An old friend is reminding me of the outcast I used to be and how like-minded people tend to stick together — even when they shouldn’t.
I was actually quite a prick to Stevie Hemeon. I used to punch him in the Theodore Roosevelt School yard because he was one of the few kids I was strong enough to hit. He never deserved it. Yet he still hung with me, kind of how high school chum Aaron Lewis did later on.
In fifth grade, we were on the side of my house messing around with an air purification vent my parents had installed because of my brother’s severe asthma. Somewhere in there, one of us — probably me — stuck a garden hose in the vent and turned it on. We left the hose in there, assuming one of us had shut it off. It flooded the finished basement bedrooms and that’s probably the most pissed off my father ever was at me.
Stevie moved to the Beachmont section of Revere and I didn’t see him again until high school. Before transferring to the Voke I spent the first two months of freshman year at Revere High, and Stevie was there. I was an asshole to him the entire time. And still he hung around with me.
Why? I think because we were both outcasts, and outcasts tend to stick together.
After 25-plus years, Stevie and I reconnected on Facebook. I immediately apologized for being a jerk back then and, it turns out, he never carried bitterness about it. From his perspective, it was just young, stupid kids doing the stupid things kids do. He never held a grudge.
Stevie has been through the medical wringer in his adult life, almost the reverse of my situation, where my biggest medical difficulty happened in childhood. His Facebook page describes his adult life pretty well: “A hemodialysis patient, who is getting a fourth shot at life. With my past, medical demons, hodgekins and guillian barret’ syndrome. A walking medical mystery.”
He talks a lot about his ailments on Facebook, but never in a bitter way. There’s always a positive spin to it, which is nothing short of amazing to me. He’s the only dialysis patient I know of who describes going for a treatment as “having a blast” with the staff and fellow patients he befriended along the way.
I remember a similar situation when I spent all those weeks in the hospital in the 1970s and early 1980s. A special bond forms among the patients on a given floor. You laugh together, watch the same TV shows and play pranks on each other. It makes me wish I could reconnect with some of my fellow patients from those days. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen, because at least two of them didn’t make it to adulthood.
In any event, that bond creates something of an outcast club. Because of our illnesses we couldn’t really play sports or do other things that made you “normal.” So we bonded over being misfits.
I’m glad I reconnected with Stevie. I admire his positive attitude in the face of illness. I’m pretty sure a lot of other former classmates feel the same way.
It’s just another example of the people God puts in your path to teach you the lessons of life.