It’s been a day since I got the news.
One of my good friends since the sixth grade, Mike Semich, has passed.
It’s hitting me hard as Mike was the first friend that I made after my family moved to Murfreesboro,TN from Alabama that summer before the sixth grade. I had skipped a grade so I was younger and far shorter than everyone else in that classroom. And most of them had grown up with each other so I was the odd one out. To this day, I can’t remember exactly how we became friends, but it seems like from the start we were hanging out. He lived in my subdivision and on the way home the schoolbus would drop him off before me. Sometimes I’d get home and throw some popcorn in the microwave for a snack. Mike had the uncanny ability to appear at the back door the moment I took that popcorn out of the microwave.
I remember the hanging out, the silliness of playing on the internet through Prodigy and then AOL with him. One great memory involves a game of truth or dare. He took the dare and ended up prancing around the room wearing a pair of my mom’s heels, a decorative straw hat, and carrying my mom’s purse, while singing “Natural Woman”.
Mike constantly teased me about being short. So much so that I think he liked my kicks to his shins and would encourage them. He called me Short Round which usually earned him a punch on the arm and a grin. Even when we made it to high school, we stayed friends and I finally got to give him a nickname, Pickle, after the color of his JROTC uniform. By our senior year my mom and I were able to find a glass pickle ornament that we gave to him for Christmas. He was with me during my ongoing feud with our Chemistry teacher. And through the other subjects that we constantly found ourselves taking together.
Mike was there when my Mom got married to my ex-stepfather. He was one of the ushers (along with many of my friends) and also ended up catching the garter while my Nana caught the bouquet. Gotta admit, the picture of the two of them is even harder to look at now.
And then my family and I moved to California the summer of 98. I had a going-away/early birthday party with friends, including Mike, that were able to make it out. The night was fun and crazy and I have many pictures scattered all over my house and in albums from that party.
Through the five years in California, Mike and I stayed friends even if we didn’t talk nearly as much. I came back to Tennessee in 2003 and through the joy of social media, we reconnected. Though we didn’t see each other in person as much, we’d run into each other at reunions, and at the strangest of places. And I followed his life on facebook when I didn’t see him.
As an army brat, I moved a lot when I was young. And many of the friends I made in places got lost when we moved again. Mike was the first friend that I made after the move to Tennessee 25 years ago. He’s been my friend ever since. Knowing he was here in this world, just a message or call away, made him a reassuring and rare constant in my life.
Until yesterday when he wasn’t.
I lost my oldest friend this week.
I’ll miss you, Mike. I’m not ready to say goodbye, but then, I never would be. I’ll be singing “Natural Woman” for you at the next karaoke night. And I’ll try to do it without crying. You made the world a better place. And you helped a short, nerdy, new schoolmate to learn to make friends again. You may not have ever realized how much that impacted my life. But I really don’t know what I would have done without you. I have so much more that I wish I could say but it’s already hard to see through the tears to type. Just know that I’m honored and proud to have known you and to have called you my friend.