Farewell, Dear Phouka
September 13, 2017 § 8 Comments
What’s left of Hurricane Irma lingers over southern Ohio, weeping her gray tears. It’s fitting weather; just past midnight, I learned that my friend Bardi had died.
I laid awake for another hour or so, walking the dark paths one walks when discovering such news late at night. Remembering Bardi, reflecting on his life and his death. Sad and angry by turns, and wondering if I’m on the same path. He got laid off and lost his health insurance and got sick and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, and it killed him.
If I lose my job, that could easily be me. It could be you.
Bardi’s family is planning a wake in true Irish style, as well they should. His son said anyone who attempts to make it maudlin will be shown the door. In that vein, I’ll keep this small remembrance on the sunny side of the lane.
I won’t claim to know him well, but I knew him a while. We met in the mid-90s, when we both joined in a Star Trek fan club. We met again, years later, drawn together by NaNoWriMo and Firefly and a mutual love of Irish music. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t remember him at first, but he remembered me.
I knew him by a few names — Timothy J. P. O’Riley and Taedgh O’Riley — but I and most who knew him called him Bardi. Short for Bardiphouka, his nom de net.
The thing I think of first when I think of Bardi is his writing. He could write a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo easily, and often wrote double the word count. I think one year, he wrote two novels in that month.
Every April, he did APAD — A Poem A Day — on his blog. Once, he told me he had a fan club in France, and they bought him an iPad in appreciation for his poetry. An iPad for APAD.
He also wrote songs and made music. I remember sitting in his den as he played a song he wrote for my friend Annie, plucking it out on an acoustic guitar, singing. He was particularly proud of a song he wrote called “Topper Takes a Toe.” (I think that’s the name of it; regrettably, I never got the chance to hear it.)
Bardi was that rare kind of individual you simply can’t capture in a nutshell. Quiet, kind, an eternal romantic. A gentleman in an age where gentlemen are scarce. He loved unusual hats and unusual turns of phrase. He liked to make people laugh. He gave because he enjoyed giving.
For my 50th birthday this year, Bardi posted this on Facebook:
Today is Random Acts of Kindness day. Also Dave Borcherding’s birthday. Which in a way was a random act of kindness to all who have come to know him.
It was possibly the nicest thing anyone said about me on my birthday.
2017 has been a bastard of a year, to the point that I’m constantly bracing for the next loss. Nevertheless, losing Bardi was one I didn’t see coming, and it’s been one hell of a gut punch.
Goodbye, my friend. I hope you’re dancing a jig with a beautiful lass on Fiddler’s Green. I didn’t see you nearly enough, and I am the poorer for that. And the world is poorer for no longer having you in it.
Bardi with our friend Brooke, New Year’s Eve 2012. (Photo Credit: Steve Blanzaco)