Friday, December 23, 2011


We stood around ready to say goodbye.

We were ready to say goodbye to Shea Quinn. The next time we would see him he would be Cadet Quinn, a swabbie deep into his first summer at the Coast Guard Academy.

We were outside on Eric Wester's lawn one evening in late June. We had just graduated. We still felt like high school seniors, and this was a very difficult moment for us.

Shea would be the first to leave, the first to enter the new phase of his life many of us were anticipating that summer. He would go on to the Academy, and we would not see as much of him as we were used to.

For the previous six years Shea was a constant presence in my life and many others. We would greet each other each day throughout middle school with a fist bump shouting each others' last names to see how loud and obnoxious we could make them sound in the hallways lined with lockers. We began this in cross-country and it continued through band class and well into high school.

We had sat side-by-side in English classes we worked hard to get good grades in. We sat in line with one another in a Spanish class we were likely to get very bad grades in (Que malo!). We had continued shouting matches on tennis courts to see how many f-bombs we could drop after hitting bad shots.

And now Shea was driving away from this gathering in his green Honda Accord. We had all gotten together to "hang" one last time before Shea headed off to the "swabbie summer" he would later talk about as a grim experience. Case in point: upon his first day he was given a haircut that he said made his Irish mug look like it belonged to a Serbian terrorist.

Katie was the first to wear her heart on her sleeve. She hugged Shea goodbye and started crying.

And then Shea made his way to the Honda which was parked right in front of my 1991 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo. Navy blue with a thin red stripe running the length of the exterior, Shea had always called it my "Batmobile." It had more dials and controls inside it than most American automobiles of the early 1990s, yet it still looked like a relic of the late 1970s or a model of some vehicle designed for the Soviet military.

Everyone, Shea included, commented on my poor driving habits. Everyone loved the stories of the mailboxes I had knocked down or the one-way entrances I took straight on in the wrong direction.

So it seemed fitting that my Toronado would be parked behind Shea's Honda in tribute to his departure.

As we waved goodbye and Shea got into the driver's seat of the Honda, he channeled Will Ferrell with one final signature shouting of "GOULET!" before slamming the sedan into reverse. Que increible!

He yelled just before slamming the sedan straight into the bumper of my Oldsmobile. The only thing more unbelievable than the incredible noise created upon impact was the fact that it did not dent the Batmobile at all. Not a scratch. The tank was intact.

That's how an Irishman left the party that day- with a bang.

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