Grief is a strange thing. I learned that a childhood friend I had who I'd not spoken to in about twenty years died a few weeks ago. This set off in me a lot of feelings. There was nothing left unsaid between us, and we officially parted ways as friends about two decades ago. But the memories I had of the things we created together in the game of Dungeons & Dragons is strong. We created a world together. He was a great source of ideas, and I seemed to have the wherewithal to envision them in a greater setting (which he was incapable of doing). The games we made have touched others, brought new people into the game, and now there are other people out there running games based on the world that we created.
Our parting was the end result of severe neglect on his part of a friendship that I tried to keep alive. Whether he was disinterested, or simply a person whose world consisted of only those people he could walk to go and see within a reasonable time limit, I will never know. In the end, when it was me that decided our friendship was officially ended, I don't think it phased him at all. He'd grown so distant that he probably had the emotional attachment that a man might have to a fish that he pulls out of a creek. He was a man that prized comic books, powerful super heroes, and he was always deeply invested in the fictional world that spun in his head.
One of the things that I really liked about him was that he could see beyond the structured rules of a game to possibilities, and he was good at teaching that. We call this kind of thing in the Dungeons & Dragons game world by the name "homebrew." It implies a deep understanding of the rules to create your own mythologies that fit nicely within the framework of a set of rules published by the parent company of whatever edition D&D happens to be on in any given era.
Even without physical distance between us (read as thousands of miles) to atrophy a friendship, he and I parted ways ideologically a long time ago. From my point of view, this old childhood friend was a person that worshiped every word that the late Rush Limbaugh had, and he became a person who not only was conservative, but one who vehemently believed that liberals are awful people. Shrug. So yeah...there wasn't much that could possibly have kept us friends. And (as it were), we said our goodbyes to each other almost twenty years ago, and that was it.
But it doesn't mean that I didn't still think of him from time to time. Or wish that he could see what happened with the characters that we created together and how they live in the minds of new players and kids who really enjoy playing in the world of Wynwrayth (the D&D world that I created to house all of those old characters from yester year when we played on the couch in the living room of my parent's house in Idaho Falls).
That house no longer exists, and now he is dead. Time marches on, and no one cares really. His passing was hardly a blip in the Pullman, Washington obituaries. But even from Salt Lake City, I noticed it, because one night this week, I thought of my friend, Matthew, and googled his name to see what he was up to. And it turns out, he won't be up to anything ever again.