Dear Ronnie, I Never Said Goodbye

Why do the funny ones always seem to leave early? I don’t wish death on anyone, but why the comedians among us?

With a world full of stuffy, pretentious, and PC nonsense, you’d think life would throw us a bone and spare the comic relief. If anything, for laughs, sanity, and honesty.

I first met Ronnie in grammar school when his family moved to our town. A happy-go-lucky guy who loved mischief and his new pals. The kid with the heart of gold who fit in right away.

Ronnie was a blast to be around. Like that time in eighth grade when we were graduating grammar school and moving up to high school.

A few of the guys missed graduation that year and had to attend summer school to get their diplomas. Not Ronnie. The powers in charge shut Ronnie down, demanding he repeat the eighth grade. A bummer for Ronnie and us.

What did Ronnie do? He showed up to high school anyway. From the first day, he blended in by taking classes with his buddies. After being skipped over during attendance, he’d give the teacher his name, and that was that.

Ronnie’s charade carried on as the laughs and rumors heated up. A few days in, Ronnie and his prank became the buzz of the high school.

During history, our Vice-Principal, who the students called ‘Meathead’, interrupted the lesson. The VP wagged his finger at Ronnie, letting him know he was outed and his comedy show up in smoke.

We’d all find out the hard way that Meathead was a pro. The derelict’s arch-nemesis and high school hatchet man. He loved prowling the hallways after late bells, busting wise guys smoking in the boys’ room or sneaking off campus to ride the tiger.

As they waited for the van to take Ronnie back to the middle school, Meathead shook his head and chuckled. The VP might have been a hard ass, but even he knew a classic stunt when he saw one.

“I missed my friends,” Ronnie confessed as he boarded the van. That was Ronnie and his truth in full splendor — always living for the moment. What’s any day, much less a school day, without laughs, adventure, and camaraderie?

When Ronnie graduated middle school the following year, his parents enrolled him in a different high school to keep him out of trouble.

That didn’t stick either, as Ronnie ditched that place to hang out with us instead.

In no time, his parents relented and caved in. Back with the gang, Ronnie resumed his jokes and antics. Still a year behind, he’d sneak into our classrooms whenever there was a substitute teacher who would care less.

After high school, Ronnie joined friends attending colleges in Boston. While they went to class, Ronnie worked odd jobs. Crashing on dorm room floors and couches, Ronnie just wanted to be around his pals.

Soon after, Ronnie discovered and answered his calling, leaving Boston for good. He moved to South Florida where he became a pastor and founded a church ministry. He also got married and made new friends.

Ronnie left behind a wonderful family in our town as well. A clan who remain salt-of-the-earth folks. They never had much, but whatever it was seemed enough. A giving and caring family who gladly shared all they had.

In Florida, Ronnie was the happiest he’d ever been. It’s also when his beloved wife became sick and her condition worsened.

In Ronnie’s own words after Lisa passed away: “Even when my chips are low, there’s still some left for giving.” What could I say? Ronnie was Ronnie, and never anything or anyone else.

When Ronnie showed up to our high school reunion, a buzz filled the hall. The guy you couldn’t wait to shake hands with and share a laugh from the old days. To feel that warmth again, and unbeknownst to me, my final time with the man.

I’d never see Ronnie again after that night. He passed away later on, and the whole thing remains fuzzy and one of life’s trivial hand-outs.
I still think about the gang and our fun times growing up. I’m okay with where I am and getting older — that’s life and not much one could do about it anyway.

I remain sad and full of reflection whenever I think about Ronnie. But, boy oh boy, I can’t stop laughing either. That’s who he was and continues to be.

Thanks for your friendship and memories, Ronnie.

So long, buddy— may you rest in peace.

Previously Published on PS I Love You