As one might expect from my age and military experience, I normally handle the whole death and the grieving thing relatively gracefully.
Not this time. So many really bright people have written so many insightful things about Parker/Chip/Tookie that I am ashamed to admit I could not even compose myself to attempt the task until my young friend was buried.
Understand at the outset that any close friend of Chip's explaining Chip would be something like Dr. Timothy Leary explaining an acid trip. Being close to him was unreal, too real and surreal all at once. He was, at once, brilliant and learning disabled, polite and crude, resolute and maddeningly indecisive, open and cautious, dedicated and distracted. He was all of us--all of our good and not so good traits-- with the volume knob turned up. And we loved him all the more for it.
He often told whomever would listen that he suffered from both dyslexia and ADHD. I have not even the foggiest notion where he got that diagnosis but how he reacted to it was instructive. He would bring me books that he had completed and say "I have to read
five or six books a week or else my dyslexia and ADHD get worse. You read these and then I'll read them again and will discuss them." At the same time, we would both read statistical matters and his memory of what we had read would far exceed mine. I was skeptical about the whole dyslexia and ADHD thing. On top of that, he would have a mature and well thought out interpretation of the stats we were reviewing.
It is true that his thought process would sometimes tire and his mind would go to some new shiny object, leaving our discussion someplace utterly unintended.
He knew I didn't care.
That he was somewhat easily distracted madeTwitter the perfect medium for him. In fact one of my first thoughts when I learned of his death was, selfishly, "there will ever be another SEC football game where I tweet my way through it with Chip." The very limitations of time and space imposed by twitter put it right into Chip's "sweet spot." He was the Prince of the Twitterverse.
As I said earlier, it's impossible to describe the intensity of a close friendship with this man. I will just tell you two stories that capture a little bit of him and leave it at that.
In early 2002 we were working on a project together, we were either on the telephone or at my house every night. Predictably, we would get sidetracked with SEC football talk or local gossip or politics. Around the end of February, the intense work on the project was nearly completed. There was not nearly the constant need to meet or talk as much.
Almost on cue, I suffered a temporarily disabling illness. By March, I was hooked up to an IV and confined to a bed or couch. I kept my illness very quiet, being self-employed. About the second night of the whole ordeal, Chip shows up at my front door with the penultimate draft of our project and wants to discuss several very un-Chip things like font styles and margin sizes. The next night, the same thing. He literally wanted to discuss where to put the commas. And so it continued for nearly 2 months, Chip thinking he was fooling me that his visits were business and not convalescent calls and me, appreciating his kindness but not letting him know I was aware of his benevolent ruse. Chip cheering me up but leaving me my dignity and keeping my secret. When it was over, we never spoke of it again.
The other incident happened in about 2008. We were in a public place and, by sheer chance, Chip witnessed two people that he really liked commit a drunken, gratuitous act of bigotry. He was also fond of the victims of this act of bigotry. He didn't hesitate in taking sides. He called out the bigoted action and let the offenders know in no uncertain terms that they needed to leave the victims alone. It was interesting to see how my old Sunday school pupil and ballplayer had, at some point, decided what his standards were and what kind of man he wanted to be. Aside from being a bit worried how I was going to have to pull him off of these guys, I was proud of him. When we talked about it a few days later, I told him his sense of justice was a credit to his mom and dad but that is conflict resolution skills could use a little improvement. We both laughed.
There are 1 million ways to describe Chip, all
. All I know for sure is that it will be years before I stop reaching for the phone in an impulse to share with Chip the ironies of football, politics, the neighborhood, the business environment and the geist that surrounds the place where he lived and that he loved.
As I said on Twitter, and he is already inside the pearly gates because SEC guys go in the first round.
Too soon gone, Chipper. Roll Tide!