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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Eulogy for Randy

Randy and I met in an English class when we were 12 years old. There was a quick and obvious bond. A large part of that bond was that we loved our fathers but they both drank. I feel that it’s important in sharing about Randy that you are aware of this.

These men could be like Jekyl and Hyde.  It was confusing and cause for much fear and trepidation. This commonality fused our bond and created a bridge out of adolescence and into adulthood that lasted a lifetime.

  Lillian said to me not long ago … “just tell the story,” so I’ll do the best I can.

Randy wrote a short fiction thing once and came up with this sort of alter ego. He called himself, “Shieldwolf Scardonkey.” What the hell? Right? It was just a sort of nonsensical rambling but was funny in a weird way. It was our code phrase for many years after. Shieldwolf Scardonkey …

That’s just the way he was. He was Saturday Night Live before the one on television. He possessed this sort of goofy humor combined with a pragmatic mind. Clever … curious … and one might say a tad persistent.  

One day I went to his house where he had moved in with his Dad and Randy was framing out a soapbox derby car. I would have told you we weren’t soapbox derby types. Clearly I was mistaken in Randy’s case.

“Why?” I asked.

“You’re kidding, right? This is the coolest thing EVER.”

Next time he talks me into checking it out he’s got it to the slicked out stage.

 “Wanna see me get in it? THIS THING IS AERODYNAMIC, Man!”

So he wriggles and squirms and curls himself into this lanky ball peering out the cooped up space with his gold rim glasses fogging up, grinning from ear to ear …

“See .. SEE??”

“Yeah, Buddy … I see. Let’s go do something.”

He finished that freaking car and raced it. He finished 3 of them I think. Little to no help. I had always heard it was a Father/Son sort of thing  … but no …this was mostly just him. I thought he was crazy. I believe today that this was representative of Randy’s faith in himself.  His faith and determination in his own ability to accomplish anything he set his mind to. Thing is … there were no pep talks … no “Leave it to Beaver” warm and fuzzy stuff. This was pure ingrained   … will.

He did the same thing with a motorcycle when we got back from the Navy. He didn’t know anything much about motorcycles other than he had the raggediest Sportster ever when we were in San Diego. As far as I could tell, he just decided because some guys we knew were riding Harley’s he wanted to build a custom bike. So he bought a burnt out hull, had it stripped and sandblasted and over a period of years, built it in the little tool shed beside his house. He had a local biker and artist paint the tank. It was a clipper ship on a burnished brown and gold background.

Then he rode it in all his glory for a time.

I’ll flash back a little, if you don’t mind.

After we graduated from high school we were loading trucks at UPS at night and going to UNCC during the day. After a particularly grueling hot night, he came sauntering up with that sort of sideways, head cocked, walk of his with this huge grin still wearing the hair net we had to wear to keep our long hair from getting caught in the conveyors and shouted above the noise …

“I know a way we can go to Hawaii, FREE!”

We could talk each other into almost anything.

So we joined the Navy in the waning years of Viet Nam. In part to see the world and part to gain the GI Bill for college. The recruiter said Great Lakes was the best choice for boot camp because it was colder so they didn’t do a lot of marching. Cold was one of the understatements of our lives. It made sense at the time … but this just happened to be December … just outside of Chicago.

Many might not know that Randy was in the Charlotte Drum and Bugle Corp for many years. He marched in Thanksgiving Day Parades and football games and such.

They made him a formation leader in boot camp because of it. If you can imagine Randy barking cadence and marching alongside a company of like garbed men with white leggings and gray helmets.

One day we were standing in line outside the chow hall.

They’d constantly scream at us, “Nutts to butts, you idiots, NUTS TO BUTTS!!”

 I hope that doesn’t offend anybody but honestly that s about the least vulgar thing they screamed. Turns out it was helping you stay warm. Looks like they could’ve just said that.

It was 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill factor. They had shaved our heads and issued uniforms and boots a size or two too big. My ears and fingers had gone past pain into numb and I looked over at Randy in the line beside me. He was laughing his ass off.

“What the hell?” I sort of mimed.  He’s got tears streaming down trying to laugh quietly, shoulders shaking. So he whispers so I can barely hear … “you look so miserable. It’s hilarious.”

And suddenly … things didn’t seem quite so bleak.

We were aboard the USS Blue Ridge together for a year or so. We did a West Pac, which is a 9-10 month tour of the South China Seas. Guess I could write a book of all those stories. Good ones too. Probably most not fit for mixed company though.

We were in “deck division” … “deck apes”, we were called. We had waived “A” school or submarines for a shorter enlistment.  Randy did not fit in well here. He was a bit different than this crowd. My guess is he simply did not harbor the violent nature that seemed to be a prerequisite for the job. Of course, as was always his way, for the life of him he could not understand how anyone could not like him … hell … adore him.

“What’s not to like?” he would say. Or , I” I don’t get it. Whats’ their f—king problem?”

Eventually he left the ship because of the kidney thing. He finished a medical tour and went aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. He managed in true Randy form to finagle his way into the ships’ media center. So he ended up writing copy and doing some rudimentary film work for the bulk of that tour. These people he got along with. He kept up with them for many years after.

We separated from the Navy and returned home where we attended community college. Finishing there he went on to Chapel Hill. After that we would see one another a couple times a year and communicate by phone about the same.

One day he came by my place of business after some time had passed. He’d said on the phone he was riding his motorcycle so I was a little taken aback when he showed up and was “bloated from the prednazone”, he said.  He was a pale representation of the always boyish ruddy, Randy I had known.

That’s the first time I recall seeing the dragon like vein running down his arm. I was somewhat alarmed. Yet he laughed and joked and in no time it was as if nothing had changed. Today I see that this was Randy reveling in what I have come to believe was his abiding hope and assurance of a positive future.

He had met Lillian and was finishing law school. He would make his permanent home in Raleigh. Randy as most know endured 2 kidney transplants, years of dialysis, medical problems like rainfall … one after the other never knowing when the next storm would come. Seldom did I hear him complain.

I asked him once how he did it … how he maintained such a positive outlook.

He responded with that almost diffident tone that he could have sometimes,

“ What d’ya mean? I just do what I have to do. It’s not like I have a choice, ya know.”

So he built a life here in Raleigh with rich friendships, a successful legal career and a beautiful relationship and marriage with Lillian.

A couple months ago his brother Tim contacted me and told me Hospice had been called in. I called Randy concerned. He told me he wasn’t ready to die.

“ I like it here. I LIKE being alive.” He said. “I just want to keep waking up and having one more cup of coffee with Lillian.”

It was a turning point for me in my awareness of how he had lived this difficult life of his. We had always argued about God and theology. I called him an agnostic. He refused to label himself.

You see … Randy believed in people. He believed in humanity. I suppose a better label would have been “humanist”.

As was his habit, he admonished me for not having visited him in Raleigh. So I went.

I expected the worst but he rallied and took me on a tour of the town. He showed me his life. The houses he had lived in with now funny stories of crack addicts in the bushes and friends visiting. Problems and joys. We walked through part of a historic cemetery as he explained that Lillian had included it in one of her citywide scavenger hunts of which he was both fascinated and proud. This was a recurring theme. Randy was enormously proud of Lillian.

When we returned to his home, he was tired but stayed up a while. As he rose to go to bed he looked at me and said in earnest … shaking his head,

“Ya know … I got dealt a sorry deck of cards.”

I knew he was exhausted but it was the first time I’d ever heard him say it.

The next morning I came downstairs. He acted as if it was “just another day in the neighborhood.”  We ate a bit and Lillian and Randy began to set up the dialysis machine.

Lillian put on the light blue surgical gloves and Randy sat in the chair. The morning light was soft … the air seemed gentle. I will always remember them there, speaking to one another in hushed tones … working together … Lillian tapping the gauges … Randy directing her, though I suspect she did not need it. They were a team. If they suffered you could not tell. It was like a slow dance full of love and tenderness.

I was struck dumb and still … watching the miracle unfold. Yes a miracle … a miracle of science and technology, no doubt … but that is not the miracle I mean. I was a witness to the miracle and perseverance of love.

You see, that’s what Randy had really showed me that day on his tour of his life in Raleigh … and then I came to realize that’s what he had always shown me… ever since that English class. He had showed me his love.

He had always been altruistic. He was going to save the world, end wars, bring government to bear on the ills of the people and help create a world where people existed to help those in need.

Randy loved his family. He loved his friends. He was always the one that sought friends out … visiting, spending time, sharing. He wanted to know … “how’s so and so? Have you seen this person or that?”  I think He loved living more than anyone I have ever known. Most of all … he loved Lillian.

We came here to the Rose Garden that day. It was the last place on his tour. I was watching him closely for signs of fatigue. He was wobbly … his face a bit mottled with beads of sweat on his upper lip as he looked across the garden and spoke,

“If there is such a thing as a spirit… then mine will come here. This is where I want my ashes to be … if possible. This is where I married Lillian.

At this juncture, I will be so bold as to quote scripture. I can see him rolling his eyes as I say it.

1st Corinthians 13:13

"Three things will last forever— faith, hope and love --- and the greatest of these is love."

I came here today to praise Randy Scarborough. In writing his eulogy I rediscovered something I had forgotten. Randy was an expert at loving people. He loved you without you thinking about it. He gave of himself without show. He was a master of being good company. He was interested in life and you and all that you knew or did or practiced.

This is the part where many say… “We will miss him.” I’m not going to say that … because I feel his presence. I see him grinning there with that languorous stride … and I know that you can see him too. We will see him in our memories and in our thoughts. We see him right now with our hearts and we all know that he will be with us and us with him …

Forever ...