The Christmas of 1994 was mine and my sister Melissa’s biggest Christmas as far as the number of presents was concerned. My dad had had surgery on his head that year, and they had an angel tree for us at his workplace.
Darren wasn’t only Dad’s best friend, they also worked together. That Christmas morning, Darren and his friend Sheila were supposed to play “Santa Clause,” and drop off our gifts at our apartment at eight o’clock.
Nine O’clock, and my sister and I were still upstairs while just about every other kid in the neighborhood had their gifts unwrapped, out of the box, and assembled if necessary.
Finally, after Santa Darren and his little helper showed up, Dad, Melissa and I had a blast opening up all of those gifts. I was even wondering when I was going to get finished opening my gifts so that I could play with the neat toys that I’d already unwrapped! Melissa was unwrapping gifts so fast that she accidentally unwrapped a package of blank videotapes that were from me and her to Dad. Mamaw Ruth made her sneak it back upstairs to re-wrap it.
As I mentioned before, Darren was Dad’s best friend. He knew sign language, so he was able to communicate with Dad pretty well. Darren taught Dad what he knew about computers.
Darren used to come over to our apartment and hang out with us every once in a while. One night Darren came over to our apartment and watched the movie “Collision Course” staring Jay Leno, and co-staring Pat Morita (who played as Mr. Miyagi in the “The Karate Kid”). Before the movie, Darren had gone into the kitchen and gotten a bag of the remaining tortilla chips.
If I couldn’t eat food right out of the bag or box, or heat it in the microwave, on the stove, or in the toaster oven, then I wasn’t interested in it. It was the weekend, which meant Maw Maw wouldn’t be going to the grocery store for a few days, and those tortilla chips that Darren was eating were all that I had left besides maybe some cereal.
All through the first half of the movie, I was saying to Darren, “Those are good, huh?”… “I like tortilla chips, too.”… “Do you like salty stuff?”
But the guy just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, take a hint. Darren finished off the tortilla chips.
In March of 1995, after Dad, Melissa and I had moved into an apartment with Mamaw Ruth and Maw Maw, Darren disappeared. The story goes that Darren had told Sheila that he loved her, but Sheila told Darren that she didn’t feel the same way about him. Darren ran off to West Virginia, and while he was walking along a road, he was struck by a police vehicle. Instead of reporting the accident, the police dumped Darren’s body into the river. Darren’s body was found about a month later, and it was so decomposed that his dental records had to be checked to confirm his identity.
After what happened to Darren and the pain that it caused Dad, I always hoped that I’d improve on making friends, because you never know what tomorrow might bring . . . or take away.