You know you're getting older when certain things start happening (no, this isn't one of those joke posts). One of the most distressing is the increasing frequency of deaths among those with whom you went to high school. Many of you know I lost my wife two years ago. It still hurts. One of my closest friends died exactly seven weeks later. That still hurts too.
People you're close to become part of your routine, They're your "go to" people when you want to talk, laugh or joke about something that happened during the day. They're a safe haven where you don't really have to worry about whether your shirt has a spot on it or you forgot to shave. It's all ok with them. I don't really have that kind of closeness at the moment. I have good friends; people I like a lot, but there's still that hole to be filled.
Today we found out that Jim Pickley, a high school friend, my co-drum major for the Elkhart High School Band, and brilliant jazz pianist, died from cancer. He started posting about his condition on Facebook a while back, with the last post being April 30. He was already in hospice care, and said the pain was pretty bad. We knew what was coming, but it doesn't make it any less sad. Jim was a wonderful jazz player, who probably deserved more renown than he ever got, but jazz has always been a largely anonymous endeavor. I was impressed with his ability when we were both in high school as well as when we both attended the Smith-Walbridge drum major camp during the summer of 1970. He started banging out wonderful music on the camp's out-of-tune piano, and that's when I realized I would never play as well as he did. But envy turned pretty quickly to admiration, partly because Jim was such a nice guy you couldn't help but like him. Rest in peace, Jim.