Today crept up on me. I was oblivious, perhaps subconsciously, until talk of the Great Blackout of 2003 started appearing in social media streams yesterday. Questions were asked such as “what did you do during the blackout” or “where were you during the blackout”.
Me? I was in Los Angeles on business on the first day of the blackout. On the second day, I was returning home as scheduled, arriving at Detroit Metro airport to a facility powered only by generators. On the drive from the airport to my apartment, I received a phone call that forever changed my life.
On Friday, August 15, 2003, Craig Michael Gorby, or just Gorby as everyone knew him, passed away from an accident in his home as a direct result of the blackout. The last time I saw him was the Sunday before when my kids and I, along with Gorby, his girlfriend and her son, all went to see the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. His girlfriend was the one who called to give me the news, somehow finding the strength to do so.
“I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday…”
The distinctness about Gorby’s passing was the tremendous impact it had on a variety of lives. Gorby was one of those rare souls that comes around in life too infrequently and his absence continues to leave a big void for many. He was someone with a personality that you would become instant friends with; someone that after spending 20 minutes with you felt like you knew him your whole life; someone that was always there when you needed him and always found the good in people. I am still amazed, ten tears later, at the positive imprint he left on so many people.
Gorby and I first met in the fall of 1988, during intramural football practice when we lived on the same floor in Holmes Hall at Michigan State. He was the country boy from Ionia, naive in many aspects and wiser than he was given credit for in others. Gorby’s view on life was simplistic…enjoy it! During that time, many of us tried keeping up with Gorby’s methods of enjoying life, often to our detriment the next morning. His transition from Ionia to East Lansing was almost seamless with high school friends visiting often, Tony and Dave particularly, and of course his psuedo siblings, Heidi and Sara, who lived on our sister floor. High school friends got to know college friends and that’s the only way he would have it.
I feel so extraordinary, Something’s got a hold on me. I get this feeling I’m in motion, A sudden sense of liberty…
From there it was 15 years of friendship predicated on things such as sports, video games, family and of course beer. I had graduated and he moved back to Ionia. One weekend in the early 1990’s he came to where I was living in Sterling Heights and never left the Metro Detroit area for long after that. He was the best man at my first wedding and the godfather for my daughter. We played softball together and had epic fantasy football battles. And of course there were the parties at my house and later at his that pulled in our friends near and far, reunions of our college days, and the method by which all of us kept close despite the distance or our changes in life. All of his circles of friends forming one big circle.
The memories: The Farm. Ice luges. Pick-up hockey. Billy Idol. Construction work. Labatt Blue Light. Euchre. The Ionia Free Fair. Spartan Tailgating. The Trailer. Three Man. Meatloaf. And of course, Hot Damn!
You Strange as angels, Dancing in the deepest oceans, Twisting in the water, You’re just like a dream…
Every person that met Gorby could describe similar impressionable impacts he made on them. If you didn’t know Gorby directly, you heard of him and would know stories about him. Maybe you met him briefly once but there was some memory, often funny, that you could reflect on.
Gorby’s last years living in the city of Detroit was a “fish out of water” story. Looking back I’m not certain who exactly was the “fish”. He was the country boy living in the big city and sometimes it showed. But he was also a ray of optimism amidst the city’s blight, using his craft to repair homes that used to be part of the city’s charm. He always saw the good.
There is nothin’ fair in this world. There is nothin’ safe in this world. And there’s nothin’ sure in this world…
This day on the calendar will always be a difficult day but I am saddened not as much by the loss many of us have experienced, but moreso for the variety of people now not able to get to know Gorby directly, most of all the children. My daughter has limited memories of him, my oldest son was too young to form lasting memories and Gorby never met my youngest son. His siblings are all married now and have beautiful children of their own. Without a doubt, all of these kids, and the kids of all his friends, would have been thrilled with a visit from Uncle Gorby.
When Gorby passed I had no words to eulogize him. I can’t explain why but I just froze. Ten years later, I write this to share a glimpse of what everyone who didn’t get to meet him is missing. I know many are thinking of him and remembering the good times. He was and always will be one of the greatest friends or relatives any of us will ever have known.
Cheers to you in Heaven my friend.