Parenting Blog

The Loss of a Friend

Holy shit was I ever the most pretentious of assholes.

It started when I was 17 and I got The Afghan Whigs Gentlemen for my birthday or for Christmas, I honestly cannot remember the occasion that brought forth the gift that would change my life forever. I think it was Christmas / probably / doesn’t really matter. Buried inside the misogynistic lyrics and overt references to scoring drugs and having sex (references I still don’t 100% get, happily,) was this rather innocuous line:

“Your idea, your image, your definition of a friend.”

I didn’t have any friends when I was 17 and thus had nary a need for the textbook definition or even my own co-oped version of what a friend could or should be. But as I got older and met people in a social settings, and later still when social networks grabbed the word ‘friend,’ like a kid making off with a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie from the cooling rack while dad washed the mixing bowl with his back turned, and made it suddenly mean something else entirely, something more transient and without the obvious existence of any meaning at all, I became more and more staunch in my defense of the word ‘friend’ to be reserved only for those special snowflakes who, as I would say in the most specific of possible scenarios, “would come and fetch you out of trouble at 3am with no questions asked.”

I never found a friend to fit that narrow description. Then again, I never found myself in that kind of trouble either. All good things. All good things.

Now, at age 39, I’m a cog in an expanding wheel of a community made up of men, and women too, who parent and write and travel and experience life through different but also very similar lenses. Last weekend, one of the key-est of key figures in this unique community lost his battle with stage 4 lung cancer and I felt as though I’d lost a friend, in every possible sense and definition.

Oren Miller and his Burger Lady Slot Machine in Vegas

We never took a selfie together, but I took this of him taking a selfie in front of his favorite slot machine. This night, this search for this one slot machine in the whole of Las Vegas in the summer of 2013, remained my one private and personal moment with Oren Miller. I’ll never forget how funny and ridiculous he and this night was.

Never mind that I’d had but one private moment with him. Never mind that I’d been to his house and met his family only once. Never mind that we hadn’t shared a single telephone conversation or exchanged a single text message. My friend died this past weekend.

After having only shared a handful of days and moments with Oren Miller over the past few years since his founding of the Dad Bloggers Facebook Group that lassoed me and more than 1000 dads together in its time, I considered him a friend. If he had ever called me at 3am, the first time his number would’ve appeared on my phone, I’d have rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, pulled on my cuffed up jeans, and driven the 2 hours to lend him a hand with whatever he needed. No questions asked. I’d like to think he’d have done the same for me before he took ill last year. I’d like to think we were friends. Define that however you wish.

Oren Miller Summer 2014

Goodbye, my friend.

Yesterday, I drove 2 hours in the middle of the day to attend my friend’s funeral and to say goodbye to Oren Miller alongside a couple of more fellas I’d also wake up and drive great distances at 3am to help.

Dad Bloggers Paying Respect to Oren Miller

As weird and morbid as Oren would’ve liked. Friends gathered together on his deathbed for a photo taken by his wonderful wife Beth.

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