I spent the weekend tackling the lawn, chasing Pokémon, catching up on Netflix and attending several performances of my son’s play, King Henry IV, a City Arts deal that ran for three nights at Greensboro’s Barber Park — where, by the way, there are several fine pokéstops and a seldom-used fighting gym.
Through it all, my mind kept going back to Danny.
He died just before the weekend set in: 41 years old, married just a few years ago and with a 2-year-old daughter. Some sort of heart condition.
I’m thinking about Danny even though I never thought of Danny, not really, in the 30 years or so since I left my hometown on Long Island, just like I rarely though about his sister Laura or his brother Steve, who was my best friend when I was a kid.
We played a lot of baseball and soccer, a little football and hockey with the other kids in the neighborhood. That’s what it was like back then, just these tribes of children roaming through the streets after school, playing sports without the benefit of parental input and making shortcuts through backyards as if they were our own.
They lived just down the street, a relationship of geographic convenience and timing — Laura was the same age as my older sister, Danny just a year behind my younger sister. Steve and I were in the same grade, though not often in the same class because, our parents told us, the potential for disruption was too great.
Danny was the little brother, a sweet kid from what I remember, but the five-year gap in our ages was much wider back then, so I don’t remember many things about him at all.
I remember the day his parents brought him home from the hospital. It was the first time I had ever seen a newborn baby with a thick head of black hair.
And there was the time about nine years later when I stood him up in the goal and peppered him with hockey shots while we were waiting for his brother to come home. I sent a fine wrist shot spinning over his head that afternoon, and when it crashed through the window of the garage door, he bolted inside to tell on me.
That’s all I’ve got for poor Danny, who undoubtedly left this world too soon. Yet I keep thinking about him, his family and our time, so many years ago, on Avalon Road. And I mourn for someone I never really knew.