A friend came into town unexpectedly and as old friends will do, we sat up talking and catching up until 3 o’clock in the morning which meant that I fell behind in my blog posting. But, this did help me to choose from the Hook Stories … a series of short snippets from one of Hook’s childhood friends, Ken Curchin. Following Ken’s sharing, I share something of my own. Enjoy …
Growing up in New Jersey by Ken Curchin:
I have known Allan since kindergarten. We used to hang together all the way through high school. Here are a few stories….
- Playing hockey on the pond at “the nursery.” Allan lived near a pond that was shaped like a hockey rink. We used to play hockey there whenever it was cold enough in New Jersey — maybe 1-2 weeks per year — for ice thick enough to skate on. When it snowed, we would bring shovels to keep the snow off “our rink.” His older brother Walter would also play with us. We even played on an organized team our senior year in high school at The Navesink Country Club. Allan had to wait a week to play on the team because he was playing high school football as an offensive lineman. I remember a game vs. Red Bank and Allan had to play against John Lee…..6’4″ and 240 pounds…..Allan was maybe 5’11” and 170 pounds. John was the best player in the area and went on to play in the NFL. You can ask Allan how he did….but I remember him saying that “John Lee killed me.”
- Allan smoking a pipe (with tobacco) as a 7th grader. He thought he was so “cool.” Of course, he only did it when he was not near his house. I remember it had a big stem….he must have thought he was Sherlock Holmes.
- As we went off to college, our paths did not reconnect as much. He was at University of Maine and I was at University of New Hampshire. He was a lifeguard and that occupied much of his time. We would see each other on occasion though. Allan…do you remember after graduation (we were 24) when we met at Doug Herr’s house? I had a woman with me…..it was Claudia..now my wife of 34 years! We were just friends…until sparks flew — along with all of our clothes — right after we left you guys that night! Now you know….the rest of the story.
I had not seen Allan in many years but we kept each other in the loop via Christmas cards. Or…I sent a note updating him on my life and he sent a postcard with a bug on it. I live in Massachusetts but about 6 years ago was flying into San Antonio and decided to go see Allan (before you guys were married). Claudia and I drove up to Austin and went to Allan’s house that day…we picked up like we had seen each other all the time instead of the first time in 25 years!
~ ~ ~
I finally dreamt about Allan. He was waiting for me at my favorite coffee house, sitting at a table in the corner with his back facing the door. I recognized his bald head from behind because it was covered with his white baseball cap with the worn blue flap. He had on his black fleece zip up jacket and his maroon flannel shirt peeked out from underneath it while the rest of him was clothed in his regular blue jeans and tennis shoes. He was hunched over his laptop typing away, so I slipped into the chair across from him and stared, not sure exactly if I was in the present or the past.
Normally when I dream, everything is fuzzy and confusing. But in that coffee shop with Allan, I saw with clarity the hardwood floors and the burgundy colored walls, tables with four chairs. I waited for Allan to notice me, and when he finally looked up and saw me, this huge smile spread across his face. It was the same smile he’d greet me with whenever we’d agreed to meet somewhere or if we’d gone to an art event together and somehow gotten separated.
He looked so healthy, all tan and clean shaven, with his face full like it used to be, before the surgery. Then I knew instantly: This is a dream. He’s still dead, but he’s coming to me in a dream. So I asked the question that had been swirling in my head for the last two months, the one that had turned me into an insomniac. With wide open eyes staring and my heart — not pounding or anxious — waiting and wondering what he would say:
“How are you?” I asked.
Such a simple question but so monumental in its query. How are you? How have you been? Is everything okay? Are you all right?
Allan smiled again, even larger than before, and with a twinkle in his eyes — the kind he would get sometimes when he had a surprise for me or if he wanted me to guess something. He started talking, his face becoming animated while his hands gesticulated whatever it was he was trying to describe. My eyes were so fixated on his face that it took me awhile to figure out that I couldn’t hear him. It was as though the volume had been muted. I felt a bit nervous because I didn’t want to interrupt, but I needed him to know — I can’t hear you! — but he was so excited to be sharing whatever it was he wanted me to know that I struggled with how to let him know I couldn’t hear.
Then I woke up.
My eyes popped open with no sleepiness in them. After about two long seconds, I said out loud, “You came to me in my dream.” The sound of my own voice in the quiet of the bedroom so early in the morning startled me. I realized then that it had not been me waiting for Allan all this time, but him waiting for me as he has always done. And even though I couldn’t hear, I could see. I could see he was all right. I could see he was safe. I could see he was happy.
Editor’s Note, December 2013:
There was a small detail I left out of the dream about what Allan was wearing when I saw him. I didn’t mention it because I was trying to convince myself it didn’t have any significance but that was only because it didn’t make any sense to me.
Hook sometimes had the bad habit of placing his feet up on the arms of a chair or on a table to stretch them out. He didn’t usually do this in public only in his office at work or at home (and he got a lot of grief for it, too.) In the dream, once Hook noticed me and sometime before I’d asked him how he was doing, he’d swung his feet over the arm of the wooden chair he was sitting in. I was so focused on his face but I’d noticed in my peripheral vision the tennis shoes on his feet were black. Black tennis shoes? I remember thinking that was strange because Hook didn’t own any black tennis shoes. But my attention was on his face and what he was about to say so I ignored the shoes.
The image of the shoes stuck with me, though, long after I’d woken up so I googled, black shoes in a dream. One site had a comment to a blog about whoever is wearing the black shoes in a dream is going on a great journey of exploration, but the explanation seemed vague and random in thought.
The day after the dream, I looked through the master closet, then the guest room closets, then the hall closets, then the garage and finally Hook’s Jeep and even my Nissan Altima but nothing — no black shoes. I didn’t remember him owning any black tennis shoes so what did it mean? I kept reminding myself, he looked happy, everything’s okay, but I couldn’t get those damn shoes off my brain. Then one of Hook’s Trini friends emailed some old photos of Allan that he thought I’d like to have from one of Allan’s many collecting trips to Trinidad.
I almost screamed out loud when I saw the first photo. There was Hook, standing on a trail in Trinidad in his collecting clothes and holding his net. On his feet were the black tennis shoes from the dream.
Because Allan traveled every summer to Trinidad, he didn’t bother packing those shoes when he returned to the U.S. but left them behind along with other collecting gear. Allan was going on a collecting trip in heaven. Of course. Why else would he have been so excited?