I find that I hate this day of the year and yet I don't at the same time. My friend Tim Pacchiano passed away July 22, 2003 from cancer. I hate cancer. I've worn this Livestrong band on my wrist since 2004 (snapped the first one I had) in memory of Tim. Some friends got a tat, I have my livestrong band. That's more me.
July 22, 2003. I was in Minnesota that day. I was riding my bike across the Mighty Mississippi that day. I was riding from Seattle to Washington D.C. on the Big Ride. I had talked to Tim that night before. I knew his time was near. He told me not to leave the ride. He told me that before I left. We were both more sure he'd be okay when I left. He took a bad turn about 3 weeks into my ride. He told me then to keep riding. That he was excited for me and that he liked the post cards and the stories. I missed him. Cried to myself at night after talking to him. I missed Lavi. She said it was hard for her too, but to stay on the ride. Tim wanted that. We were all trying to be so optomistic. But the cancer had him. Silently we knew it.
He had been sick a lot in life and just beat it. He was like the Cal Ripken of sickness. He just kept going. Lance's recovery never surprised me because I knew Tim and knew that people could just will their bodies to be better. But this time was different.
I rode that morning with one ear in my pocket listening for the phone call I knew was coming. 8 miles into the ride that morning. I had blown by everyone and was riding with Ryan. Bart was ahead and everyone else was behind. I got the call from Lavi.
"Jeff, Timmy's gone."
God I cried. I howled. I yelled. I beat my handlebars. I screamed NO! I collapsed and sobbed for what seemed like days. Sobbed my heart out on the highway in Minnesota. My heart broke and I never felt such pain before.
Everyone caught up to me. Pats on the back. "I'm so sorry Jeff." They all knew what was going on. They started riding. Ryan stayed with me, bless him. I finally sat up. I wanted to ride again. I was going home I decided. I had stayed away too long. I needed to be there to bury and mourn my friend.
I've never ridden more in a daze and with so little effort in my life. We took off and we passed everyone again as if they were on tricycles. Ryan finally said just go because he couldn't hold the pass. I passed Bart and he just saluted me as I went by. I rode over the mississippi and don't care if I never see it again. I rode into Omish country in Wisconsin. I dove up and down hills all day. Some how I knew to slow down at the bottom of a big hill when I was going 45mph, sure enough a big hole would have crashed me had I not.
I rode by an Ommish farm and saw a little girl. She stopped, turned to me, considered me and then softly waved as to say "it's okay. He loves you still." I cried for 5 miles. I couldn't help it. That little girl just pushed me over the edge.
When I got to the town we were staying in I was hoping to find a Catholic church. As soon as I was looking there one was. I sat, said my prayers, cried some more. How funny I must have looked to anyone. Covered in dust, dressed in lycra, carrying a helmet, eating sugar gel and streaked with sunblock... crying my heart out.
I regret being in Minnesota that day. I regret not being home. But I wouldn't change it. He wanted me to be riding and I was. I think we were probably riding together that day.
and still I hate July 22nd.
Oh so many memories with Tim. I could, and maybe some day will, write a book. For now I'll end this post with a recap of one such story. Only Jason and I will probably laugh, the rest of you won't really get it, but even that was the beauty of Tim.
Jason just reminded me of one not too long ago that I had forgotten. The three of us were headed to Hope Lodge for the weekend. Hope Lodge is at the top of Stevens Pass and is about a solid 1.5 drive from Seattle... in a good car with light traffic. We were headed up on a holiday weekend and we were taking a U-haul Moving truck (18-footer I think) to his Parent's place on Camano Island first to pick up a couple cords of free wood. The three of us picked up the rental in the afternoon and just knew the day was not going to go well.
For starters they only truck they had was more than we needed. Tim rented it so he had to drive it out. No problem, Tim's a truck guy. Only problem was Tim is 5 foot tall on a good day and he can't reach the pedals. He's essentially driving standing up. So we are heading up to his Parent's house, about an hour away, on I-5 in rush hour traffic. I've switched over to driving to save Tim. All three of us are riding up front in the cab with an AM radio. The truck drives like as well as steering a buffalo in a stampede. I'm frustrated when we get to his parents. I think I remember Jason drove us in because I lacked the finesse. It's now getting dark. We still need to load the wood and drive up to top of Stevens Pass. Oh and we found out on the way that the truck only goes about 40mph.
It's dark and we are loading wood into the truck with a small flashlight. I mean this is classic Tim, Jason and Jeff. Morons! All of us. Never think ahead. Working even more slowly because we are laughing at our situation so much. We leave the Island and head up the pass. Tim is now driving again because, although he can barely reach the pedals we are worried about liability and he actually can steer the thing better than Jason or myself.
Of course some where along the way some one ate cheese between Jason and Tim, and lets just say Jeff suffered from lack of air in that tiny cab. It's dark, it's late, we are only able to drive 4o mph and we are headed up hill. We took that pass at 15mph and managed to blow 2-3 fan belts on the way up. We coasted in to the lodge at 1am, having left Seattle early that afternoon.
Even when things were screwed up just having Tim by my side made things okay. I miss not having him by my side. I really do. I have his memory and I'm luckier than most for the richness of my memories, but I miss him a lot. I want to share Jack with him. I want to share in Audrey's life. I want to share with him my recent graduation and job promotions and to grow old together. To grow old together laughing and living life.
I miss my best friend.
If you do anything after reading this, call your best friend. Tell him/her that you love and appreciate them just for being themselves.
That's what I'm going to do tonight.
I love you Tim.