Today, my precious friend and soul mate Bowyer celebrates another year of life on Earth, and I get an excuse to write a love note to him in honor of the occasion.
I met Bowyer in college. We were both attending a summer program in teaching that required a couple of days “bonding” as a group in the mountains (which both of us just barely endured, and not without a hefty dose of scathing sarcasm) and six weeks running a classroom (which we did as a team), and I remember my first impressions of him as if it happened yesterday and not 17 years ago. He was confident, matter-of-fact, and hysterically funny, and he remains those things to this day. I think it took us all of two days to recognize that we were going to be important to each other – he was drawn to me and I to him in ways and for reasons that neither of us can adequately explain, even now – and by the time we finished the program, we were best friends.
There are about a zillion things that I love about this man, but the top of the list is that he is genuine and he is constant. Bowyer is someone who understands who he is and what’s important to him, and though he’s not the kind of man to resist change if it’s needed, he is the person I point to when I need to give an example of someone who is exactly what he says he is. There is a kind of bedrock, foundational trustworthiness in his character; I know that what I’m seeing is what I’m getting, and I deeply respect that in him.
My friend makes me laugh all the time. He is the master of the one-liner (“She has a head?!”), and he tells a fantastic story; in fact, his storytelling prowess is second only in my estimation to that of my sister. He understands how a good narrative works, he understands just about all the shades of funny, and his enthusiasm in telling his stories makes them that much more entertaining. I love it when his eyes bug out.
Bowyer is one of the most ethical professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is a teacher, like me, and he approaches his work with a kind of practical efficiency that I have long admired; he loves his students in very different ways than I do, but there is no mistaking that he loves them. A few years ago, he was challenged by administration about his grades, and he stood his ground and insisted that the students demonstrate that they know the material before they get the grade. It was a difficult time for him, and he could have just knuckled under and done what the administration wanted him to do, but he refused to change the grades of kids who did not do the work to his standards because he knew he wouldn’t be doing right by the students. Bowyer’s entire life is informed by doing what he knows is right.
Bowyer is also a woodworking craftsman, and the work that he produces is exquisite. He sets high standards for himself, and he continually meets them. His work is careful, precise, and beautiful, and he carries those qualities over into his day-t0-day work, as well; when he cleans the house, it’s clean – there are no corners cut when he’s working, and I love that about him. He really embodies the Yankee work ethic.
When we first met, Bowyer was pretty clear that he didn’t want children. The problem, though, was that he was in love with someone who did, and he ended up agreeing to becoming a parent (twice!). While he jokes about it now (“We could have gone on with our happy fucking little lives… but NO! YOU people wanted to have kids!”), he has grown into a really fantastic father. His sons are smart, confident, and loving young men, and my heart melts a little to see him interact with them (knowing, as I do, how hesitant he was to take on this role and seeing how beautifully he’s grown into it). His first thought is always about how his decisions are going to affect the boys, and he goes out of his way to make sure that they have what they need first; everything else comes after that.
Bowyer is my “person;” someone I know that I can call on at any time, for any reason, and he’ll drop everything to be there for me, regardless of how long it’s been since we last saw one another or what’s going on in his life at the moment. He is, without question, the first person I’d call if tragedy struck; I know that he’d be able to make decisions and take care of things that I may not have the capacity to think about, and I know that I’d be well cared-for in his presence. The amazing thing about this relationship is that he knows that I’m that person for him, too. We recognize one another as soul mates, and we both gratefully accept responsibility for one another without question or hesitation.
I have far too many favorite stories about Bowyer to share in one place. The word “friend” is inadequate to express the place he has in my life. He belongs to me, and I to him, and it will ever be thus.
Happy birthday, Bowyer. I love you.