Readers of this column are used to my tales of being a father to three young girls and the hijinks that ensue. Today, I want to take a different approach. This column is to pay tribute to a late, dear friend of mine.
I feel like I’ve known Adam DeSio my whole life. We grew up in the same small town - Kane, Pa. - where his grandad was the longtime mayor and his grandma owned the roller skating rink in town. His family owned DeSio’s Restaurant in Lantz Corners and we both attended CCD classes at St. Callistus Catholic Church. In fact, some of my earliest memories of Adam are of he and our friend Nick blowing spit wads at each other during CCD and then getting rapped on the knuckles by the nuns.
I wouldn’t say we were particularly close in high school, but in a graduating class of 99 people it’s hard to not interact with your classmates daily. We were cordial, I’d say, and I have always admired his kind spirit, artistic talent and his big laugh.
Years passed, we both went away to college and both had some escapades along the way. He went for a time to art school in Pittsburgh and eventually ended up going to school in Buffalo.
I, while just an hour away from home, didn’t venture back to our small hometown much and so I hadn’t thought of him for several years until I moved to Culpeper.
After I moved down to be closer to my then fiance - now wife - Sarah, we ran an engagement notice in our local paper, the Kane Republican.
One day, while working at the Culpeper Star-Exponent, I got an email from an address I didn’t recognize.
“Hey Jeff, my mom just sent me your engagement notice from the paper and I see you’re in Culpeper. I live in Lake of the Woods with my wife.”
It was Adam.
I replied back that we’d have to get together at some point as we lived so close to each other. At first, we didn’t because of our busy schedules. About six months later my wife Sarah started a graduate class through George Mason University. She was taking a cohort class in Fredericksburg and on the first day the students had to stand up and introduce themselves. Sarah started off with her standard line, “I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania,” and a few moments later a girl beside her followed with the same.
“Where are you from,” Sarah asked.
“You’ve never heard of it,” the girl replied. Then, a second later, she said “Kane.”
Sarah nearly jumped out of her seat - as they shared stories of the Westside Grill, Texas Hots and mutual acquaintances. Sarah realized she hadn’t asked her name and when she did, it all came together.
Stephanie graduated three years after Adam and I did and just like Sarah and I, he followed her to Virginia when she got a teaching job in Spotsylvania County.
It wasn’t long after Adam and I finally reconnected after nearly 10 years of not seeing each other - and I’ll always remember some of his first words.
“Hey, I want to apologize if I was mean to you in high school,” he said as we shared a beer one evening.
Having been bullied a lot in my younger days, that statement meant a lot - though I never remember Adam being mean, maybe laughing along with the guys at my expense but that was the least of my worries.
As we reconnected, I discovered he had turned his passion for art into a career. He painted - in my opinion - masterpieces and he took the most lovely pictures. Some of my favorite photos of my family are the ones that he’s taken over the years - for no more payment than a couple of pizzas or a case of beer.
He had an eye for light and a passion for the little things in life - walking his dog Rothko along the battlefields, his fantasy football league with all his buddies back home and then playing with his son Addison.
Addison is six months older than my Mady, though he has his father’s height. Tall, with that impish, mischievous look that boys have, we’ve always joked with Mady we’ve had an arranged marriage.
The last time we hung out with Adam was about a year ago. We sat in his new house and he played the guitar and drums, letting the girls take a turn thumping away at them. I always admired how talented he was, and how easy it seemed to come to him. I couldn’t keep a beat to save my life, but he would just sit down and pound out a song without breaking a sweat.
His artwork, which I’m proud to say I own a few pieces, was breathtaking. Colorful, dynamic - they morphed his love of modern and abstract art into something that was just pure Adam.
When we said goodbye that late October night in 2018, we promised we’d get together soon - probably after our busy holiday season finished.
Then, one day early last year, Stephanie called distraught. Adam had been diagnosed with cancer.
I guess I always thought the chemo treatments and the medicine would work, and soon we’d be enjoying a beer on a warm summer day talking about the upcoming fantasy football season and laughing about stories from our past.
That day didn’t come.
He kept getting progressively worse and I never got a chance to visit, in the fear that I’d bring some new infection or disease into their house.
Last week, we got a text he was not doing well. Again, I thought - knowing Adam - he would pull through.
I believe in God, I’m a faithful person, but sometimes even I wonder why bright lights are extinguished so early. As we sat Monday night in shock after hearing the news, my wife kept just saying how fun he was.
Adam was the life of the party. He made sure you were having fun and he made sure to bring everybody into the conversation. He was a true friend - and one I’m glad I reconnected with.
I don’t have a dog, but I think I’m going to take a walk in a battlefield this week to just listen to the silence and enjoy the colors.
It’s how Adam would want to be remembered.