IN MEMORY OF BRYAN CARNETT, 1960 – 10/18/2015
It’s been a long time, old pal.
It’s been a long time since we cruised town in that Dodge Dart, pulling over on occasion to chat up some local cuties if we happened to see any sashaying down the street. Sometimes they’d come along for the ride, and sometimes not.
Brother, they sure did like you! Their faces would light up when you’d appear, and they’d get a little more giggly and playful as you tickled them with your eyes.
I had moderate luck with the young ladies, but you had all the luck in the world. It was a great puzzlement to my mom, who once said, “Why do all the girls like Bryan so much? He looks like an orangutan!” She had a good point. That impish face under a shock of wavy red hair didn’t exactly make you Harrison Ford. But, good golly, those girls wanted you, and it took me years to figure out why.
They wanted someone who could make them laugh. Check.
They wanted someone who would go beyond the usual shallow nature of a teen fling. Check.
Someone who would care about them, cherish them, value their friendship, and make them feel important.
That was you, old pal. That’s what I always got because that’s what everyone got who had the good fortune to count you as a friend. You had a knack for making others feel like king or queen of the world when they were around you. I know this firsthand because that’s how I felt whenever we spent time together during our forty years of friendship.
I don’t remember how we met. Different high schools, different but neighboring towns, and not a single mutual friend. It was probably at some local party, but it doesn’t matter. We owned the next few years and counted a handful of milestones.
My first viewing of Star Wars happened with you, that night we headed down to a Sacramento drive-in to catch the crazy space movie everyone was talking about. We didn’t want any girls to come along because we actually wanted to see the film. We liked it so much, it turned out to almost be better than having girls along!
My first brush with the law was with you. Underage drinking, in a parking lot in Sacramento. My charges were dropped because I was brand new with the US Navy at the time, just visiting you during a weekend trip home. I think you got community service, so you had to pick up trash for a while, but I don’t really recall.
The one part of that encounter I can see in my mind’s eye, plain as day, is the moment the arresting officer returned to his squad car with the two of us handcuffed in the back seat. He was about to transport us to the booking center, but you asked him, “Hey, what happens if I get out of these cuffs?” He said he’d hook you up a bit tighter and possibly even “double-cuff” you if need be.
“Well, I guess you better do that, then!” you laughingly exclaimed as you handed him the pair of handcuffs that were clamped on your wrists only moments before.
You see, I remember the funny stuff REALLY WELL, and life with you was a hoot. You’d make me laugh, I’d return the favor, and so it went. By the way, you never told me how you got out of those cuffs.
I remember the music. Primarily The Eagles, as their greatest hits had just come out, so we spent hours tooling along with a peaceful, easy feeling while watching for “a girl, my LORD, in a flatbed FORD! Slowin’ down to take a look at me.”
Girls, hotrods, and beer. Those were the early years, and that’s okay because that’s the sowing of wild oats. Lap racing at Hangtown Speedway and drags on the strip down in Sac took a lot of our time until I was ordered off to the most southern part of the state by the Navy, and you stayed around to hold down the fort.
With oats successfully sewn, you met and married the only true love of your life, Wynne. My approval wasn’t needed or requested, but I heartily gave it when I saw how you beamed around her like no other. I knew she was the one for you. I knew you were in good hands.
The years drove a wedge and, somehow, time sent us down different paths. I’ve lived in a hundred-flippity different places, while you’ve always remained rooted and true.
Only a handful of years ago, a nice kid named Forryst saw something I wrote about you online and showed it to you, so you called me up. “Hey GOOSE!” you said when I answered the phone. My spirit soared at the sound of your voice, and I laughed when I heard you shake the dust off that old nickname you used to call me.
When we reconvened after an almost thirty-year sabbatical, it turned out that not much had changed. You could still light up a room, and you still made me feel like the most important friend you’d ever had. Most importantly, you were obviously deeply in love with that beautiful woman at your side, and you became kind of a chatterbox as you went on and on about those two boys I had yet to meet!
You’d forgotten but I met Doug when he was a wee one, toddling around your place in diapers, while I was up on weekend liberty from San Diego. I remember being astounded, surprised, and proud as hell that such a ladies’ man as you had managed to settle down and produce an amazing family.
I’ve since had the pleasure of getting to know Forryst and I can see a lot of you in him. I haven’t spent any time with his older brother, now that he’s out of diapers, but I’m once again proud as hell that you have left yourself behind in the personae of these two amazing young men.
Come to think of it, you’ve left a bit of yourself behind in all of us, old pal. All of us are the better for knowing you. Fred, Shirley, Doug, and Forryst share your DNA while Wynne holds your heart. But we all get a bit of your spirit to keep with us.
I tap into that bit when I have a hard day of work ahead of me, or I have to ease off on my addictions and get my act together for my loved ones. When I’m panhandled by a homeless person and feel tempted to snarl at them for interrupting nothing of particular importance, I instead hand them some change as I smile and wish them luck, because that’s what you did. You were a staunch advocate of hard work and self-sufficiency, while at the same time coming through for anyone who was down and out.
You worked hard, played hard, and loved until the angels whisked you away. You’re theirs now, and His and your home is in eternity, where I’m sure you will bide time by tinkering on some heavenly hot-rods until the rest of us can catch up and hang out with you once again.
Thank you, Bryan Carnett, you impish orangutan. You were my first true friend. I wouldn’t have admitted it as a teenaged boy, because it wasn’t cool, but I loved you then. Now that I’m all growed-up and almost have my own wild oats sewn, I have no problem with shouting from the rooftops that I love you now, as I have for many years, and I’m eternally grateful to you for one of the most incredible friendships I’ve ever known.
I’ll miss you, as we all will, but see you again someday, we shall, as Yoda would say.
Rest In Peace, my brother. The force has always been with you.
Bryan and I ride BART in 2012