“Courage is the art of being the only one, who knows you’re scare to death.”
It’s raining, a storm like any other summer. The thunder and lightening reminds me of of a close friend, Tony Buchanan.
When I first met Tony I was fourteen. Tony was my brother’s age, Rick was sixteen.
Tony was thin, tall and had a innocence look about him. I probably looked older than he did. At sixteen he looked twelve or thirteen. Tony had a driver’s license and great car, a 1957 Chevy, a beautiful black custom 57 hot rod. All the girls loved that Black 57.
After school we would cruise the town, Smyrna, GA. Stop by local hamburger places for snacks and soft drink. Before it’s too late go home and do our homework. Weekend nights we stayed out late, go to the drive inn theater and watch movies and flirt with girls.
Everyone liked Tony, he had a great smile, a great heart and truly care about people.
I’ll never forget a conversation Tony and I had one day. I could tell something was on his mind. Tony looked at me and said,” I wish I were like you and Rick,”
I didn’t understand, Tony had it all, good looks, great personality lots of friends, girls loved him, a great car. Tony began to explain,” I have leukemia, that’s why I’m so thin, I have bad blood.” Tony had tears in his eyes as he spoke. ” I don’t feel well most of the time, “I fake the smile and hide my pain”.
Tony and I continue to talk, for hours, we talked about everything, I even told Tony about my dream, this girl that came to me, the one I felt her presence. This is the girl, “I’ll love the rest of my life”.
Tony needed treatment, radiation and blood transfer, many test. He had known about the disease for two years, he didn’t want to tell us. Thought we would treat him different, maybe pamper him or something. I look at Tony and said, ” Don’t think you’ll get out of driving us around just because you’re sick.”
We laughed , but I could see a difference with Tony’s smile, he was in pain. A pain deep inside.
I would go with Tony to the hospital, his Mother and Father was always working, two and three jobs to support their family and pay for medical expense.
Some of the trips to hospital Tony was too weak to drive. I only had a learner’s permit to drive a car, but I would drive Tony to his treatments.
This day was raining, a large thunder storm came in and surrounded the city. Loud cracks of lightening and loud booms of thunder filled the dark skies. Rain pounding on the windshield, so heavy I could barely see, “Maybe I should pull over,” I said. All of a sudden the car started spinning, round and round we spun, like a top.
Faster and faster, cars were all around us, we slid past many and I was amazed how fast we were going, totally out of control. Our eyes met as we both held on for our lives, you could feel and see the fear in our eyes. I smiled and Tony started laughing. Then I started laughing. We both were laughing so hard, I could have pee my pants.
Maybe the fear was almost making me pee.
The entire event maybe only lasted a 30 to 40 seconds, seemed like 30 minutes. The spinning in circles finally slowed, and some how I manage to regain control of the car without hitting anyone. we drove with caution the last few miles.
All was good with the treatment and Tony jokingly said, “I’ll never ask you to drive me again”. I did drive him again, many times I drove Tony Buchanan to the hospital. When ever it rains like this, I see Tony sitting there holding on laughing out loud.
The Doctors had told Tony’s family when he was diagnose with leukemia, he had maybe six years to live. He was now eighteen years old and very sick. Tony had to spent weeks in the hospital. Treatments just may him sick, he looked older now, not a young man of eighteen anymore.
My brother Rick, my friend David and I would visit Tony all the time. All the nurses knew us by name. Sometimes we would get into trouble with the nurses. We would sneak Tony out of his room in a wheelchair, have races down the hallway, sneak girlfriends in to see him, stuff like that. This would bring some life back to Tony’s eyes. The last few months I’ve been watching this eighteen year old turn to a man of eighty.
Tony’s room at Emory Hospital was the last room on the right, down past the nurses station. This night, Rick, David and I went to see Tony. I ran past Rick and David fast and slid across the waxed hallway floor. I stopped at Tony’s room and pushed the door open quickly. I now was staring at a made bed, I was confused, for a moment I thought they moved Tony.
I now understood. The day before Tony said he was at peace with his pain, he talked about things he wanted to do, places he wanted to see, he talk about how grateful he was for our friendship.
We talked for many hours that last night , no girlfriends, no wheelchair races down the hallway just four friends speaking from the heart.
No one knew this would be the last time we talked to Tony, except Tony, he knew.
I came out of the lonely empty room, Rick and David was just walking up, they could see my face, they could see my lip quiver, they turned around we all walked slowly away no one talking, just thinking.
I thought about Tony’s courage, he never complained, he took what life gave him. He gave his friends a lot more.
My friend, Tony Buchanan had lots of courage, but I know he was scared. The rain is slowing now, it’s quiet over the mountains, except for a few sounds of distance thunder.