Andy Thomas, rest well friend

After a week-long fight in the hospital one of the best men I’ve ever known passed away. He leaves behind a wife, two daughters, and an army of people on both sides of the Atlantic that he’s touched with his strong kindness and voracious sense of humor.

During the past week I’ve been thinking about Andy (or Drew, or Sabian, or Lunchbox) at great length. I met him our freshman year of high school, and though he tells the story better than I do I’m going to give it a shot. We went to different middle schools and I was essentially invited into his circle of friends to play, what they called, War Games. It was explained to me through a mutual friend, Wes Seleen, whom I had met in 4th grade via an inter-district program called ALP (Advanced Learning Program, it was supposed to be for smart kids…go figure). Wes said they go out in the woods in teams and do things like throw eggs and flour bombs at each other, and even fire roman candles at you. Sounded great to a teenage boy such as myself, so I packed up some toys of my own and on the appointed weekend my mom drove me to the address Wes said to go to (Jason Lynch’s house). Now, Wes himself couldn’t be there so on my first appearance I would be getting no introduction. I would just be walking up someone’s driveway with a duffel bag full of misdemeanor. This is where Andy tells the story better from his point of view, because the first time he saw me “some skinny Asian kid was stepping out of a Dodge minivan with a rocket launcher slung over his shoulder”. Yes, I was into model rocketry and had turned a 4 inch PVC pipe into a shoulder mounted launching system, that I could reload in the field with rockets that detonated a 7-10 firecracker payload on impact. To be honest the rocket hitting you hurt most, the firecrackers were more razzle dazzle, but I digress. No more than an hour later when Andy and his team had me pinned down behind a tree I used it. Again, better told from Andy’s point of view because they had me but then “this skinny Asian kid in one motion rounds the tree and pulls the tube up over his shoulder and points it at us”.

Much later, fast forward years, a couple of personal memories of Drew stick out. One was when he drove me to Buffalo (from Jamestown) so I could look at a car. It was just me and him, I think I offered to buy him lunch in exchange for the ride. I can’t remember where we ate though it was a place Buffalo had that Jamestown didn’t (which doesn’t really narrow down the list in the slightest), but I do remember the car was a total piece of shit and not worth the drive at all. Regardless, that trip has always stuck with me and I don’t know exactly why. I do know why the next memories stick. They’re from when we worked in Fredonia at Netsync. I had already been there a couple years and put a good word in for him for a tech support position. I vividly remember him coming in for the interview, I was just at my desk and my boss was giving him a tour. They swung through the tech room and on the way out he sneak attacked me and hugged me in my chair, saying in his funny kiddie voice “Thank you for the job!”. I laughed and said I only got him the interview, he got himself the job. We shared just about every bad tech support horror story or cliche you’ve heard about, but what was most significant was who he met while we were working together. Because while at that job he started chatting with a little lady from across the pond in the UK. I got to watch the infancy of his relationship with Celeste form. Furious typing and the occasional laugh coming from his desk. And when the time came and he made the leap, as much as it pained me to watch my friend leave I knew he was truly following his heart.

I’ve shared over half of my life with this great man, just thinking and typing those words and what they signify boggle my mind. Hundreds of miles of road trips, school dances (not only at JHS but also causing trouble at other schools), after school clubs, week-long camping trips (Andy had a less-than-thawed hot dog clock him in the head during a food fight), more War Games with hilarious injuries, hours on dial-up internet, car tag, weekends lost to Dungeons & Dragons, working together at the arcade (and probably years of time wasted at the Chautauqua Mall in general), selling him ridiculous quantities of food from Arby’s for about 50 cents, times at the Casino in Bemus Point, parties, Blue Herons, weddings, children, break-ups…I could go on forever. Any of us could. It will always be amazing to me that we, all of us guys, have stayed together all these years. Years before Facebook, or Twitter, or even MySpace. And when we do get back together face-to-face we pick up like the weeks or months in between never happened.

Our bond and shared experiences can’t be measured, just as much as the hole he leaves in all of our lives can’t be completely expressed or even slightly replaced. To paraphrase a movie, the rest of those who have gone before us cannot compare to the unrest of those who are left behind. I can only hope the pain we all now feel with his absence is pale in comparison to the peace Andy now has.

Love you brother, I’ll miss you forever.

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