Our high school mascot was the Bobcat and we had this substitute teacher, an old Coach named Bill Gibbons who called us all "Bobcat" or "Young Bobcat." He never knew your name, or maybe he did, but he just called us all "Bobcat" anyway. And when something was cool or nice or whatever, he'd say, "Let's give three Bobcat Claps..." and we'd all clap three times and even if at that moment we hated the school and hated our small Midwestern town and growing up there, we all did three Bobcat claps.
One guy who I don't think ever hated being a Bobcat and always wanted to make sure everyone liked growing up out on the Prairie was a guy named Jon. Yesterday I got a text that Jon died. That really sucked.
Jon, in his own particularly Midwestern Buddha like way, wanted you to know he didn't care what you did as long as you cared what you did. He was a friend to all of us, the freaks, the geeks, the jocks, the theater kids, band nerds, the stoners and burnouts and dropouts. I don't know if he was a good student but I know teachers liked having him in class.
He used to ask me all the time about how I did at debate tournaments and was marching band fun. At first, I thought he was making fun of me but later I learned he actually cared. He'd tell me to come to these parties out at this field near a cattle gate we all called, "Cattle Gate" as if there was only one cattle gate in our whole county. He wanted me to bring the debate team and the rest of the marching band out with me. I think Jon always wanted to see all 800 or so students at our high school out at the party because where else should we be but hanging out in a field laughing with Jon?
In the summers when I was home from college, I'd run into him at other parties or downtown at the bars and he'd always tell me how cool it was that I went so far away from college and joined the Army. He was the center of attention without ever really being the center of attention and he always knew what you'd been doing.
When I learned he died I recalled this soccer game Jon would only try and play the soccer ball off his butt, never kick it or anything and he deadpanned the whole thing as if that's how we should all play soccer.
The last couple of years we've lost far too many Bobcats across the country and back home. This year marks my 18th year since graduation. I always thought 35 would feel so old, so different, but damn Jon, it's just too young to die. I can't make it home for the funeral buddy, but I know Coach Gibbons would want us all to give you three Bobcat claps for a life well lived.