“Hey Butch…Get Me a Beer”

Fourth of July, 2000.

“Pop” had his bedroom on the first floor, down the hallway from the kitchen.  He would smoke his cigars by shoving them down in the bowl of his pipe.  When he wanted a beer he would holler:

“Hey Butch, get me a beer,” in his “Jugoslavian” accent. That’s how he said it, “Jugoslav.”

Pop was Butch’s grandfather.

Butch was my dear friend Joe.

I spent a lot of time in that house, with his family; his mom, his dad, and a whole bunch of sisters.

It’s weird.

It seems like one day you are growing up 11 years old, then the next thing you know you are 20 and you’ve learned everything about life within a ten-mile radius of a little Jersey shore town called Oceanport.

And then the next thing you know you are 61 with life smacking you upside the head reminding you that you aren’t young anymore and the party can be over abruptly.

What happened?

Where did those forty some years go?

What did I miss?

What could I have done differently?


For that which, then, I thought was right…

Have Mercy God.

For that, which now, I regret…

Forgive me God.

For that which, hence, I know not what to do…

Guide me God.

That was from church today.

Today, that resonated with me


Before I went to church today I read something on Facebook that resonated with me as well. As I thought about starting to write today I thought what I had read on Facebook would be a good reference, would have some place in these thoughts.

But then I learned about Facebook time.

Like those forty years I just lost, four hours in Facebook time can be just as harsh.  That experience I had at 7 am this morning was now just a cloudy memory of something I know was worth remembering and worth experiencing,  but now lost.  I tried to go back to experience it again but I couldn’t find it, you can’t go back, it is lost in time.

But I recall it had a message that went something like this:

Life is a daily exercise in learning lessons. Mainly because we learn a lesson one day, but because life is what it is and we are what we are, flawed, we have to learn it again and then again, and again and maybe sometimes we never learn.

I think whenever we lose someone we wish we could get a redo, take a mulligan.  The “if I had a chance to do it again” syndrome.

There are songs written about it; I’ve written about it with Donny; now I am writing about it again.

I know this all too well.  It’s like being 60 and making fart noises in walkie-talkies. There are some things I wish I would have done differently.

We don’t always learn lessons well… well, at least I don’t.

We treat our bodies like they are indestructible only to find out once we are older and wiser, that they are not.

We treat our world like it is indestructible only to find out maybe too late,  that may not be true either.

But there is one thing I think I have learned that is true.

Some friendships are indestructible, no matter how hard they are tested or how much time is lost.

And worrying about what I did right or wrong; and what I now regret, is a waste of energy.  It’s in God’s hands now.

And like Facebook time, the remembrances of my experiences forty or fifty years ago might be cloudy and I will never see them as clear again. And even though more recent memories for me were fewer and farther between I can still smile when I think of them all, and still feel good knowing that even after many years, I got messages like this:

“A Very Merry Christmas and a Very Happy and Healthy New Year. I Love You All!! Butch”

We all love you too Butch.



My friend Joe died suddenly and unexpectedly last Friday.  We experienced growing into young adulthood together and shared many things in common, especially our love of music (though as instrumentalists,  we were only proficient at air guitar and air drums); and many of life’s lessons that made our relationship one that was comforting; at times funny, sometimes sad; and always in the end, supportive.

It was indestructible.

If there ever was a song written that I always associated with my friendship with Joe, it was this one:

Now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
I’m ready to grow young again
And hear your sister’s voice calling us home across the open yards
Well maybe we could cut someplace of our own
With these drums and these guitars

Cause we made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

(From No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen)

Here is a great version if you have a few minutes that puts it in a perspective close to home for me, we did a lot of dreaming too.

I will miss him and will always be grateful for the friendship we shared.

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2 Responses to “Hey Butch…Get Me a Beer”

  1. Kate says:

    Sad but beautiful story.

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