I walk to clear my mind. Last Monday morning I counted nineteen contrails. Contrails are a visible sign of persons fulfilling the human need to be with other humans. We're incredibly physically connected; it took only four hours for Alyssa and Jocelyn and her family to fly from Seattle to Phoenix to be with Alyce-Anne as she, they and Andrew said good-bye to their father. There's no substitute for human togetherness and yet knowing this, like most men of my generation, I have few male friends. Phil was my friend.
Boy Scouts of America brought us together. Reverend Gene Lefebvre explained that "Men bond by doing important things together; women bond by talking about important things together." Phil was a "Doer" with good tools who worked and played well with others. Boy Scouts of America is about the important task of teaching boys to be responsible men. Taming boys' takes a team. For years the only telephone numbers programmed into my Motorola Flip Phone were for Phil, my wife and Pete Ambelang.
I was the figurehead Scoutmaster. Success of a troop really depends on an active organized committee of parents who make the program come alive and telling people what to do was never my forte. Pete Ambelang was good at that and Phil, and a few other parents made their troop successful while I stood around looking officious. That Andrew has become like his father illustrates how Scouting turns boys into men.
Father's win too. Pete's still in charge and two decades later a few of us still meet monthly for lunch. Some time ago I reminisced with Pete that while Boy Scouting was good for boys it was me who gained most from the experience. Pete's response was, "If that's the case I'm a real close second." Phil agreed. Last Wednesday wasn't the same without Phil and his stories.
Phil's stories never included anything malicious about anyone. He was a doer and his stories were always about doing interesting things in unusual ways. One of my favorite Shadow Rock stories was how parking lot light poles became stored in an upright position when neighbors complained to the Home Owner's Association that having a lit lot would disturb their peace. Another favorite story was how he climbed out onto the roof of Alyce-Anne's several stories high Australian apartment, dropped over the balcony, climbed through an unlocked window then unlocked her door from the inside when she forgot her keys: all the time being careful not to wrinkle his tie.
Phil and I did things like visit antique car shows and more than once were mistaken for brothers. That happened again last week at Mayo Clinic; nurses wanted to know which of us was older. You have no idea how honored being thought of as Phil's brother made me feel. I need guidance and being six months older qualified Phil for the wise elder brother role.
During our last conversation I spoke of our parallel lives with Phil. The conversation went something like "We're just unsophisticated country boys who got lucky and married up" to which he responded with an enthusiastic thumb's up. I then pointed out since the smart thing is to marry up we proved he and I were actually smarter than Alyce-Anne and Marylyn since they married down which generated a wide smile.
But seriously I do need course correction and Phil was one of the few men who knew how to chastise my smug arrogant self without destroying my frail male ego. A month ago he redirected the conversation away from one of my hurtful remarks by smilingly speaking to another man at the table in an appropriate manner much like a wise older brother would role model for a spoiled brat younger brother. Phil Meadows role modeled the best of manhood.
Another thing shared during our last conversation was that in the long run the accolades of others are meaningless. Most men spend a big part of their life trying to impress peers and the public. In the long run the supreme achievement is to have loved and provided for a wife and family that turn out like Andrew and his wife and children, Jocelyn her husband and daughter and Alyssa and her husband. This was the essence of our last conversation. Phil listened, smiled and nodded but I could tell he was hurting. I asked if he was alright; he signaled "no." I asked if he wanted me to stay and he signaled "please go" so I left hoping to see him that evening.
One last story illustrates who Phil was and why I loved him.
Boy Scouts of America Troop 401 hiked and camped in strange places inhabited by skunks boys had to be taught to avoid and raccoons that had to be kept away from the steaks and goodies Phil would bring. There are policies about not bringing firearms on Boy Scout camping trips. I now know I was the only person who knew Phil always had a loaded pistol in his pack just in case we were confronted by a rabid varmint or some other uninvited and dangerous guest. Phil quietly covered our backs without drawing attention to himself.
Phil Meadows was trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent (I left out "obedient"). Phil Meadows role-modeled the best a man can be.
Phil was my friend.