. I was doing ok this week until this morning. I knew it was gonna hit me sooner or later.