Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I heard very little of Ed for many months after that. It seemed as if each of us had moved forward, although in different orbits. I was very busy, finishing graduate school, my internship, working to support my family. I seldom stopped to see the old gang and when I did, there was no info on how he was doing. I left messages at his house a few times but we never seemed able to hook up. The war was over, America had withdrawn from Vietnam, but I had doubts if Ed was free of his demons.

A few weeks after I had defended my dissertation and had gotten my diploma in the mail, my wife and I invited a few friends over for a cookout, a kind of celebration. The guests were mostly friends from school, a couple from the old crowd. Ed came with our friend Monk; I was very happy to see him. He told me he wasn`t working but was taking two courses at school which qualified him for government benefits. His eyes were glassy and he had put on weight. The weight was shocking and worrisome to me. Ed had always been a strongly built, stocky man. He brushed off my questions about his health, saying what he needed was more exercise. I accepted that, what choice did I really have, what right.

I went into the dining room and got my diploma. “Yo, Ed. Take a look. Finally!” I said as I handed him the red booklet holding it. He opened the booklet and gazed at the diploma.

I saw a frown on his face as he said “I don`t understand, Vince. I thought you were getting your doctorate in Psychology. This says you`ve earned a Doctor of Philosophy, a Ph.D..” I started to explain how the Doctorates in Liberal Arts were Ph.D.`s, then it struck me. Ed was a philosophy major and I may have inadvertently taken away one of his dreams. Although he hadn`t as yet finished undergraduate school, he always had that dream to finish a doctorate in Philosophy, a Ph.D., something that would make him stand out. I felt foolish and put the diploma away, telling him I knew he`d get one of them someday.

I grabbed him by the shoulder, led him outside, introduced him around. Ed seemed to shrink a little and found Monk near the bar. He made himself a vodka and ice and sat down. My son saw him and ran over, excited. Sean had always felt close to Ed and he gave him a hug, bringing a big smile to Ed`s face.

“Wow, Sean. Look how big you`re getting`! Pretty soon I won`t be able to beat you at arm wrestling.”

“Yeah, Uncle Ed, I can already beat my Dad.”

“Well, let`s see how strong you are”, Ed laughed, as he put his arm on the little table next to him. He bent his arm low to accommodate a seven year old`s, said ready, set, go. Ed pretended to struggle letting Sean all but pin him, then brought his arm forward until Sean`s hand was inches away from the table. Sean struggled, not giving in and Ed gradually gave him purchase, allowing his own hand to be pinned. Sean jumped up and down, shouting “I won, Uncle Ed, I won!” Ed laughed, rubbed Sean`s hair and got up to get himself another drink.

About a half hour later Ed and Monk came up to me at the grill, where I was just finishing a bunch of hamburgers. Ed said sorry, they couldn`t stay, had to get somewhere. I asked him to give me a second to get the burgers off the grill, then found them saying goodbye to my wife Barbara and Sean. I walked upstairs with them and put a couple of cheeseburgers and two beers in a bag, handed it to Ed. As always, one for the road.