Last Monday I ran into a lawyer friend at the gas station and he noticed my engagement ring. John is known for his bluntness, so when he asked, "What do you want to do something stupid like that for?!" I wasn't surprised. I was, however, taken aback a bit when he then said, "You better not be selling that house of yours." I told him I was indeed planning to sell the house and he rolled his eyes. "Stupid," he said. "Stupid, stupid, stupid." He walked with me back to my car and said, "I can think of three reasons right off the top of my head why it's stupid. First, it's the biggest asset you'll ever own and you'll be selling it at a loss in this market. Second, you don't need to sell it--it's not like you're moving across the country or hurting for money. And third, what if you sell it and the sonofabitch you're marrying drops dead? Then you're homeless. Stupid."
I told John I would give his advice my careful consideration, took laughing umbrage with his calling AJ "that sonofabitch" (they don't know each other), gave him a hug, and promised to call him soon.
And sometime between Monday afternoon and Wednesday night, that man who cautioned me against being stupid did the stupidest thing imaginable. He took a bottle's worth of sleeping pills, washed them down with alcohol, and then went out to his garage and started his truck. The coroner says the pills killed him before the carbon monoxide did. John was 50 years old. I met him 15 years ago when I worked for a lawyer in Kansas City and John was our opposing counsel. He was so impressed with my paralegal abilities, and I with his firebrand courtroom style, that when he offered me a job I took it. It was just the two of us in his office in my little hometown, and between clients and court appearances we argued politics, traded gossip, talked about raising kids alone (his daughter and my son are the same age), and went to lunch together every day. John was the most difficult person I have ever known: he called me four times a day, every day, the entire time I worked for him, to make sure I was on time for work and really in the office while he was not; he expected me to pick up his laundry at the cleaner's and his daughter at school; he would deliberately take the other side in an argument, even if he didn't actually hold that opinion, just to have something to fight about; and he fired me at least three times and then called me an hour later to say he didn't mean it. John was also one of the most intelligent men I have ever met, was a capable attorney (he would want you to know he had a 100% acquittal rate at jury trial), showed almost unbelievable generosity to his true friends (of which there were few), was the best father I have ever witnessed, and had a keen wit and sense of humor. I adored John. I didn't tell him that nearly often enough.
So while his last act was stupid, John was decidely not stupid. Neither is his advice. I am giving myself another week or so to consider whether what I'm thinking now is wise or merely a knee-jerk reaction to John's death, but for now the plan to put the Kelly House on the market is postponed.