Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Keeping one's distance

For a short month, February was awfully busy, and not just at work. Turns out my sister got engaged -- on Valentine's Day, no less. That seems corny at first, but if you think about it, that's also a convenient way to remember an important date. Clever boy. My brother got married about 18 months ago, so that just leaves ... me. Good thing I negotiated that deal where the well-adjusted, conveniently located siblings get married and do all the usual stuff while I give the family the chance to live vicariously through me.

Then there's this. Raf Czarnecki, one of my good friends from college, died not too long ago at 34 years old. I still don't know why. Raf and I met at UNO while working at the Gateway, the student newspaper, and he was one of the few people who could match me in knowledge and love of soccer. (Of course, he had an advantage, coming from European stock.) We would go back and forth for hours, both in person and in print.

One of my favorite memories was when we went on a road trip together to Chicago to watch the US men's national team play Poland. It clearly was a treat for Raf, being among the world's largest concentration of Poles outside Poland, and we both had a great time -- even if the game ended 1-1 and Raf was still nursing an almighty hangover as we left the Soldier Field parking lot for the drive back to Omaha. Before the trip we wondered whether to see US-Poland or Manchester United-Bayern Munich, which was a week earlier at the same venue, but after watching two teams of European reserves play out an uninspired 0-0 draw, we knew we'd made the right choice.

Raf was a great friend and partner in crime, and I will miss him dearly. I don't know what, or if, I could have done to help him, but I feel awful for not being around to do it. These are the things you miss when you live on the other side of the world.

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