Yesterday was Mike Dickey’s birthday. He was a month older than I. We met when we were ten years old, in fifth grade, when my family moved from the working class near east side of Indianapolis to the hardscrabble countryside near Oakland City. I preached at his funeral 68 years later.
Mike was a problematic friend. He thought I was better than I was, and so he expected me to be better than I was. Especially when it came to things pastoral and personal, he assumed that I could do anything. “Let’s go see Don. He’s dying of cancer. You’ll make him feel better.”
I did not come close to the level of appreciation for my presence that Mike had. [And instead of telling me that was an awkward sentence, he would say something like, “You’re so smart I can’t even understand you.”]
Strangely, he wanted me to notice his own good works. I think that was because he did not tell anyone else about them. He assumed I was the arbiter of good deeds. He would tell me of something he had done, something far beyond what I might have thought to do for that person myself, and then cock his head like a puppy, waiting for me to tell him that yes, that was a good thing to do.
Through the years, on those rare occasions when I have told the truth about our experiences as kids and teens, such as how terrible I was as a bassoon player, he would always protest. “No, you were an excellent musician.”
“You were a great ballplayer.” “You were the smartest guy in the class.” “You were a smooth dancer.” “You were such a good writer.” “All the girls thought you were wonderful.” I loved him in the early years for his naiveté. I loved him in the later years for his poor memory.
It’s a lot of pressure, having a friend like that, who makes you better than you are just because he assumes you are better than you are. I miss him. A whole lot.
I tweet occasionally as yooper1721.