Do Work, Son

My friend Jesse died 2.5 years ago, at age 48. I met him during my freshman year in high school, age 14. He was a year ahead of me at CKM and he was larger than life. His energy filled a room, even then. Especially then.

He was funny in a pee your pants kinda way. He was silly, and goofy, and sweet. He was kind. He was sensitive. He was a lover and a fighter. He was a survivor. He was loud and he was hairy. He would laugh at that. He would laugh with you, never at you. He would give you the shirt off of his hairy back, all while having your back. He was a friend that was family.

Familia.

I dated his friends and he dated mine. Several of them, whether either one of us wants to admit that or not. He fell in love, he was good at that. Angela, Lucy, Christina…those were the ones that stuck. The ones that meant something to him when he was sober. I know there were others, but I wasn’t part of everything.

Just some things.

He was everyone’s best friend. The kind of person that makes everyone feel loved and liked and wanted. If you were in his circle, you were familia. He was loyal, forever. If you were sad, he would make you laugh. If you were happy, he was happy, if only for that moment. He built you up and he held you up. And he made you food.

We spent so much time at his apartment our Senior year. Greenhaven was our playground, remember? He taught me how to 10 run roll ‘em and how to play Techmo Bowl. We played Nintendo and drank Keystone Lights until the sun came up. We partied. A lot. We played slosh ball. We danced. We drove around and did nothing and everything. When he moved to the apartment on 43rd Ave, just a few blocks from our Greenhaven Lake Apartment, we would ride our bikes or jog over to his place late at night. No curfew.

Always laughing.

And talking.

I didn’t know what Tourette’s Syndrome was back then. I didn’t know it was a thing. We all thought he just had funny habits. He whistled and made clicking sounds and winked, but honestly, that stuff usually just fit right in with the conversation. Like an exclamation point. Larger than life.

We used to mimic him, not knowing. We made fun of him in love, not to belittle or be mean. We didn’t know. You can still cause damage to people you love when you don’t mean to. We would never have intentionally hurt him. I think a lot of his friends didn’t know back then. We didn’t talk about it. It was just part of his personality that everyone loved.

One night, we were chillin at Jesse’s apartment with Darin and Darren and probably Derek, playing Nintendo and shotgunning beers and avoiding the pet tarantula that was often on the loose. Really high. I wore my sunglasses at night so I can see. They had Barbie cereal that was like Lucky Charms and all of Barbie’s accessories were the marshmallow thingys. I sat on his couch waiting for my turn to 10 run roll ‘em and/or rock the turtles and I picked out all of Barbie’s marshmallow thingys from that box of cereal. Then I put it back in the cupboard for Darren to find the next morning when he ate his cereal. That was high-larious to me. Like pee your pants funny. Like remember that night like it was yesterday when you are 49 years old funny.

Our kids were close in age and we rekindled our close friendship as parents at LdV. Dylan and Jacob were in Mrs. Brown’s kindergarten class. Our boys became best friends when they were little. K-6. It was a beautiful thing to have your children choose each other as best friends when you were also best friends. He was everyone’s BFF, remember. I get to claim him, too.

Familia.

Life got to him, on a level. Christina tried really hard to make it work. I witnessed that. Sometimes, love isn’t enough even when the love is always there. They split, and he was all over the place. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

Stand the fuck up.

He used to say I saved his life. I didn’t, but he was insistent. He had a brutal shoulder surgery and they sent him home the same day, in excruciating pain. They should have never sent him home like that. He took too much pain medicine. Christina called me. They weren’t even a couple, then. But she was there, supporting him. I grabbed my stethoscope and rushed over. The boys were at Cokie’s, cuz she was a lifesaver, too. I was just a new grad nurse at that time. I knew enough to know he needed narcan. He was lethargic and his respiratory rate was maybe 4. He didn’t want to move. We somehow got him into my car and I took him to the ER at my hospital, MGH. His O2 sat was like 82%. He got several doses of narcan. His pain was unbearable, but he needed to breathe! If you know what narcan does, it knocks the pain medicine off the receptors that affect your drive to breathe, so you don’t die of respiratory depression. But you want to die cuz the pain is that bad. They stabilized him, and I left.

He called me the next day to thank me for saving his life. He said he would have laid there like that until he stopped breathing entirely.

All I did was drive the getaway car.

And why do we do that?! Why do we drive them?! Call 911! Do not drive them! Lights and sirens get you treated on the way, precious minutes, and they get you first in line in the ER. Chest pain? Call 911. Slurred speech and droopy face? Call 911. Respiratory rate of 4? Call 911. Nurse Annie here. Do not drive them!

Anyway, he survived that. And he survived a lot of tough things. Things that knock you down. He always got back up. Until the one time he didn’t.

He had a bad heart. The one with the biggest heart of all. I like to think he overworked his heart cuz he loved so hard. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for love. For his boys, Joshua and Jacob. For Christina. For Christopher. For Richie. For Karina. And Vicky. And Darin. And Troy. For Tenley. For Derek and LT.

For Conrad.

For all of us.

Familia.

I miss him. Hearts were broken all over Sacramento the night that he died. I can still hear his laughter. I can still see his face when I look at his boys. They were his world, you know. Everybody knows that.

The only games or matches he missed were when he got kicked out for being too much. For yelling. For saying the things everyone else wanted to say but didn’t. For being larger than life and all the things we loved about him. Otherwise, he was there. Cheering those boys on to greatness. To championships. To be who they were meant to be.

Do Work, Son.

Too much. And not enough.

Now I feel like I can’t breathe.

Maybe I did save his life. Once.

But I think he was one of the ones that saved mine first.

You should all be so lucky to have a friend like that.

Jesse Matthew Edwards

July 10, 1971-May 27, 2020

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