Atlantis Alumni

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homage To A Best Friend

PHOTOS: (top)Marc A. Fisher ca. 1970. (bottom)Marc's first book of stories.

"I'm an honest person. My parents raised me to tell the truth, and my schoolteachers emphasized the importance of integrity."
- Marc Fisher, 1948-2012.

A best friend is someone you've known a long time, long enough so that the relationship has had its ups and downs yet you're still best friends. A best friend is someone with whom you've shared good times and bad, someone who was there for you when you needed them, and vice versa. Perhaps most of all, a best friend is one whose company you genuinely enjoy, someone you look forward to seeing, maybe even someone you take for granted...until they're gone. My best friend Marc died in late August at age 64, about 17 months after suffering a severe stroke from which he never recovered. He spent those last months in a nursing facility, valiantly struggling to make the best of a bad situation. Marc was always very social, and even though the stroke had left him unable to speak, I could see that he had made new friends in the nursing home. My visits to the home were somewhat difficult as communication wasn't easy, but Marc seemed to have basically a positive attitude in spite of his many challenges. When I last saw him in March of this year, he complained about stomach discomfort after we shared a meal. I couldn't have known then that this was a sign of a pancreatic disorder that finally took his life.

Marc and I met in about 1969 when we were both still in college. Marc was attending Drexel University, where he was a business major if I remember correctly. I was at Temple struggling to figure out what I really wanted to do. I had joined a large rock band with a brass instrument section (I play trombone), and Marc joined shortly after I did. He played trumpet. I liked Marc immediately. He had a friendly demeanor and he was a cool guy. He could do a few magic tricks and he knew how to tell funny jokes and stories. We had good times as band mates.

I got to meet his family as we became friends: his dad Joe, his mom Ethel, and brothers Jack and Scott. Scott was a high school athlete then, now he is the only surviving member of the family (Jan, an older brother had left home and was estranged from the rest of the family.) Joe had a business, and he liked to play games of chance. His sons took after him in this regard. Marc taught me to play backgammon, which I enjoy playing to this day. Marc was primarily a poker player, and tried at times to make a living playing poker. Many an evening he and I would spend hours over a backgammon board, with some sweet bourbon and cigarettes.

Marc graduated college but had a tough time transitioning into a career. While he worked from time to time at various jobs, he never really had a serious full time career position that I know of. One time I tried to get him hired at my employer, but that didn't work out. We remained good friends until my marriage ended and I came out as a gay man. For a time after that we were not close, but eventually there was a thaw and our friendship renewed itself.

The years went by and we would see each other occasionally over a cup of coffee (we both like Starbucks), or a specially made whole wheat pizza pie at MaMa's, a restaurant near Marc's home. Marc's brother Jack, who had substance abuse issues, took his own life a few years back. Something Marc and I shared was that both of us had someone close to us who died this way. My wife Adele had also taken her own life years ago while in a state of emotional distress. Jack's death affected Marc deeply. Marc surely loved his family in spite of whatever difficulties they may have had with each other.  When I was arrested and went to trial on bogus charges some years back, Marc was there to support me. After the judge threw out all the charges, Marc took me out to lunch to celebrate. We had a long series of life experiences that we shared, many more than I can remember to write about here, but more than enough to cement our strong friendship.

Joe Fisher died a number of years ago. In recent years Marc and his Mother Ethel cared for an aunt, getting her situated into a nursing home until she died. Then Marc cared for Ethel in her final years. Finally left alone, Marc had to deal with his own health and financial issues. We had coffee together one March day in 2011 at Starbucks on Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwd. Afterward I remember watching him in my rear view mirror turn his car onto Pembroke Road where the Fisher house is located. Later I found out that he had the stroke shortly after we met that day. It was to be our last enjoyable meeting in a long series that goes back over 40 years.

I still play backgammon and I still go to Starbucks, but I will always miss those meetings with my best friend Marc. He was a good and decent person and a fine best friend. I miss him and think about him often. He left me with many fond memories.

About fifteen years ago Marc decided to try his hand at writing. He adopted the pen name Marc MacHinery. He enjoyed storytelling, but he obviously felt that his verbal talents were not fully appreciated by those who would interrupt him:

"No longer will I tolerate such rude behavior to upset the presentation of my stories. I promised myself that all future tales would be in print and out of the reach of people lacking in proper and acceptable social graces and manners. From this point onward only those who choose to read will be entertained by my collection of stories. And so with great pride I present to you, my dear readers, my first..."Marc, Someone's at the door for you! While you're downstairs will you take out the trash? Telephone! It's for you!"

Marc gave me a copy of his book entitled "Stories From Marc's Place." As my husband Dan once told me, writing is a gift that an author gives to his or her readers, and this was Marc's gift to me. Here's my favorite story entitled "Hey, you!" from my best friend Marc's book.

With the birth of his first child (and first son), my father quite naturally wanted to pass along his name. However, both he and my mother felt uncomfortable having a "junior" as in Joseph Enoch Fisher, Jr. So they compromised and used Dad's initials, JEF, and named his son Jan Evan Fisher. In addition to having passed on his initials, a great deal of creative thought and energy was expended in the selection of these two names, Jan and Evan. Each of these two designations is somewhat less common than most names and the combination has a distinguished sound to it.

About five years later, yours truly was born and given the label of Marc Alan Fisher. There is nothing wrong with this name, however I've always considered both my first and middle names rather on the common side. Still, I have no complaints and actually, I never use my middle name anyway but rather use as my official signature, Marc A, Fisher.

Another five years passed by and along comes the third child, another son. Now you can really tell that my parents were running out of steam. They came up with Jack G. Fisher. When I asked my parents why they didn't give him a middle name, they offered up a lame excuse. "He'll be able to choose a middle name for himself when he gets older," they explained. As of this writing, my brother Jack is forty-six years old and has yet to choose such a name. As I already mentioned, I only use my middle initial and so really, the name of Jack G. Fisher is fine. A first name and middle initial is all you really need.

About four and a half years later, when my youngest brother was born, he was given the name Scott Fisher. That's correct, my parents didn't even choose an initial for him - just Scott. Now there is nothing wrong with the name Scott and in fact, I like him and the name very much. But for goodness sake, do you mean to tell me that you can't even select a stinking initial for the guy? Apparently, they just ran out of naming power.

I've always been thankful that my parents didn't have a fifth child. They were obviously out of names. The next child would've been named something like A. Fisher - no first name, just an initial. And if a sixth child were born, it would probably have just a last name, Fisher. God forbid they would've had a seventh child, it would've just been "Hey, you."

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