My Friend, Les

 My friend, Les, died a little over three months ago.

I met Les in 1989, if my post-middle-aged memory serves me right, at the first game I ever ran for people who either weren't already close friends or family. Les and his younger brother, Craig, were both there and were really the only complete strangers at the game. We instantly bonded, mostly thanks to our shared love of gaming and of all things geek-adjacent, from mainstream and cult science fiction, fantasy, and horror films and books, to real-world paranormal and the occult.

Les was a clever, inquisitive person. He liked to figure out and build things, and this side of him carried through to his gaming. He was very much an old-school player, relishing in-game challenges that presented obstacles to be overcome by the player, not the player character (with a die roll). He also had an impressive breadth of knowledge, as did Craig, both of them being voracious readers of many genres. He wasn't a deep role player, though, enjoying the more surface-level and "game-y" aspects of role playing (again, very old school). He ran games in a similar vein, and even in non-Dungeons & Dragons-style games, he was usually a Monty Haul game master. This often led to unspoken friction between us, as I usually wanted our group to engage more deeply with the stories we were sharing.

Over the decades, we had disputes over other things, as well - it was a turbulent friendship. Les was a shining example of human imperfection. He pissed me off quite often (as I know I also did to him), being a bit of a social misfit and generalist misanthrope. I say generalist because he really wasn't a misanthrope at all - he liked making sweeping misanthropic statements toward generalized groups of people, but ultimately was a solid friend to members of those same groups that he knew personally. He only disliked people in the targeted groups when they were complete strangers. Like many socially awkward people I've known over the years, he liked to talk worse than he actually was. We clashed a few times a year over such generalizations or over other actions that he should have known better than to perform but just couldn't seem to help himself.

Regardless of all this, he was a good and loyal friend. I'd like to say I was as good a friend in return, but I know that's not true. Because of our differences, I often kept Les at a distance. There was a divide between us that never allowed me to get as close to him as, say, my best friend Terry. I know I didn't appreciate Les as much as I should have, just as I know that's something I'll now bear with me for the rest of my own life.

I hadn't seen Les in almost two years by the time of his passing. He was ill for a long time, and in and out of the hospital. After an incident where I contracted from him and became seriously ill with an infection after one such hospital stay, I felt like it wasn't a good idea to continue our get-togethers, which had already become fairly irregular. We stayed in touch through my wife, who continued to talk to him semi-regularly. His passing didn't come as a surprise, as we'd been expecting it for quite a long time. When he first became ill, he and I joked often about him being an orc, and that "they'd have to kill him before he'd die," but we knew for months that the time was drawing near. I probably would have visited him in the hospital near the end, regardless of the gulf between us, if it hadn't been for COVID regulations. (His own brother was lucky to be allowed to see him in his final hours. This shit's just totally fucked up.) It was still a shock, though. But because I'd been so prepared for it, I didn't feel as sad as I would have otherwise.

I never actually cried for him, even at his funeral*, until I sat down to write this post.

Anyway, the purpose of this post isn't to be maudlin or to look for attention. It's to serve as a memorial to a man who was a huge part of my life, a smart, fun, infuriating, loyal, flawed but fundamentally good human being who deserved better friendship than he received from me. He influenced my life in so many ways, and I know that  I owe a huge part of who I am today to him. I miss him.

Here's to my friend, Les. May he be playing all the games all the time in the Great Beyond,  rolling dice with Gygax and Tucholka.

*Although my subsumed grief did almost manifest in other ways, as I was a heartbeat away from punching in the head the cemetery caretaker who repeatedly feigned sorrow over his death while getting his name wrong, and then started an argument with the grieving family members over the burial plot...


  1. My condolences on your loss. I cannot know what you feel but I can offer my sympathy.

    1. As I said, that wasn't really my intent, but thanks for sentiment.

  2. My condolences too. Your story about the caretaker reminded me of how the priest got my grandfather's name wrong all the way through the graveside service, it was like a slap in the face every time. Eventually, at the end, the funeral director corrected him, and the priest was like "Of course I mean William here". No apology or anything, it bugs me to this day, and that was 1986.

    1. That sort of behavior infuriates me - I'd rather have nothing said than to hear some half-assed BS. I know they say it's the thought that counts, but in this sort of case, the "thought" seems to be to say something comforting without really giving a damn...

    2. Yeah, my grandfather was a lifelong Catholic, but not a practicing one, so it's not like the priest knew him. He only really ever showed up for weddings and funerals since probably the mid 1950s. Still, the priest could have read the room, so to speak, and seen something was amiss.

  3. Had a friend named Joe. We weren't close, but he was close friends with one of the other guys in our gaming circle.

    Joe was very attached to his characters. We never really felt we should find out what would happen if he lost one because it looked like it would hit him hard. He was a very private man and could be prickly (the Scots ancestry possibly).

    We weren't close, but we spent a lot of sessions in the same dungeons and the usual chat and card and board games around the RPing.

    We played with him one night (Thursday that week) and we thoroughly expected to see him next week. Saturday night, he went out with some friends, but went home not feeling great. Joe went to the hospital on Sunday (and Joe hated doctors so he had to be feeling really bad) and was gone by Monday afternoon (a mix of a bad flu / virus and an undiagnosed diabetic condition that made the antibiotics they treated him with ineffective).

    He was 39.

    It didn't hit me at the time as hard as it did later, when I'd run across posts of his on our group's home built discussion forum/game scheduling software. Or when I'd recall a given adventure and something Joe did. And you don't forget the times he was irrascible either.

    The rapidity of his passing was a wakeup - He didn't make 40. He left a big hole for his parents and siblings. And it showed that any of us can go at any time.

    In a way, it informed my regular attempts to put gratitude and kindness into every day (or at least several times a week) both for its wellbeing effects for me but also to let others know I appreciate them. Some I love, some I want to spend more time with (we're human), but I appreciate the easier and harder among my friends because they all have shared a significant part in my life.

    I am sorry for your lost. Perhaps you have not seen this poem that I found kind of sums up some of this:


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