Mr. Sparkle 2.0
2 years ago, on the 40th birthday of my oldest and most tried and true friend Brad, I wrote this blog. Today, on his 42nd, here is the 2.0 version, just a few tweeks, but the best way to say Happy Birthday to a true pal.
I remember the day I met him. Clad in a beige work jumpsuit with Mr. Sparkle branded on the name tag, Brad Stefanov had to be the most unique individual I had met since my family had moved to Columbus the summer before. It was 1988 and I had just started my first job, at Kroger in Gahanna. I was a bagger and making a paycheck and thought I was king of the world. Brad would chat as he came by with his mop and and bucket, and I would politely make conversation. I had been raised never to be rude, even to strange people. Little did I realize who Mr. Sparkle would turn out to be.
I remember very distinctly the night I was leaving work and it was pouring rain. I looked at my trusty 10 speed with dread, knowing that the hill on Clark State Road would be especially hard to climb in the rain. Here came this dude in his 1981 Cutlass. He tossed my bike in the trunk, tied it down with an extension cord, and saved me the soaking I was destined to have. Riding to my house, he cranked up his 2 Live Crew tape that rested in his 8-track-to-cassette converter protruding from the dash.
After that we were inseparable We hung out all the time, cruising Gahanna and Northeast Columbus trying to pick up girls, playing on CB radios, and getting into all kinds of harmless fun. When I met my high school sweetheart, who lived on his street, he warned me to "stay away from those Richner Bitches". Of course he is the one that wound up marrying someone with that last name, not me. But that happened later.
If you follow the blog you know I had major surgery two years ago. You also are aware of the similar surgery I had in 1990. It was much more difficult the most recent procedure, and things were very touch and go for awhile. But Brad, he was terrific. He came to the hospital everyday. In fact if he wasn't working, he was there. He snuck junk food in to me in recovery, sat and talked to me when the boredom of the room, was over bearing, and even sent my snoring parents home when I couldn't sleep due to the noise. "You need a break, I will stay with Mike tonight" he said. He was an absolute rock, not just to me, but for my Mom and Dad as well.
The next year he was off to the desert. I wasn't thrilled when my best friend enlisted, but was proud when he went to war in Desert Storm. Even prouder when he won a medal for his actions there. He doesn't talk about that a lot. But on my end, there was nothing cooler than phone calls from Saudi Arabia. It was 1991 after all, and cell phones weren't all the rage.
I went six years without speaking to him. He and I had a falling out, and both of us were too stubborn to admit we were wrong. It was a long six years. We both got married, I had kids, and we were grown ups when my Mom and Dad told me that they had been talking to him. My Dad told me that Brad was the best friend I had ever had, was like part of the family, and that I needed to make it right. We made contact, and soon it was like we had never skipped a beat.
Now here we are in 2013. Both have careers, have been divorced, I am remarried and he is engaged, and we both are getting old. Yet when we get together we are still like a couple of kids, making stupid jokes and having a great time. He has had his rough patches, as have I, and we have been right there, like brothers. He is more than my best friend, he's part of my family, and I am really better off for having befriended Mr. Sparkle 26 years ago.
The rest of you will not understand what follows. But he will be on the floor laughing when he gets to the end
Brad - Thanks for.............................
The ride home
Running a red light
2 Live Crew
20 mile bike rides
Cruising with me and Am
306 B West Johnstown
Big ass cell phones
Being there at the hospital in 1990
Being there when Amber left
Your service to our Country
GJ, Big dude, and all the other reptiles
Being a great "Uncle" to my boys
Being there when Mom died
Being there when I left Angel
Being there at the hospital in 2011
Daily doses of weird posts and jokes on Facebook
That God awful hat you wear all the time
I am only wearing black til they make something darker
Always having my back no questions asked
Being a friend to me for 26 years
You know the list could go on and on.................
Happy 42nd Brad. Really glad you are happy and healthy today! Figured the gift card at the party just was not enough, and thought you might enjoy this more!
Day # 66, I have the best friends in the world, and it is good to be me...............