Friday, February 03, 2006
Bye Bye, Friend
This is how I want to remember Randy. Half-smiling, wild-eyed and with lots of hair.
One way to gauge a person's impact on the world is the memories they leave behind. The day after Randy passed away I went into the lab. Not to work so much as to see the same people I see everyday. The people that saw Randy everyday too. I didn't want to be alone. I was right in assuming no one else wanted to be either. While wandering the halls in a numb haze, I was stopped by a number of people offering condolences, themselves on the verge of tears. These weren't people who ate lunch with Randy on a regular basis or watched movies at his apartment. Some were people I didn't associate with even knowing Randy. Yet they all shared the same sentiments. Randy made them laugh. Many newer students said they had only met him a few times but would never forget him. The ability to leave a footprint on people's souls will be Randy's legacy.
To those of us that knew Randy, truly knew and understood him, his footprint will be much deeper.
When I first got to know Randy, I often came to him for help with my homework. He was (and still is) the smartest person I have ever met. Coming from a physicist, that means a lot. I realized early on that he was always willing to help in any way he could. He was patient. He knew he was smart, so he never really thought others around him were dumb. Soon we were hanging out a lot together along with mutual friends. When it became obvious that he really did like me and not just tolerated me for being around his friends, I wondered why on Earth a person so smart and talented would want to hang out with someone, well, not as smart or talented. Part of Randy's inner beauty though was recognizing exactly what others were good at. We found that we had a passion for piano in common and we used each others strengths to further our techniques. He often called me for advice on how to deal with girls. He asked me for recipes when he wanted to try cooking new things. He made me realize that even though I couldn't do quantum physics as easily as he, I was the go-to girl for some of the things he needed help with. Besides knowing I had a special friend, my friend made me special too.
As the few short years I knew him progressed, I felt like Randy and I had a unique bond. My habit of coming over to practice his piano made me feel like I did something with him no else else did. I was his "piano buddy." I was also his "crossword buddy." He would come to my lab around lunchtime and I'd break to eat a sandwich with him. We'd huddle around my computer and work on an online crossword puzzle. Those were the times we could see the wheels turning in each other's heads. I would see him get an idea while I was struggling and he'd shove my hands over to type in a word. I'd occasionally do the same to him.
At Randy's memorial service on Wednesday, two things stood out in my mind. First, when my friends and me finally met the people Randy used to talk about from high school or his undergraduate years, we saw that we were all similar. We all got along amazingly well and not just due to the sad experience that brought us to the same place. We could have all been in the same circle and we agreed that under better circumstances we would like to get to know each other better. We all exchanged contact information and said "If you're ever in the neighborhood, call." And we all meant it.
Second, we all felt that our personal relationships with Randy were special. I was honored to be the piano buddy. And the crossword buddy. He also had a buddy he ate cereal with and watched sci-fi shows. He had a buddy he lifted weights with, buddies he played video games with, a buddy he spoke Spanish with. Buddies he played other musical instruments with. Unnamed Friend from my previous post was his best buddy- his running buddy, movie buddy, sporting event buddy. The list goes on and on. She was also his go-to girl for organization and advice on his aquarium. I saw this trend take shape when we discussed what Randy meant to all of us. I could imagine him getting to know each one of us and filing our likes and dislikes away in his mind. Finding what he had in common with each one of us and making that into the thread with which he wove his friendships.
I know that the imprint he left on my soul is so deep it can never filled by another person. There are activities both important and trivial that I will never do again without thinking about my friend Randy. So even though I have to say "bye bye" ( as Randy himself would say), I will carry him always in my heart.