Friendship Fumble

Monday September 24th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m extremely disappointed. And only a small percentage of it comes from the result of one of the strangest endings to a football game I can ever remember. The Green Bay Packers ended up losing a game in the last second which by all accounts they should have won.

I’m less than thrilled with how the game turned out, but even less thrilled about the back story that has led up to this bizarre conclusion. I couldn’t write a story like this if I tried, but it sure is a page turner. Every time I try to let it all heal, something like this comes along to pick at the scab.

Today happens to be the 50th birthday of my best friend from childhood. We met when he was 12 and I was 11, and we remained friends all through our formative years. Then we kept in touch way past that. We were two dented cans from Milwaukee who came from low rent pedigree, and we were closer to each other than our own blood brothers. The bond we shared was very strong.

Then, he decided he wanted to rob a bank he used to work at and didn’t tell me as we ventured across the country to Las Vegas in a rental car from Milwaukee with the fruits of his labor in the trunk in a duffle bag. I had no idea what was happening, and wasn’t made aware of it for months. Then several months after that, he robbed that same bank again. It seems like a different lifetime.

I knew I needed to distance myself from my lifelong best friend, but that’s a lot easier said than done. We’d shared all sorts of emotional experiences, and it’s difficult to just walk away from all that but I knew I had to. I was eventually forced to testify against him in federal court and it sent him to prison. It was a horrific experience, and it still causes me to have nightmares even now.

The last time I spoke to him in person, I was wearing a wire in a Milwaukee restaurant looking to get him to spill the beans – which he eventually did. What a surreal experience that was and is now. I have had a lot of difficult hills to climb in my life, but that was by far the steepest of all.

It stung to have to send my childhood friend to prison but I’m sorry – HE robbed that bank, and I didn’t. Then to throw a bigger monkey wrench into it, he did it again. The story has all kinds of bizarre twists and turns, and thinking about it brings me back there and totally depresses me. It’s a mesmerizing story to hear – but it to live through it was pure torture that lingered on for years.

I’m never going be able to blot this out of my mind completely, and knowing today is his 50th birthday brought it all back like a moose turd clogging a toilet. It’s ugly, disgusting and makes a giant mess that was totally unwanted – but it’s there and it needs to be addressed. I wish it never happened, but it did. I don’t know why he chose to do what he did, but it crapped on both of us.

What stinks more is we grew up loving the Green Bay Packers. We lasted through the ‘70s and ‘80s lean years, and we dreamed of enjoying a Super Bowl victory someday. That happened, but he robbed us of the fun of doing it together. I know he watched tonight’s game, and I’m sure that last play stung him like it did me. But nothing stings quite as painfully as those brutal hours on a witness stand testifying against him. The friendship was amputated, and the stump hasn’t healed.

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