Dec. 16th, 2015

wneleh: by Mirnell (Default)
Yesterday I was doing a little google stalking on a HS friend - I'd wanted to quote him in a discussion on an email list - and, well, you know it's bad when someone has a fairly uncommon name and google wants to fill all the way to "obituary".

Which is how I learned that Phil Rodkin, who was a good friend, and sometimes maybe my closest friend, for about eight years, died of cancer in the spring of 2014. His obituary is here:

So, how to describe Phil? We met when he was an advanced-for-age 9th grader (having started K early) and I was a math-geek 10th grader. He wore ties to high school, and his closet was arranged chromatically; I wore Star Trek t-shirts. He pretty much hated my friends; I never really knew who his friends were. I loved high school; he wanted to get through it and out of Maryland.

Heading into the PSATs his junior year, he was the only kid on the math team who wouldn't rub my head going in (I have an oddly shaped head); he was the only kid in that bunch who didn't make Merit Finalist. I was smug; he was disdainful.

Through college, we wrote long letters in long-hand, this being slightly before ubiquitous email. More than anything, he'd wanted to go to Columbia (he'd been born in NYC and his beloved grandma was still there) but had to settle on University of Chicago. (This is not 'settling' for most people!) He spent his nights in blues clubs but still managed to get through in three years. For grad school, he again threw himself into getting into Columbia and again missed, this time crash-landing at Harvard, at age just-turned-20, in 1988, just as I was heading back to Maryland after college in Worcester, MA. But we'd had summer jobs in DC together, and hung out some while he was gearing up for, and starting at, Harvard. Then, in 1990, I moved up to Boston for grad school myself, and we hung out quite a bit my first three years up here.

It's hard to remember, now, what happened when we were teens, and what happened when we were in our mid-20s. Him making me carry half his books home was high school. The Petty Dead Dylan concert at RFK was, I think, while we were in college. Drunk on the NYC subway was definitely post-college, pre-me moving up to Boston. Watching Dylan concerts could have happened any time. Oh, and we hashed through our thoughts on religion and world views and family stuff. Constantly.

Then C and I got married, and I don't actually think Phil and I ever saw each other after (he left the wedding reception with my roommate :-) ). I thought I'd done something to piss him off, but looking back I think he'd just gotten very busy with finishing his degree, which is pretty much how grad school goes - you end the thing by losing all your friends; then you emerge, but everyone has forgotten you, or they're now going into finishing mode and have no time for you. And then you move away.

Anyway, the next I heard about Phil was in TIME - he'd gone and gotten himself established as an expert on bullying in adolescent boys. At the time of his death he was a prof at University of Illinois. His obit says he was married and had a son... trying to imagine him a dad and father kind of blows my brain, but so does thinking about him dead at 46, so. His obituary mentions his birth in NYC but not that he grew up in Suburban Maryland; I hope he planned that!


wneleh: by Mirnell (Default)

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