I met Leroy in 7th or 8th grade. He was in my sisters graduating class and we were all in band together. Leroy was always protective of me, making sure I was ok. He was the definition of the nice guy. Leroy was the guy that every girl wanted to be friends with and that frustrated him quite a bit in high school. He and I went on one date to see a Tales from the Crypt movie. I spent most of the movie shrieking on the floor.
This of course was back when I could still watch scary movies and sleep at night.
Leroy was an amazing listener and friend. You could talk to him about practically anything and he would just listen and encourage you. Such a good guy this guy.
After graduation we would still email (back before Facebook, how did we function!?) and chat on the phone. Leroy was great friends with John, his sister Rachel and their parents Denise and Rick. We were just always around each other, visiting and hanging out. In 2000 when Denise was killed I remember clearly standing in the kitchen and seeing Leroy's car pull in the drive. I had been trying that week to hold it together, because I didn't feel I had the luxury of falling apart when so much around me was already falling apart. But when I saw Leroy get out of his car I ran out the door and we just stood there in the drive crying and holding each other. I walked him in and we settled into a kind of marginalized grief together. We weren't her kids, but we sure felt like it. We grieved her death as those that saw her as another mother and a wonderful friend.
But the time in my life that really sealed in the influence and impact that Leroy had in my life was the few years between when John and I broke up and I moved to Cincinnati. Leroy had just ended a long long relationship with another woman as well and he and I were floating around shredded. So we talked a lot. Late night calls on the phone, visits to each others places and just sitting beside each other knowing that the other heart in the room was just as broken as yours was. I would call him some lonely days and tell him that I just couldn't be alone and we would go to the mall, or the park or just to lunch. We fell into a lovely, flirty friendship that cheered me up on days that I felt the lowest. He never once failed to make himself available to me when I called. He was my lifeline on some very very dark days.
He bought a house and I helped him move and get settled. We stayed up late talking into the night in his new house about nothing and everything.
Shortly after that I moved to Cincinnati and we were long distance friends. He met and fell in love with Kimmie and her kiddos and they're building a really lovely family. The last time I saw him was to long ago at a surprise party for his birthday.
Though I don't get to see Leroy as much as I would like, or even talk as often that doesn't change the way he drug me out of a deep pit so many years ago. He just listened and loved me, he showed me courage in the face of heart break and he kept me fighting to keep my head above water. Leroy also taught me a love and respect for family. He took care of his Grandma the last few years of her life and I got to spend one lovely afternoon over at her house with him. It brings a smile to my face to remember the way they spoke to each other and the care he took with her. No family is perfect, but Leroy honored his as he took care of his Grandma.
I love the time that Leroy and I spent together, even though it was marred by heartache we laughed so much. He helped me find the (often macabre) humor in every day life again. He helped save my life when I was determined to end it, even if he didn't know that's what he was doing.