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When a train friend passes; the commute will never be the same

10/11/13 19:46 Home

Last Sunday Craig Mawdsley passed away.  He was a friend who I tried to avoid when I first saw him. Eventually I had the pleasure to share many rides over the past few years on the train.  I say avoided since I could tell what kind of character he was.  When he was on the platform he spoke out to whoever was listening or whoever was around.  He grabbed your attention like a bear hug and wouldn't let go.   I admit I tried to avoid him, buried my nose in a paperback and let him spew whatever he was saying to whomever; but when I finally looked up - he nailed me.  He had a contagious smile when he was in the mood which was not all the time. Craig reminded me of my younger brother though he was a few years older than me.   He was heavier and for year or so grew out his hair.  He said he wanted to grow it as long as possible and donate his hair to charity.  Yet he drank heavily and did not eat very well.  There were times when I was in Philadelphia at a trade show and he’d call…”I’m taking the Five Twenty Seven, want some cold one’s for the ride?”  Did I want some beers and more often I had to decline.  I have been on the wagon and off and reluctantly shared those dry rides with my friend.  Die hard Ranger, heavy metal fan who told me, “At my funeral, I want them to blast highway to hell.”  Yesterday was his funeral and I doubt that song was played at St. Anthony’s in East Northport.  It was a day like today, grey and cool…and my friend was taken and buried.  From the platform outside our building in New Hyde Park, I won’t hear, “Myyyiiiikkkeeee….Commmissshhh…” Like commissioner Gordon from Batman.  His cooling bottles of beers would be clanking in the layers of plastic bags with melting ice cubes which made a mess in the train.  So many times we shared beers in Mineola.  When we first took the train we had a few minutes to make the connection to Port Jefferson and would hustle over the bridge and get a couple of tall boys in the stationary store and maybe a Slim Jim for him.  No more.  No more trying to beat the fair…NICE he would say when we made it which meant we pulled out of Huntington.  I haven’t taken that train or the Ronkonkoma train in months.  My schedule changed you can say.  The last we had any contact with Craig was in August when Alisha who I work with saw him on the platform. He broke the news to her prostate cancer and category four.  But he said he was going to fight it.  He was keeping positive and wanted to see his daughter graduate high school.  So Alisha told me and I was shocked, but like all of us we file the bad news away.  When I heard he died on Monday it came roaring back.  I should have called to check in.  To say good bye.  But with death you contemplate the life.  His dream was to work for the LIRR.  He loved the trains and knew the schedules better than some of the conductors.  He worked for the Post Office and was not happy with his choice of careers.  He resented it.  No, he was very bitter about it and each day if the mood was right the toxins would spew it out…in his mind there was a connection between working for the Post Office and insanity.  With the proposed changes the government was making, I believe the possibility of losing his job became real and this struck a chord of fear.  Thinking of our knuckle bumps when he’d get off in Northport and us making plans to see each other some other time.   He’d ride his bike home from the station. Sometimes he’d look at me from where he stood on the platform in Northport and we’d wave, he may point out a beautiful woman he eyed and he’d smile and give me a thumb’s up.  He was like a teenager in a man’s body.  I have to say Nolan’s funeral home was packed on Wednesday night for his wake.  I had to park my car near the Junior High and walked in the darkness to the funeral home, eventually seeing some faces I knew from the Post Office in New Hyde Park.  There was a long line to pay respects. I met his wife for the second time though she did not recognize me.  I looked at the wedding pictures and the black and whites of Craig when he was a wide eyed boy in Queens.  The faded picture of when he received Holy Communion, his head lowered over his clasped hands.  The Rosary Bears draped around his hands in the casket.  I touched him.  His arm under his baggy suit was thin and stiff.  My friend; what happened to you?  The next time I take the train his absence will strike me again and perhaps each time I take that train...I will be reminded of Craig.  May God Bless your soul.  Rest in Peace brother...


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