Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Miss the Caseys

You know how sometimes people cross your path who are just good? Who you know will make you feel better, make your life better, make the world better just by being in it?

The Casey family is like that for me.

There’s Pat Casey, the patriarch, who was my second boss when I worked for the governor of Michigan back in the 1980s. He taught me a lot about working with people, and getting along with folks, and taking care of what’s important, and accepting others for who and what they are. He also taught me how to be a good friend and how to make a point without being disagreeable. He was smart and funny and wise and generous and patient and loyal and just a good man to know.

Pat’s married to Rose, an amazing woman. Rose is one-of-a-kind. She’s witty and she marches to the beat of her own drum and she’s strong and compelling. I’m not privy to the details of her relationship with Pat but it seems like they complement each other perfectly. She’s a multi-faceted woman, a dedicated mother, a talented gardener and a kind, gentle, unique soul.

They have five adult children: Dylan and Kim and Brian and Josh and Dave. I’ve lost track of them and haven’t seen most of them in decades but Kim was bright and charming and Dylan was confident and interesting and Josh was a juggler and entertainer and Brian was intimidatingly smart. They were all exceptional students in high school and college and they all treated their parents with love and respect and it felt good to be around the family when they were together, to feel the positive energy and love and comfort. The few times I was around I don’t recall witnessing a single difficult moment or altercation or argument. In large families, this is not the norm.

Then there’s Dave. I used to call him “David” like his parents did when he was a little guy, a tow-headed soccer player. Then a few years passed and I found myself sharing my Lansing apartment with “Dave,” a tall, Bob Marley-loving, dreadlocks-wearing Michigan State University student who had left the dorms and needed a place near campus to crash until the end of the semester. (The Caseys had moved to Midland, 65 miles to the north, after Pat’s and my boss, Jim Blanchard, lost his re-election bid in November of 1990.) Of course I accepted Pat’s proposal that his son stay with me – I lived alone and had the space and could use the few hundred Pat would pay me.

As it turned out, I should have paid him. Dave had grown up to be such a cool young man. He was sharp as a tack and funny and gentle and had a unique way of communicating that was compelling and made you want to discuss public policy and important issues, not just converse about landlords and classes. He introduced me to a lot of really good music and won hundreds of dollars from me in Nintendo-related wagers but hasn’t yet demanded that I cough it up. And the icing on the cake was that I met other really good people through Dave.

After our little housing arrangement ended, we stayed friends and I’d visit Dave and his girlfriend, also named Kim, at the house they rented nearby while he was working for a U.S. senator. Kim is also one of those “good energy” people who is seldom without a smile and is smart and interesting and just fun to be around.

I played lots of darts with Dave and Kim – Dave kicked my *ss each and every time - and listened to music and played poker with Dave and his friends Shawn Misener and Eric Davis and Drew Buchholz, more “good energy” people. When Dave and Kim moved to Grand Rapids, an hour away, I visited. When they were married, I attended the beautiful ceremony and fun-as-hell reception. When they had children, I congratulated them. And when they relocated to Madison, Wisconsin – Dave had finished law school and they wanted to be closer to his parents, who had moved there from Midland – I was very, very sad.

I still am.

I miss the Caseys. I visited Pat and Rose in Madison one time, and I’m Facebook friends with Dave and Kim so I get to learn that Dave’s now an assistant state public defender, which is so “him,” and Kim ran her first 5K in under 29 minutes recently, and their kids should be on cereal boxes or magazine covers or something ‘cause they’re so adorable. But I miss the in-person goodness and coolness of the Casey clan.

This is one of those cases when it’s definitely better to have had and lost than never to have had at all.

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