Memories of Josh
I'm just going to write some memories of Josh. The mundane, everyday things. The stuff I'll slowly, inevitably forget, because I'm not sure what else to write but I want to at least have a place where I can remember a bit. And maybe a place to share a bit, so others can know what I knew and it lasts a little longer.
Josh would almost always win every game. And it didn't matter if it was a strategy game, board game, Chess, Mario Kart, or anything else - he would win, and everyone knew he would win, and everyone would gang up against him, and he'd still win.
Here he is beating me at Chess. I was trying to get into Chess at this time, so I was mildly infuriated every time he won. After any game, he'd extend his hand to shake and he'd say, "Good game!" in a very genuine matter, and I'd be one step short of flipping the table.
For the last five or six years, Josh, Joe, and I would play a strategy game online together at least once a week. We knew each other's moves and habits and half the time we'd know how the game would end just a few minutes in. After years of practicing, I was able to get a good amount of wins in, but I never beat Josh one-on-one, and I believe the last tally had me losing 13 times in a row.
Star Trek was always playing in the background from his microphone.
Josh was competitive and wanted to win, but he was always friendly and always wanting everyone to feel welcome, and never acted toxic in any way. Whenever someone was new to a game, he would help them along and show them all the rules and encourage them. Even though sometimes when he'd say, "You almost had me that time!" it wasn't close to true, but he made you believe that it was.
We pretended to have invented some sort of game here when only coins and paper were available. We thought it was funny to take a picture looking deep in strategic thought over this nonsensical game.
Josh could not for the life of him pronounce "caterpillar" or "cinnamon" properly. It was always "capertiller" and "cimmanon".
Josh was a vegetarian and had been for many years. I remember him saying he'd never try octopus because they're way too intelligent, and at some point he wasn't eating any meat at all. He said the meal he missed the most was fried chicken, so sometimes I'd make vegetarian Nashville chicken sandwiches with breaded, fried cauliflower as an alternative. He didn't make a big deal about being a vegetarian. I heard him cite concerns about the environment being one reason, but he was above all an animal lover. His first job back in high school was a working at a veterinarian clinic as a helper, but he couldn't do it for long because it hurt him too much to put down the animals.
He even cared about the bugs and spiders so much that he'd always prevent anyone from killing them and would gently place them outside. The only time I ever saw him allow it was that time we stayed at a cabin that was practically raining ticks.
This was Josh's eccentric billionaire picture.
Josh was a Disney princess. There was always a big bag of peanuts next to the backdoor at his house and every day he and Katie would go outside with a handful and the squirrels would run up and grab them. They had names for all the squirrels.
He had a cactus named "General Poke". I tried to give him one of my wilted succulents so he could fix it in the cactus nursery but it was beyond saving.
He could put his leg all the way behind his head somehow.
One of his favorite random videos to show at parties was "Double King", which never fails to baffle.
We met in 7th grade, when I was 12. We had some classes together, and there was overlap between different friend groups; the band geeks and art nerds and gaming dorks. He made fun of the way I run in gym class, and I made fun of the fact that he spelled "does" as "dose" in an essay. He was truly terrible at spelling, and that never changed. My first memory of him coming over to my house as a kid involved him being a pyro and using a lighter to burn the little bits of stuffing that were spilling out of a couch that was in the outdoor screenhouse. We called it couch cheese because they looked like little orange chunks of cheddar.
He loved making popcorn, but he would always forget about it and burn it. One time I think he burned it five times in a row. One year I got him something to make popcorn in the microwave, but I think he still insisted on making it on the stove. I made up for it by repeatedly burning bagels when I was trying to make them in the broiler because I didn't have a toaster.
We were together the first time we ever got drunk.
He was down to go to music festivals or the Renaissance Faire or whatever random event was going on, but he wouldn't go to something if he wasn't interested at all.
There was a period of my life where I really wanted to do something different - be independent, adventurous, travel - but I was still too nervous to do it by myself. I asked Josh if he'd be interested in going on a two week backpacking trip to Scandinavia with me, and he did.
The real purpose was to visit the ABBA museum in Sweden, of course.
We took Vespa rides around city. At one point we accidentally got on a bridge to the highway and just white-knuckled it on the 50cc scooters until we got back to the side streets, but it was quite the view.
He was always chipper and waking up early in the hostels and making conversations with the other people. Meanwhile, I was sleeping in.
We went to Denmark and ended up in Christiania, a small little hippie town with no laws or government. We met a group of women from Turkey there and talked to them about the political turmoil that was active at the time.
I told Josh about surströmming, a Swedish fermented fish delicacy that is known for having one of the most putrid scents in the world. He found a can and really wanted us to try it, but sadly I refused.
I discovered some mountain halfway up Sweden, eight hours away from Stockholm, so we decided to take a long train to get there, except it dropped us off on a road in the middle of nowhere. We had to walk several miles until we arrived at a tiny town. The town had a hotel of sorts with only three rooms, except the door was locked. We walked around and there was nothing else in the town and no other people, until we reached the other end where there was a small convenience store. We walked up to the cashier, and he handed us a white bag with a key in it without speaking a word. Looking at each other, we shrugged and went back to the hotel, used the key, and sure enough we were able to get in. Not a single other soul was at this building the whole time we were there.
The next day, we climbed the mountain and I remember he was proud.
We would get together often to make meals. Sometimes we'd try making ravioli from scratch, or pizza from scratch, or we'd make veggie chili. He always had a recipe.
We tried making Swedish meatballs soon after returning from Sweden. Since I lived in a very small, dingy studio at the time, we had to use a curtain and a shower door to make a table.
If I went in the kitchen to do something, Josh would always come in right away. "How can I help?" then he would grab some veggies and start chopping, or start gathering ingredients for dough, or do any other task to help. He would bring the "Josh" wine and we would buy the fancy cheese. The last time I saw him, one of the cheeses was still unopened, but he said we'd just save it for next time.
I remember one time we set off the fire alarm trying to make a pizza, and the dog hid in a closet for the next few hours.
He was always fidgeting with something. A lighter, a twist tie from bread, a wrapper, a switch blade. Sometimes I'd get him little brain puzzles for his birthday, but Katie would be the one who ended up solving them.
Josh has been the best part of the worst days of my life. When I was 22 and married, I knew I couldn't stay a moment longer in my situation, and I called Josh and said I needed to be picked up right now. He and Keith arrived in his minivan and that night we moved everything I would take with me to the next part of my life.
There were a few times we would have a bottle of scotch and talk all night.
I knew all the stories he would tell, but he was so expressive and good at telling them that I was always happy to hear them again. He would always tell the story with his whole body.
We went camping a lot. Every summer, we would take at least one camping trip. We had just started to do winter cabin trips as well. He would always buy a can of SpaghettiOs, as we had some sort of joke about the SpaghettiO Gods cursing us if we didn't perform the ritual with it.
One of his favorite camping stories/making fun of me stories is the time I had too much rum and coke and, as they were trying to stoke the fire on the cold night, I said "I'm done with this!" and poured the rest of it on the fire. Followed by, "...I'm cold".
Josh brought the joys of Hammer-Schlagen to camping, the game where you find a suitable tree stump, some nails, and a hammer, and some combination of drinking, throwing the hammer in the air, and hitting a nail.
Josh was talented at many things. He didn't sing or dance often, but I could tell from karaoke that he was good at it. He was especially good at anything that required fine details like wire craft. He started drawing for the first time and was already picking up perspective and shading. Most of all, he was great at writing and being imaginative. He always carried around notebooks that he was writing his stories and adventures in. I have only played tabletop RPGs a handful of times, but Josh was always the game master, which was always fun because he would do voices for all the different characters.
His favorite celebrity was Paul Rudd, or Nicolas Cage, depending on the day.
Josh was there during one of the worst moments I can think of in my life, a particularly bad panic and anxiety situation, being reassuring and talking me through.
He always used a GPS to get around, even just to get to the gas station.
He had a lot of nicknames, but my favorite one was calling him "JORSCH!!!" in Goofy's voice.
Josh and Katie's relationship was the gold standard of what a relationship could be, as far as I have ever seen in my life. They seemed to have found the perfect balance of being best friends who are engaged and interested in each other's lives, while still having plenty of their own hobbies, activities, and interests.
They reminded me of what's possible.
Josh didn't like tea or coffee, and he called tea "dirty water". But due to Picard, he would make an exception for Earl Grey, hot.
For a year or two, Josh would have a big "R" on his hand, written in sharpie. I asked him what it was about, and he said it was for him to remember. I never knew what it was that he wanted to remember.
I can still hear him saying, "Fifteen percent!! ...better make it twenty."
On Friday, March 4th, Josh and Katie came over after work, and we walked to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner. He talked about some things going on at work, how he was working on a chemical plant that was using an extremely minuscule amount of materials, and all the tubes were tiny. I said that shouldn't be a problem for him since he was good with small details. We bought some "Pastrami on Rye" beer for some reason, but I got a 4-pack of Boddington's as a backup. We got back and made a little naan flatbread with roasted vegetables and goat cheese. Josh helped chop up the vegetables as always.
We just sat around talking for a few hours. He tried moving the bowl of water for my cat, saying they were more likely to drink it if it wasn't right next to the food source. He put on some ASMR videos on YouTube. They went home when it got late.
On Saturday, March 5th, I texted him about a silly, weird dream I had, and we talked about dreams for a bit.
On Sunday, March 6th, I woke up feeling pretty great. I was taking a walk outside and sent a group message that we should all play a few rounds of HOTS. We played a few, then all went about our day. I had a family party, then out to dinner to plan a vacation with Keith and Heather. At dinner, we got the call.
One day, I had a nice camera and it was a nice day outside, so I took some pictures. It still feels a bit surreal to me that a picture from that day is the one they chose for his obituary.
I haven't even scratched the surface of the pictures and memories.
I don't really know what else to say. It still doesn't actually feel real to me. It immediately felt like too much to handle, too overwhelming, some scary feeling that was too big to be acknowledged, so I put it away somewhere in my mind that I wouldn't have to deal with it. Although I was in the house when the paramedics came to take him away, I focused all my attention on the carpet or my shoes or anything else so I wouldn't have to hear or see anything.
When I went to sleep that night, Josh was there, and I said "Josh!!" and ran over and gave him a hug. I asked him what happened, and we sat down and he told me about how it was all just a big misunderstanding. Then I woke up. My brain couldn't make sense of it, so this was the trick it played on me. Now he appears in my dreams most nights, but something is always wrong or off.
So as far as my brain is concerned, he's just somewhere that never has service, and he's just too busy to ever hang out anymore. But we're still telling stories about him, about that time he did donuts in the parking lot when we were kids, or how he always fell asleep in the back of the car, or belting out "I Need a Hero", or how he was always chewing on ice so you'd randomly hear a loud cronch while watching a movie.
The only emotions I register are annoyance and anger. What's he so busy with? Why can't he ever come over for dinner anymore? Why isn't he coming camping this year?
This life is fragile, more fragile than we can ever imagine. You can try to keep yourself safe, but it's possible to just die suddenly of no known cause. There's nothing I wish I would have said or wish I would have done differently. We always knew how much we mattered to each other.
So all I can do is keep the memories alive, and in remembering he feels more alive than ever.
He was always the best of us.
May his memory be a blessing.