I've been struggling to find the words - not just the "right" words, but any words - to pay a fitting tribute to my little-bother-in-law, Randall because...well, Randall is no longer with us. And his departure has left a gaping void in a place that I hadn't really paid much attention to. I find it too easy to put things aside when I know they're there and I can get to them anytime. Later is a refrain that occurs too often in my day-to-day activites. But there is no "later" now. I've squandered my time and now I can only grieve that I wasn't a part of Randall's final days, weeks or even months.
I hadn't seen or talked to Randall for almost a year and a half; he lives in Utah and I live in San Diego so our paths usually only cross during family vacations (for the past eight years, anyway). Unfortunately, my available vacation time has been zero since the great unemployment debacle of 2006, so I didn't have any way to get up to Utah to see Randy (or anyone else) last year. Fortunately, I do have a few days of paid leave this year, so I was able to see Randall for one last time.
I've known Randy since he was about thirteen. He was almost always there when I would come to pick up his big sister during my smothering, no-holds-barred, full-frontal-attack on her singleness. Julie and I often spent our evenings together watching the Utah Jazz play (during the glory days of Stockton and Malone) or watching movies rented from the grocery store across the street. And Randy was usually right there with us, so I got to know him and his very unique sense of humor really well.
I remember playing Warcraft II with Randall over a null-modem cable connected from my notebook to his desktop (a notebook I bought because I was convinced it would help me find employment - what a mistake that was). Our head-to-head battles usually ended with me calling Randall a big fat cheater as he routed my best efforts to prevail. I also remember playing, after marrying Julie, a Star Wars game on our first apartment's living room floor using dice, Star Wars miniatures (Micro Machines) and a map pieced together from random sources. I still have the rules we came up with somewhere.
When I met Randy, he was a pretty big fan of Star Trek (the Next Generation version), but my geeky presence led him to true nerd-boy space-nirvana: Star Wars. We both accumulated all kinds of toys during the resurgence of Star Wars popularity (this was before Episode I, II or III and even before the re-release of Episode IV). It was great to have a little brother who shared my nerdy obsession. On the day tickets went on sale for the "Special Edition" release of Episode IV, we waited together (it seems like someone else was there with us, but I forget who) in the long line outside the Century theater in Salt lake City for hours, surrounded by geeks who made our Star Wars appreciation pale in comparison. I still remember the bliss of seeing Star Wars on the big screen in that domed theater with Randy and Julie. I was only eight when Star Wars was released the first time, so I have no memory of having seen the movie during its first release (though I'm sure I must have).
When Randy was a little older, I introduced him to another of my geek obsessions, Connor MacLeod, the Highlander. He was as big a fan (if not an even bigger fan) as I was and for years had a Highlander poster hanging in his room amongst the Star Wars decor. Randy would often clue me in to developments of Highlander sequels and Highlander news on the Internet.
Long before I came along, Randy had an obsession that I can take no credit for: U2. He loved their music and carefully followed the movements of Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry. I still remember the painting his brother, James, did of Bono that Randy loved so much and hung proudly on his wall (I think James may have introduced Randall to U2, but I'm only guessing). Randy had every album, single CD, DVD, and book that U2 produced. He also collected many magazines that talked about his heroes and I think he treasured them even as his musical tastes expanded. In 2001, Randall and his wife, Taylor, came to San Diego to see U2 perform during the Elevation tour. I managed to get tickets from a scalper and Julie and I went with them. It was a great concert for me, but for Randall it must have been more like a religious experience.
Randall briefly had a job with a nursery that also sold fish. He received a discount on purchases and soon had a 50 gallon marine tank in his room stocked with angel fish, anemones and anemone fish, fiji rock and many other colorful and amazing sea creatures. I was so taken with his tank that he helped me start a much-smaller 15 gallon Marine tank with fiji rock, a single anemone and a single anemone fish, a couple of damsels and a shrimp or two. I loved watching that tank and was sad to give it up when I moved to San Diego (I figured the trip would be too much for the tank's residents).
Randy was such an intelligent and creative guy, that I've always felt it was a real shame he didn't go to college and find a focus for his creativity. He worked with several companies after High School graduation, but none of his jobs seemed to have much career potential or seemed to capture his attention until he moved into the IT arena and found a job with Management Plus. In fact, he seemed to be on the fast track to success and was well-loved by everyone he worked with.
Randy is such a part of us that we say silly little things he came up with all throughout the day and don't even realize it most of the time. We miss him so much. There are so many more things I could say about Randy to express what a fun and incredible guy he was, but I've shared most of the "surface stuff" that anyone who knew Randy could appreciate.
I was going to share the contents of my reading shelf, talk about all the critters in my fish tank, and make fun of the new Indiana Jones movie (which would have been so much fun to see with Randy), but I don't feel like it now. Maybe later.