It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 kept me from interacting with my most cherished friends. I felt lonely and isolated. Fortunately, I had my Linus blanket; that dependable, trustworthy, and emotional support item the Peanuts cartoon character took everywhere.
Linus and his blanket were inseparable. We all need one. We all need someone to talk with about important matters, share painful experiences, or compare notes with about life. My real Linus blanket died two years ago.
Best Man, Best Friend
Jaime was my best man, best friend, and drinking buddy. I feel adrift like a ship without an anchor, compass, or periscope. Whenever I needed something he was always there. When Jaime was around, you didn’t need a therapist. He understood you. When a cherished friend dies, most guys get sentimental, but lack the vocabulary. COVID-19 forced me back to my blanket.
I first met Jaime in junior high school. He was our baseball team’s bat boy. Once during a baseball game, he ran out onto the field to retrieve the bat while play was going on. I can still see him frantically trying to get out of the way of the base runner and the ball thrown to home plate.
After we graduated from high school, I went to college and he joined the Marines. I may have had more years of formal schooling, but Jaime knew stuff. He was a lifeline for me. I could depend on him to fix my old 1951 Chevy, wire some electrical fixtures, or reattach a brick chimney that separated from my house. Many friends would call on Jaime to fix things and he always obliged, never expecting compensation. When offered money, You don’t have to do that, he would say.
More Adventure Than Mission
Several years ago, we both retired and began to spend a lot more time together, mostly fixing things. When I would call him at his home in Paso Robles to check up on him, he would ask if I had any projects to work on. I always did, so he would jump on the next Amtrak train to Fresno.
Working on a project with Jaime was always more of an adventure than a mission. Regularly, there were humorous endings, bizarre twists, or dangerous lessons learned. He would make light of risky and sometimes life-threatening situations by making them appear innocent. It started with, C’mon Paul.
Like the time he wanted me to get under the Chevy without jack stands to remove the gas tank. C’mon Paul, I’m not going let the car fall on you. Or when he joined two 120-volt electrical wires to supply 240 volts to my air conditioner. C’mon Paul, I’m not going to electrocute you.
Once, I had to replace the swimming pool light that required me to stay under water. Buoyancy kept bringing me to the surface. Jaime suggested tying bricks to my ankles to weigh me down. In amazement, I asked him if he was trying to drown me? C’mon Paul, he said, I’m going to tie a rope around your neck so you don’t sink.
‘You Don’t Have to Do That’
I often took Jaime to the Veterans Administration hospital for medical treatment. The last time we went the receptionist asked him for his manufacture date, last 4 numbers of his social and who I was. To my surprise, he said I was his brother. The same series of questions occurred later with the social worker, and Jaime again said I was his brother. Finally, we arrived to the doctor’s office and the same questions. Except this time when Jaime said I was his brother, the doctor asked who was older. We both said, he is. Poor planning.
Since Jaime’s death, I have kept his phone number on my contacts list. I called him the other day and the operator said the number was disconnected and no longer in service, but I kept talking. I told him I bought a house near Pismo that will require a lot of projects and he can crash there. I even spoke loudly because he had poor hearing. I told him that I remembered everything he taught me about home repairs, then I paused, hoping he would say, C’mon Paul, I’m never going to leave you alone.
The last time I saw Jaime was when I took him to the Amtrak station for his return home. He could hardly walk so I asked the station manager for a wheel chair. He recommended I bring Jaime into the station so they could wheel him out when the train arrived. Typical Jaime, he told me I didn’t have to do that. I thought, that’s the least a brother can do.
Soon we will be free of quarantines and self-seclusion. But it doesn’t take a virus to cause loneliness. Find your Linus blanket. Jaime’s phone number remains on my phone. After all, Linus and his blanket were never parted.
About the Author
Paul A. Garcia is a retired educator. He has written commentary pieces on education and issues that affect the Latino community. He has a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Fresno State/UC Davis.