Blood on Blood
If you have read many of my other essays you will know that I have been more than fortunate when it comes to true friends. In most people’s lives if they have one real, true friend in their whole life, then they are lucky. I have had four of those and many others that were just about as close. Of the four “best” friends I have had, three are dead now. Bernie DiCicco from a brain aneurysm, John Lemon from cancer. Mike Burchit from a spinal tumor. They passed away in that order.
After the third friend passed away from a spinal tumor, I sent an email to my only remaining true friend, Danny Villa and told him how much I appreciated his being my friend and wanted him to know that of course should he ever need anything at all that he need only call or get in touch with me and I will do everything in my power to help. I know without hesitation that he would do the same for me.
The reason I sent him that email was because I didn’t want to hear the news one day that Danny had met with an accident and had passed before I could tell him how I felt. Or if I suddenly passed, the same issue.
What got me in that soul baring mode was when Mike Burchit passed away. I met Mike in 1977 at Sierra Lincoln-Mercury. But we didn't become close friends until around 1986 when we worked for the same Ford dealer. For many years Mike and would “store whore” together, which means we’d change dealerships just because we’d get bored easily staying at one place of employment too long. We car pooled for a number of years and for about ten years we were almost inseparable because we worked at the same dealerships and had a lot of the same interests which were mainly time wasters. But we had fun doing that.
I had always told Mike that if he ever needed my help all he had to do was call me and I’d come without even asking what kind of trouble he was in. I told him he could test me at any time and call me in the dead of night if he wanted to and without qualifying his call for help, I’d be wherever he needed me to be. Some of that idea came from the Bon Jovi song Blood on Blood where they talked about being "blood brothers" and how close they were. Since that is how Mike and I were, it fit pretty well.
The whole thing started when Mike and I realized we both believed that females cannot be close enough friends that they would answer a call for help without knowing what help was needed. We maintained that should a girl call her "best friend" in a panic and in seconds asks her to come to the rescue, the friend getting the call would always say, "what's the problem?" thereby qualifying how much she cared for her friend.
Mike never called me in the dead of night or any other time for that matter. Luckily Mike was able to take care of himself pretty well. He was 6’4” and at times went about 350 pounds. Mike was a formidable person when he wanted to be. I wouldn’t call him a gentle giant but he was a good people person with people skills that few people possess.
But eventually we went in different directions. He was the Service Manager at Villa Ford in Orange, California and I went to work for the Machinists Union which tried to organize that shop. Talk about putting brothers on opposite sides of the line. But even though Mike had his job to do and I had mine, we never were disrespectful to each other. In fact, I asked my superiors to move me from that campaign to another Ford dealer in Santa Ana where I was not best friends with the manager.
Several years later, I took a voluntary layoff and moved to Huntsville, Alabama to support my sister who was recovering from breast cancer. When I did that, I eventually changed cell phone providers so none of my friends knew how to get in touch with me. That was just laziness on my part. When I realized that I had not given anyone my cell phone number, I called them and updated them with all of my contact information. When I called Virginia Lemon, widow of one of my other true friends, the first thing she said was, “Joe! Where have you been? Everyone was trying to get in touch with you recently but they tried and tried and had no idea how to contact you.” I apologized and asked why the urgency in getting in touch with me. She said that Mike Burchit who was sick with a spinal tumor when I left California had gotten much worse and was hospitalized with only days to live. She said he was asking for me.
To say I was overwhelmed with sadness doesn’t even touch it. More like a ton of weight dropped onto my head all at once. After all those years and the countless times I had told Mike that if he needed me to just call, and they didn’t have my number. John Lemon’s son Lonnie is a very good friend of mine. In fact, I’m proud to say he and their family are family to me. Mike and Lonnie worked together for some amount of years and Mike called Lonnie to his bedside and asked Lonnie to find me as quickly as he could. Lonnie tried all that day and got Danny Villa involved in the search but they came up fruitless. Mike asked them to try again on the next day and unfortunately they had the same results.
Very soon after that, Mike passed without ever having reached me. His widow Jean told me he just wanted to see me one last time and talk. And after all of our "blood brother" talk I let him down in the worst way. The day I found out about that, was the day I decided to let Danny know the things I was sure he knew, but wanted to tell him anyway.
I am Irish all the way through and we Irish are not known for being communicative to our loved ones. I am reminded of the Irishman who loved his wife so much he almost told her. No matter your lineage, if you are not the kind of person who lets their feelings be known, you are the person I am trying to reach. Stand up, walk away from the computer you are reading this from and make that call or better yet go visit those people whom you want to make sure know how you feel.
Or you could just do it like I did and live with the regret.
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This Page Last Updated: 16 January, 2014
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