Tuesday, April 7

He Was A Friend Of Mine

My readers who are fans of the Grateful Dead can probably already tell where this post is going. Today's title is a song by the Dead, and you can find the lyrics here if you don't know the song. When I heard the news, it was the first song I 'heard' in my head.

On March 31, 2009, this world lost a wonderful man. Tim Guttridge, a friend to countless people, died at home in his sleep. One friend called him a "Gentle Giant", another called him "Timmy Bear"; both are perfectly fitting of Tim. Let me tell you how I knew him.

I really can't remember the first time I met Tim... he went to school with my cousin Dave, who is 5 years older than me. Dave was around our house a lot while I was growing up, and Tim (along with the two Chris's!) were just... always there, extensions of Dave, and just as dear to me as Dave still is. The first time I can remember pretty well would have been about 15 years ago. Dave and Tim were roommates sharing a house in Dayton. Dave helped me get a job at a pet store with him, and since they lived closer than I did, I was welcome and visited them on weekends when I didn't want to go home. I started working there during my senior year of high school, and graduated about a week after I turned 18, so it was that summer that I visited more, being a grownup and all. :-)
Tim and I hung out one day just talking, listening to music, drinking and smoking. I believe I slept on their couch that night but really can't remember much else. I remember listening to "So Far" at least once. Tim was the kind of guy that you could just hang with, not do anything, and still it was all cool, you know? Everyone should know someone like that! Anyway I remember it being dark when I left so it was either really late or really early the next morning.
June 5, 1996, Tim and I went to see Crosby, Stills and Nash with Chicago when they came through town. I had seats in the back of the pavilion. I have had my ticket stub in a scrapbook for many years (click to enlarge):


Dave was the one who actually introduced me to CSN, and they remain my favorite act to this day. I knew Tim liked both acts, so I invited him to go with me. Who would turn down a chance to see that double headliner! :D Chicago played first and the concert ran through to almost midnight. We had a great time dancing by our seats, and I think that was the night he drove me home in his Chevy LUV with the broken clutch. LOL I didn't even know that was possible, but Timmy got me home with zero problems!
There was a Christmas party at Dave's house in SG (along the river), 1996 probably. Lots of people there! I know Big Jim was there... Tim, Molly, probably both Chris's, about 5 other people whose names escape me, and myself were all in a bedroom. Jim and I sang a song together, and I know it was the first time I had an Amaretto Sour (thanks, Dave!). I also remember singing "Mercedes Benz" by myself - hard for someone who had low self-esteem at the time - without any trouble. Tim told me that I sounded great. I still remember the feeling of singing in front of all these people and freaking out in my head but I pushed myself through it. I was having fun, and really, I knew everyone there for the most part, so I had nothing to be embarrassed about. Just self-doubt and all. But Tim was the guy who meant what he said and said what he meant, always. He would always tell a pretty girl that she was pretty, or someone playing an instrument how well they were doing, that kind of thing. Besides my dad, Tim was the first person to tell me that I was pretty, and I knew he meant it. All the boyfriends I had before that may have said the words, but I never believed it until Tim said it. Never a rude or angry word from his mouth that I ever heard.
Dave's first child was born in 1997, and Tim was there at the baby shower at my aunt's house. I have a picture of Dave and Tim from that shower, and a couple of just Tim. I'm still looking for the pictures, they're likely up in the attic with the rest of the stuff we don't have room for down here.
I might be going out-of-order here, but I remember when Dave lived on top of LeDance Studio. They had a porch that ran the whole width of the building, and there was always a porch hockey game going on. Fun to watch! Anyway there was a party one night (yes, always a party, right?), porch hockey was played for a few hours it seemed, and probably 20 people in the apartment. This was the night I met Longhair (hey, even his grandmother called him that!), another good soul who is waiting on the Other Side. Oh, I got so sick that night.... but I do remember it! I mainly remember the porch spinning like a merry-go-round, and then sleeping in a chair on that porch after telling Dave to wake me up in time to go to work the next day.
There was a night when the band got together, and I got to hear them play "Uncle John's Band" with Tim on drums. There were also many concert nights on the beach across from Riverbend.... many, many nights. :-) Many, many good times.
My parents and Baby Bro went to FL for a week in early 1999. I was working at the airport and had Mister Twister already, so since I couldn't go with them I was in charge of house-sitting the week they were gone. Oh boy. I was 21 years old ~ and I had two people I trusted completely with the boy, soooooo one night Dave called and asked what I was doing. Yeah, you see where this is going too, don't you?! I had my one friend - who had already raised three boys to adulthood - watch Mister Twister for me, and Dave came over to Mom's house with Tim and a few other friends of his. I can't remember which ones, but I think a Chris was there too. Maybe both of them? We had a blast that night, playing Euchre, drinking and all, yet still respecting Mom's house rule of Go Outside To Smoke. We cleaned up the next day - Mom would never have known. Except, Tim's parents were on my parents' same return flight.... none of us knew that part! But Tim was to pick up his parents, and Dad was driving my family home. Tim caught sight of Baby Bro and walked up grinning and talking all about the Party That Wasn't Supposed to Happen! He walked up to Bro and said "Oh, hey man!! You missed a great party at your house! Dave, was there, and your sister, and [some other people], we had a ball playing cards, and drinking...". All the while Bro was making that face that says "dude SHUT UP Mom's right behind me!!" *ROFL* But Mom had already heard plenty and she told Tim to "keep on talking"! :D Ah, she never would have known because we cleaned up so well, but when they got home I heard about how they ran into Tim at the airport.... I can still feel the color drain from my face at that memory! (I didn't get into trouble, but I was told not to do that again - and I didn't.) Never was mad at him for telling, but that is one memory that just makes me laugh and laugh when I think about it.

It's unfortunate but I'm pretty sure that was the last time I saw Tim in person. In October of 1999 I met my husband; soon after we met and got engaged we moved down here, and I've pretty much lost touch with everyone other than family. It was back in August that I talked to Tim again finally. Dave's wife called him when I went to visit her for a Girl's Weekend of tie-dye, henna, and Mary Kay. :-) She talked to him a lot though, but he had to work that weekend and wasn't able to drop by for a visit. I tried to call him back a little later and ended up leaving a voice message but never heard back. Tim recently started teaching their kids how to play drums, something he loved and was good at ~ both playing and teaching.
I joined Facebook in January, and once I ran myself out of family, school friends, and online acquaintances {LOL}, I thought "Hm, I wonder if any of Dave's friends are on here?". Sure enough, I found the 'Three Brothers' - Tim, Chris C., and Chris N., all on Facebook. So in that, I consider myself lucky enough to have been in touch with Tim again. I was hoping to visit him at his guitar shop on the way to Mom's during Spring Break, because Mister Twister has for *years* wanted to play guitar. Ardeo and I know *nothing* about guitar, but I'd been telling him that "I have this friend who works at a guitar shop and we could talk to him, get his opinion and help", etc. We thought he's old enough now, as is Miss Hurricane, that a good guitar wouldn't get destroyed if he still wanted to try it. Anyway I'd already planned to get to Mom's by dinnertime on Friday.

Tuesday morning around 10, we were waiting for the kids to come home from camping with the grandparents. I was only halfway through my first cup of tea when I got around to logging into Facebook for the day. I saw that CN had posted about Tim's passing, and my heart sank right into the pit of my stomach. I couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it, it didn't make any sense - Tim was so young! He'd have been 37 this June. And he was such a blessing to everyone he knew. After about 5 minutes of letting the news sink in, I went out in the back yard and called Mom. I told her she had to call Dave. She asked why, and I told her; she had the same reaction I did. I talked to her about it for 10 minutes or so, she gave me Dave's number but I asked her to call him. I was already having a hard time speaking.
I pushed myself to do everything that needed to be done that day - laundry, dishes, general cleaning and whatnot, just to try and keep my mind occupied so that I wouldn't cry. Bro called me late that evening after talking to Dave. We talked for a few minutes and I told him that I'd be coming up a day early depending on arrangements and all. He didn't spend as much time with Tim as I had, but he still knew and respected him. It was after 11 when I talked to Bro, so I went to bed and finally cried for a bit. I didn't expect this to affect me as deeply as it did and does, but I believe that it does because my husband is their age... too young.
Friday night was the visitation, and the second time I'd ever seen Tim's parents. Mom and I went early, Bro showed up a while later, and I sent Mom home so Bro and I could talk while he brought me back to her house. I think I was there for 3 hours, and the number of people coming to say one last goodbye was just awesome. I think I heard someone say that their entire graduating class had shown up - nearly 200 people! Add to that family, teachers, coworkers, acquaintances.... there was a long line which was an hour's wait at one point. This night was the time it became real to me. Still unbelievable, but real, I knew it really happened. Before I took my turn to say goodbye, I hugged his mama Susan. My heart broke into a million pieces for her - Tim was her baby. I can feel and understand that, so I hugged her tighter. I still imagine myself hugging her at least once a day now and hope she feels it.
Once I got back to Mom's, I sat outside on the porch alone and listened to some CSN for a while. I cried some more that night before I fell asleep. Saturday I sat between my Bro and Dave's wife, and the three of us cried together during the service. The funeral procession was a mile and a half long, and Tim was laid to rest in the cemetery he loved to visit. I'll get a picture as soon as I can, but it's surrounded by some amazing beauty. Not a cloud in the sky that day; with the sun shining it was warm and lovely outside. I know I'm not the only one who felt that Tim had a hand in that!

To celebrate Tim's life, there was a drum circle in his honor Saturday night. Again, Tim must have been there, because the smoke from the bonfire went straight up all night - no wind! - and it was relatively warm for April. Finally, Sunday there was a benefit concert at a local bar. All in all, it was a good ending to a rattled week. I have some pictures and video from the drum circle:
Drum Circle photos (with a slideshow option)

There was a lot of talking and laughter throughout the night, and all the videos I have. Here are the best ones:
30 seconds of guitar and drums
Lana's friend put on a fire show! Drumming, guitar, flute, and singing in this video.
Another fire and drum performance. (This one is sideways - I couldn't figure out how to rotate it!)
Continued fire performance after I'd taken some pictures of her in action.
Jeff singing and Jim Jr. drumming, but they're not quite in tune or time with each other.
Drums, a didgeridoo, and some laughing! If you tilt your head just right, you can see Big Jim on the didgeridoo. :-)

Tim Guttridge was an honest, caring, giving man who had a heart the size of Alaska. No one could ask for a better friend, and his friends are numerous. Funny and charming. Would give you the shirt off his back. Sweet and gentle. Beautiful soul.

A friend of mine.

I'll see you in another life, Brother.