Thursday, May 26, 2016

In Memoriam: Mike Allred

His home was across a small field from mine when both of us were quite young.  He is one of my earliest friends that I can remember.  Two events connected me to him in those very early days.  First, his family had suffered a tragedy and I was there the day part of it happened.  Only five or six years old, I remember standing outside of his home crying because of the sadness within.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I felt it.  Around the same time, I don’t remember if it was before or after his family's tragedy, my two-year old brother passed away during the night.  My sister and I watched from the front door as my mother, who had just found her lifeless son, run barefoot across the snowy field to my friend’s home to use their phone to call my father.  We didn’t have a phone.

At the time he was the only one outside of my family that I could speak with about what happened.  He would share his sadness with me at times as well.  At different times throughout the years, even when we weren’t as close, we would remember the sadness of those events.  It was an honor to share a few moments of silence with the one person that I knew understood how I felt at that time.

While our friendship helped each of us through sorrow, most of our time together was full of joy, happiness, and on occasion mischief. 

Speaking of the mischief, we had the fortune (our teacher’s misfortune) of being in the same class in first grade.  One day, for some now forgotten reason we stayed longer in the lunchroom/gym instead of going outside for the longest recess of the day.  This was odd because I loved lunch recess.  I don’t remember how long they lasted then, but it always seemed like we could accomplish an unbelievable amount of play and recreation in the time allotted.  On this day, however, we stayed inside long enough to watch as the high schoolers came in for their lunch.  Soon they were sitting all around us and, magically, we became their entertainment.  I don’t remember how we started making them laugh…I think he started calling them names and teasing them.  Eventually it led to a (I must say rather minor) food fight with a few of the high school boys. 

Realizing that we were going to completely miss recess, we decided it was time to go outside to play.  (Unbeknownst to us we had already missed recess completely and were the targets of an angry teacher’s focused search.)  On the way out, we thought it would be funny to tie one set of our shoelaces together.  Watching two first graders do a version of the three-legged race to leave the lunchroom was highly entertaining to all of the teenagers.  Halfway across the hardwood floor, I was looking down at our feet to make sure I could step at the right time to avoid falling down.  Seemingly out of nowhere our teacher, face red with anger, was in front of us.  I don’t remember what she said because several high schoolers started to heckle her or us.  We knew we were in trouble, but the laughter from the room made it seem not so serious.  Our teacher, on the other hand, was ready to leave the room and escape the high schoolers.  In order to hasten our exit, she grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him as fast as she could toward the door.  With a thud and a crash, I hit the floor as my foot was pulled out from under me.

Immediately, many of the high schoolers were on their feet clapping and cheering.  Our teacher was beyond angry and embarrassed at this point, enough so that I began to worry about my safety.  My friend had a big smile on his face as he soaked up the applause and admiration of our audience.

Roll forward a year to second grade.  He and I were classmates again.  Apparently the teachers didn’t discuss the potentially disastrous dynamics of certain personalities in the same classroom.  Now, my second grade teacher was possibly one of the meanest teachers I’ve ever had.  Should others feel to defend her, they don’t understand her level of cruelty because they were probably better behaved than was I.  She once made me miss my ride home, as a second grader, because I had blown air into my crayon box and made what I thought was a most excellent whistling noise.  (Unfortunately for her, she had to deal with my mother after that episode.)

So, here we are in second grade and we really were trying our best to behave.  Our best just wasn’t that great yet.  He and I loved to talk.  One day our teacher had had enough.  In short order both of us were behind fold out, cardboard closets with masking tape across our lips.  As the shame of my situation started to build, I suddenly found that the tape had come loose on my bottom lip.  I was able to make a funny face and noise when I moved my mouth.  In short order I was leaning, carefully, outside of my closet to make my friend and other friends laugh.  Soon our teacher was out of fold out closets. 

Now, my memory on the next part gets a little fuzzy.  I think it happened while we were behind the closets.  My compatriot in mischief had taken all he could and had to find another way to make someone laugh and I was his target.  He grunted and caught my attention.  Carefully I leaned out to look at him.  He had a crayon coming out of each ear and made faces with his eyes.  I followed suit.  Soon each of us had a crayon in each ear and one in each nostril.  At that point one or more of our classmates gave us up as they laughed out loud.

Just then it was time for recess.  As everyone went out, my friend and I were detained in the classroom to write, several hundred times, the sentence: “I will not stick crayons in my ears or up my nose.”  After recess everyone else went to the neighboring second grade classroom for some special activity involving the principal.  As we were writing the sentences, the principal walked through our classroom to get to the event.  Seeing us sitting there he asked what we were doing. 

“Writing sentences,” my friend said.

“What is the sentence,” asked the principal.

“I will not stick crayons in my ears or up my nose.”

Both of us were quite happy at his reaction, a happy laugh.

(I truly believe that my terrible penmanship started in second grade as I was forced, due to my improper actions, to write what likely was several thousand sentences as quickly as I could.)

As my friend and I moved onto junior high and high school, we did less together as our interests diverged.  Despite that, we often would find ourselves spending time together quite easily.  He was an amazing bowler, who would spend time, mostly in vain, to help me get better.  When a new video game would come out, we often would find ourselves crashing at his house for hours on a Saturday to figure out how to beat it.  After Little League baseball, he didn’t have much to do with organized sports, which was too bad, because he was a talented athlete.  Anytime there was a softball game, you wanted him on your team because he could hit the ball further than anyone else.

He was almost always happy and he was kind to almost everyone (except perhaps to those who were unkind).  His smile was quick to brighten life for everyone.  Like me his level of mischief decreased, but never completely.  He was friends with every kind and type of person.  He would help anyone.

My friend Mike Allred passed away this past weekend.  It’s been years and years since I’ve spoken with him and this makes me sad.  I wish we could have laughed together one more time, that we could have remembered together the early sadness in our lives.  My last memory of him is this.  It was the day of our high school graduation.  We had just lined up outside of the Duchesne High School big gym so that family, friends, and neighbors could congratulate us.  I was standing there by Mike and my another close friend.  Mike and I were all smiles, excited for the opportunities that were ahead of us and the amazing memories that were behind us.  Suddenly, Mike and I noticed that our other friend’s eyes were filling with tears.

“Why are you crying,” we asked at the same time. 

“It’s over, those fun years are over.”

All three of us teared up for a bit.  He was right, those were fun years.  But, I know that Mike brought years of fun and happiness to many others after that.  That’s the Mike I will always remember.