Remembering My Friend
“We need a word that none of us would use in normal conversation,” Joe pronounced.
After several minutes of consideration, it was suggested “wax beans” might be the perfect choice. It made sense since none of us liked them, our parents had long since given up trying to make us eat them, and Burger King did not serve them. We’d never have reason to say “wax beans” in normal conversation.
Our emergency signal established, Joe, Andy and Glen climbed into my big, green Chrysler New Yorker and entombed themselves in the trunk.
With three teens in the back seat and three more in the trunk, we’d tear around town thinking we were causing great mayhem. At each stoplight, we’d swap guys from the back seat to the trunk and back again.
High school shenanigans.
Joe was our leader. Lean and strong, he possessed a natural ability to draw people to him. When Joe spoke, we listened – usually. Those were the days one remembers forever – the carefree time after we earned the Holy Grail of our driver’s licenses and before we left each other for college.
My parents tell me I first met the “Bodzioch boy” in Cub Scouts, but I don’t recall him. I do remember the night I went to his house to buy his used telescope. I said it was beautiful and my father said I had a lot to learn about negotiating. Joe and I became friends while persuading North Kingstown High School to sanction an astronomy club.
Joe was president and I served as vice president and treasurer. In point of fact, we spent as much time gorging ourselves on Double Beef Whoppers and root beer as we did stargazing. But, we did somehow learn a little between guffaws and late-night treks up Post Road looking for pizza and doughnuts.
After high school, we started to drift. Joe and I went to different colleges and saw each other infrequently but it was always the same between us. We always picked up our friendship right where we left off. There were never any of the awkward, not-sure-of-what-to-say moments I’ve experienced with other old friends.
We both married. Joe, I’m happy to say, was one of my ushers and I was proud to be one of the only high school friends invited to his wedding. The last time we spoke, we compared notes on career progress. We were on the fast track, moving from project to project and just lost in the sport of success in the corporate world.
Joe and his wife, Sheryl, wouldn’t be home for Christmas that year – it was too far a drive from their new home in Virginia.
He must have changed his mind or perhaps Sheryl persuaded him to come back to New England to visit their parents. In any case, they did come home. Joe and Sheryl spent Christmas Eve and morning at the Bodzioch family home in North Kingstown before setting out to Connecticut to see her folks.
They never made it out of Rhode Island. On Christmas morning, 1986, Joe’s car was struck head-on. Sheryl was badly injured and Joe was killed.
On the day my friend was buried, a Christmas card arrive in the mail at my home. It said, “We’re coming home, hope to see you at Christmas.”
I miss my friend Joe, I miss reminiscing with him and talking to him about his life and plans. I miss him each Christmas Eve when I visit his grave with flowers and try to pull him back to life with my memories and recollections.
It’s as close to him as I can get now.
I’ll always remember Joe Bodzioch. He was my best friend.
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Tags: Joe Bodzioch, NKHS, North Kingstown, Wickford