Sometimes distance after graduating from high school can ruin friendships.
The separation grows further and further until the deep crevasse between us signifies the end and all communication ceases. However, in this instance, the end was premature and painfully, painfully unjust.
Now graduated college, I can still remember where I was that day as a junior in high school. Standing around after chemistry class, my friend Andrew Meisel came up to me and asked me what I was doing this weekend. Me, who had a woeful social life outside of school, had zero plans. He asked if I would like to go to the Michigan game that weekend with him and his dad. His family were season ticket holders for quite some time.
"Yeah man, who do they play?" I asked him.
"Eh, I don't know. Some team named Appalachian State. We should kick their ass," he fired back.
Should kick their ass. How wrong were we?
What I witnessed was not only one of the worst upsets in college football history, it was also one of the best times I shared with a friend. The loss was gut-wrenching and left a bitter taste in our mouths for weeks and months on end. I recall standing with Andrew, both of our hands on our heads with mouths open, swearing and screaming with disgust as the last second field goal was blocked and returned close to midfield.
We saw the Mountaineers rush the field and dog pile near their sideline. It was horrific and it was very real.
"Well, at least Notre Dame still sucks!"
That was Andrew in all his glory. No matter how terrible the situation was, he always had a way to spin things around and provide a little bit of comic relief. Plus, his unbridled hatred for Notre Dame was great.
We discussed his future plans at length in the car. He wanted to join the Marines and I wanted to go to school at the University of Michigan; Ann Arbor, Dearborn or Flint it didn't matter. I tried, oh how did I try, to get him to reconsider that choice. Was it selfish of me thinking back on it? Absolutely. But being in the midst of the war on terror, it scared me to death.
Little did I know that death would play a role in the future.
After high school I went off to college and Andy joined the Marines, just like we discussed. Like most people who join the service, communication is difficult. I truly regret letting distance separate us until we no longer spoke, but life has a cruel way of working sometimes. The last time I kept track of Andy was during his time stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
That would be the last time he would be stationed anywhere.
I remember getting a call from Andy's fiance on July 6, 2009. I remember it like it was yesterday. Consider we never truly spoke that much, I thought Andy might be on leave and we were going to surprise him.
Andy was indeed coming home. But it was just a shell, a cruel twist of fate.
"Andrew died yesterday, they found him in his room when he didn't report for duty," I remember his fiance telling me.
I've handled death more times than I would like during my short life, but it never gets easier. However, this is the first time finding out that one of my friends had died. It's the kind of news that hits you so hard in the stomach it knocks the wind out of you. An almost crippling sensation where you need to sit down just to process a simple sentence.
I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. Why didn't I try harder to stay in contact? But, most importantly, how did this happen?
The official word on Andy's death was a blood clot in his shoulder caused by a football injury he suffered playing around with some Marine's during their down time. A blood clot from a freak accident? How can life be so cruel.
I know life is never bringing Andrew back, but my memories do each and every day. Every time I step inside Michigan Stadium, I'm brought back to the day Michigan lost to Appalachian State. Andy and I enjoyed a few other Michigan victories together in that stadium, but this loss was historic. To share that with him is a great honor and something that I will never forget.
Now, being inside the press box at Michigan Stadium, I quietly tell myself -- and Andrew -- every time I take a seat and look down on the stadium that made our friendship, I've made it. I know in my heart that he would be proud of me. No matter what the score was that day in September, I know its enough for me.
It's an odd way to remember a friend, but Andrew Gordon Meisel was someone that you could never forget.