BRAD DOKKEN COLUMN: A memory that returns every August
It's odd, sometimes, how certain milestones or events can pop into our heads as if on cue. Such was the case the other day, when I thought about a friend who took his life four years ago this week. We'd known each other since we were kids, and wh...
It's odd, sometimes, how certain milestones or events can pop into our heads as if on cue.
Such was the case the other day, when I thought about a friend who took his life four years ago this week.
We'd known each other since we were kids, and while he wasn't in the circle of friends I consider to be my closest, we kept in touch over the years.
We talked. We laughed. And when our paths crossed, we had fun.
Others, who lived closer and spent more time with him than me, knew about the demons of depression he battled, but that was a side of his life I never encountered.
I saw him during the "up" times, usually on hunting trips or similar occasions that brought us together in the outdoors. He was an adventurer, always on the go and always smiling.
That grin usually carried with it a touch of mischief.
That's the friend I remember.
He liked to talk and preferred to keep in touch by phone rather than text or email. More often than not, he did the calling, usually with a last-minute invitation to join him on a hunting trip or some other adventure I couldn't make on short notice. And while seeing his name pop up on my phone's caller ID always brought a smile to my face, he had a knack for calling at inconvenient times.
Not that I minded. I always enjoyed our chats, and if I couldn't talk when he called, I'd send a text saying I'd get back to him shortly.
I always did; that sunny August afternoon was no different.
It was a Sunday, and I was in a boat fishing catfish with two friends below the Lockport Dam on the Manitoba side of the Red River north of Winnipeg when my phone rang, and his name appeared on my caller ID.
My cellphone was on roaming, and it's difficult to carry on a conversation over the phone while competing with the sound of water rushing over the dam.
I let the call go to voicemail and sent a text saying I'd call the next day when I was back in the U.S.
The reply was immediate.
"Call this number as soon as you can."
The text piqued my curiosity so I replied again to ask what was up.
Same reply: "Call this number as soon as you can."
That evening after we got off the water, I texted again, by then mildly impatient with the lack of clarity in the two previous text messages.
"Just send me a text and tell me what's up," I wrote. "I'll give you a call tomorrow."
Again, the reply was almost immediate.
I expected to read about plans for an upcoming hunting trip. He loved hunting pheasants and sharptails, so that was a natural assumption with fall just around the corner.
Instead, the sender of the text was a close friend of his I'd met only once. He was going through the list of most frequent contacts on my friend's phone to deliver the tragic news of what had happened.
The words hit me like a hard punch in the gut. I couldn't believe what I was reading.
A few days later, I logged over 600 miles on a there-and-back journey to join others who knew him as a friend or family member in a service to celebrate his adventurous life. I'll never understand the motivation or despair that culminated in that tragic turn of events, but I'm grateful to have known him as a friend.
I don't think about him as often as I did, but the memory always seems to come back to the surface every year about this time.
May that never change.