In yet another sign that I’m not playing with a full deck, I realized this morning that I miss the fighting between my best friend and his father.
It’s another stray memory that came to the surface as I went to the wake and funeral for Al Marley. Al and Sean used to have some blistering arguments at the dining room table over religion and politics, appearances — you name it.
At the funeral this morning Father Dick mentioned how he used to have a lot of conversations about faith with Al. One of those talks was about Sean’s tendency to dye his hair multiple colors. Al was conservative and dressed that way. Sean was the opposite. Father Dick said it took a few conversations to convince Al that Sean’s hair dye was no big deal.
Erin suggested I have a sick sense of humor — which I do — because it takes a sick person to enjoy a situation where two people are erupting into anger.
But here’s the thing: To me, it was always a lovable anger, the kind you might identify with friends and couples who bicker constantly but hug and smooch afterward.
Al and Sean used to have a battle of wits. Did they often get angry at each other? Absolutely. But their love and respect for each other was always there on the surface.
One afternoon during the 1988 presidential election season, Al looked at me with those intense, sparkling eyes of his, took a drag on one of the many cigarettes he’d smoke in one sitting, and warned that Michael Dukakis would be as disastrous a president as Jimmy Carter.
“Carter didn’t do what he had to do during the hostage crisis,” Al said. “He just sat there in the Rose Garden wringing his hands.” Al rubbed his own hands together for emphasis.
“That’s total bullshit,” Sean bellowed from the other side of the table. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. But the next hour they were hugging, laughing and bantering about something else. They always made up.
The arguing was always over meaty subjects. Religion was another one they would get into intense debate about. Al was a traditional Roman Catholic, but Sean liked to challenge all the traditional beliefs. He just loved to pick an argument over the deep stuff.
Looking back, I think that sitting there watching the arguments made me smarter. It definitely inspired me to do a lot of research and challenge conventional wisdom. Watching two sharp guys go at it is a good educational experience. It’s one of the many gifts those guys gave me.
I’ll bet they’re going at it right now, and loving every minute of it.
I hope so.