I’ve had a few shots of whiskey to be able to write this. But it’s time to write this. It feels right, tonight.
I met my good friend Nan when we served on our kid’s school PTA together. She was President and I was Vice President. We had been spending a lot of time together, gearing up for the school year, redecorating the teacher’s lounge, going to lunch quite a bit. We had taken the entire committee to Austin for the annual weekend long conference where bonds were forged and weaknesses like being scared shitless of bats and our true tolerances for alcohol were exposed.
The school year got rolling and I was working in the copy room one morning when the school Principal found me and told me simply “Go find Nan, I think she’s going to need you.”
I’d skipped my workout that morning, and my usual morning phone call with Nan, because I just felt strongly that I needed to be at the school. It was one of those things that can’t be explained. This was big because I had only lost about 12 pounds at that point in my weight loss “journey” and my gym time was steadfastly adhered to.
So I found Nan at her home, where she’d just been informed by the military that her husband had died when his Chinook helicopter went down in Iraq.
We all hear of fallen heroes. We see them on television. We see the families, who have to carry on without them. We pray for them. But it’s something else entirely to see it first hand, up close. I witnessed her first tears as a widow, I hugged her and told her “You are loved” because I didn’t know what else to say and that was the truth, the simplest and most honest of truths, anyway. You can’t really go back to being casual friends after that nor would I ever want to. She’s my lifelong friend now, whether she likes it or not.
So when she told me she was dating someone a few years later, I was so happy for her. As long as she was happy, I was happy. I joked around at length with her and Freddie on Facebook and I liked him. He was funny and smart and had wicked taste in music. I was a Freddie fan, right from the get go. Nan would let Freddie read some of our private messages, our little gaggle of girlfriends, and he loved our craziness.
I was at lunch with E very soon after that and Nan texted me “You’ve got a fan”. I always love to hear that! Who doesn’t love to hear that? She asked me if it’d be okay if he sent me a friend request and I emphatically replied “Yes!”
Over the next 4 years, Fred Man (as I came to call him) and I shared a love of music, specifically Pantera, Slayer, and Van Halen. He wasn’t an Alabama football fan but because I was, I’d occasionally get supportive text messages from him on game days. This was our last one about football:
Fred Man never got wordy, unless we were talking about music or Texas Rangers baseball, that would get him going. I’ve never met a bigger Rangers fan than Freddie was. Freddie and I could also trash the Dallas Cowboys for hours. The mere mention of Jerry Jones would send us into full-on rant mode.
I escaped a party one night to find him on the back patio, smoking alone. We drank some beer, I smoked a couple with him, and he told me of all the epic concerts he’d attended. None of this reunion shit that goes on nowadays, either. He saw the metal bands back in the day, when they were huge. He saw some shit, y’all. Good shit.
Fred Man was opinionated. He never backed away from what he thought was right and was never scared of going at it with anyone. If he believed it, he’d back it up every single time with good old common sense, never wavering. He called out the bullshitters and had no patience for their enablers. You got Freddie exactly as he was, no fronts, no airs put on for others, no fucks to give when common sense was being tread on, politically or otherwise.
As much as Fred Man loved to read our private messages, you wouldn’t find him in the middle of us girls when we hung out at Nan and Fred’s house. He’d gladly watch baseball by himself or entertain Landon.
Freddie loved Batman and Landon would ply him with questions about Batman and all super heroes. Freddie had the biggest heart and would talk with Landon about anything Landon wanted to talk about. I’d tell Landon to give Freddie some space and not talk so much and Freddie would just tell me to go back to my hen party and that it didn’t concern me anyway, that he and Landon had things under control. I can always judge a person’s heart by how good they are, how patient they are, with special needs kids. Landon loved talking to Freddie. I didn’t need anything else to confirm my affection for Freddie but if I had, that would’ve sealed it.
Fred Man would send me random texts out of the blue, always hilarious. He totally got my sense of humor. Most of the time, it was just a picture or funny meme. Here are a couple of my favorites.
As you have probably guessed, Freddie died on February 15th. He fought kidney cancer for a long, hard couple years and still went down fighting. I was blessed to see him less than two weeks before he died and I’ll always be grateful for that. We talked, joked, and laughed for about an hour before I could tell he was exhausted. I gave him about three vacation’s worth of magnets. He collected magnets and kept them all on display behind his incredibly cool bar at home. Gracie and Landon looked forward to picking out a magnet for “Mr. Freddie” everywhere we went on vacation.
I’ll tell this story just because I know Freddie would get a huge kick out of it. We were on a cruise over Spring Break a few months ago. While we were eating, I caught myself saying “I guess we don’t need to buy Fred Man a magnet…” I trailed off because I realized we wouldn’t be buying Fred Man a magnet ever again. Just when I thought I might cry, Landon (remember he’s autistic and has a very straight forward way of thinking so literally imagine Forrest Gump saying this) sighed heavily and said very matter of factly, “Nope. Because Mr. Freddie is dead.” After a few seconds, E, Gracie, and I busted out laughing and agreed that Freddie was looking down and laughing, too.
Here is Freddie’s obituary, which tells you much more about what kind of person he was than I ever could.
Fred Man’s memorial service was full of good music and laughter. Of course, there were tears but I left thinking that Freddie would have loved it. I’m sure he loved it. His best friends and his brother told stories about him and there was so much laughter. It was a true celebration of life. There were more rock tee shirts there than I’ve ever seen at any other funeral. Freddie would have had something to say about every single one of them. I wore my Pantera tee shirt because Freddie was such a huge fan of them. Pantera is from Arlington, Texas, just like Freddie was. Freddie was a huge fan of Dime Bag Darrell.
One of the songs played during the memorial service was “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Freddie was simple but so much more than that at the same time. What you saw was what you got. No faking, just truth and simplicity in the best form possible.
This is how I’ll remember Fred Man, just hanging out with a beer in his hand, always rocking.
Forever rock on, brother. You are loved and you are missed.