Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Strength of the Chain

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead,
and the bridge is Love, the only survival, the only meaning.
- Thornton Wilder

Monday night brought a horrible reminder of the frailty of human life and the vicious speed with which the trajectory of one's life can be irrevocably altered.  

At or about 9:30 pm on Monday, a fire broke out at a home on the 200 block of 14th Avenue in Belmar.  The fire quickly engulfed the home and it took the five fire departments who joined together to battle the blaze slightly less than two hours to contain it, initially, and thereafter extinguish it.  

As I write this, the circumstances that led to the fire are unknown - at least to me.  While they ultimately shall prove to be important to the governmental agencies entrusted with the responsibility of determining its cause, the fire's cause is much less significant than its effect.  It killed Mark Oberschewen, Bill Oberschewen (Mark's father), and Tickles (Mark's dog).   

"Obes" as I think Mark was called by just about everyone who knew him, was a man who I had known for more than thirty years.  He graduated W-H in 1984, a year after my sister Jill's class, and a year before my class.  W-H was then, as it is now, a school with a relatively small number of students, a trait that tends to engender friendships being formed by and among students in different grades.  Kids of like interests tended to hang out together irrespective of whether they were sophomores or seniors.  

I had not seen him - to my recollection - in the quarter-century following my class's graduation from W-H in 1985 until I saw him, at W-H, on a Saturday in mid-January, 2009.  We both were on campus for a ceremony the school held that day honoring the boys basketball team that captured the State title in 1983 and the girls basketball team that did likewise in 1984.  In the seven and one-half years since that January afternoon, he and I had only seen each other a handful of times, usually - if not always - at something related to W-H.  Even after he relocated to Monmouth County, Obes was a regular presence at alumni events (far more so than I), which he would endeavor to make unless an event happened to coincide with an event in which either of his children was a participant.  When that occurred, we got his regrets and his children his attention - proof of the fact that he was a man whose priorities were always exceptionally well-aligned. 

He had moved to Belmar a few years ago - renting the home on 14th Avenue where he tragically died on Monday night.  A divorced father of two, he adored and doted on his son, Michael, and his daughter, Gina.  Michael, the older of the two, starts high school in September.  Apparently, among the things that his kids had begged him for once he found his home in Belmar was a dog.  Not too terribly long after he moved in, he honored their request and rescued "Tickles", who in short order became a fixture on the front porch of his home akin to a swing.  As I recall, an issue arose between his landlord and him regarding whether the presence of Tickles in the home effectively breached the lease.  It was an issue about which he and I had one brief conversation, after which he and his landlord fashioned a solution to the problem that satisfied both.

Margaret and I closed on our home in Lake Como in May, 2015.  Obes lived three blocks north of us, and about a half block east of where his and my long-time friend Tom Swales just moved earlier this year.  Although he had not lived in Belmar full-time for a very long period of time, Obes was a veritable font of useful information about things in and about town such as restaurants, liquor stores, and - critically - pizza joints.  Every time the delivery guy from Reye's "NY" Style Pizza pulls into our driveway, I reflexively think of Obes.   I always shall.  

The Oberschewen men, Mark and Bill, had endured more than their fair share of tragedy and loss before the horrible events of Monday night.  Mark's mom and his sister, Susanne, both died a number of years ago.  Now, that sad experience of dealing with profound loss has been paid forward a generation. There is little doubt that his two children shall miss him terribly and shall feel his loss for the rest of their lives.  Occasionally, on my early morning runs up and down the Boardwalk, I saw Obes and his kids, either riding bikes or just walking up to the beach.  He was a father as happy to be in the company of his children and as proud of their achievements as any father I have ever known. A dad who made those of us who are dads aspire to be better in our day-to-day.  

Tough days lie ahead for these two youngsters.  Although I have only met Michael on one or two occasions, it was of him who I spent most of my Tuesday thinking about.  He is a young man, preparing to begin high school, who now also has to deal with the sudden loss of his dad.  His shoes are shoes that I wore myself thirty-five years ago.  

Michael and Gina are in need of help.  Whether that help is financial, emotional, or otherwise matters not.  All of it is needed.  They need as much as can be provided.  A woman named Lisa Castellano Britton has created this GoFundMe page for Michael and Gina.  Their father was a man who never hesitated to help someone in need and did so without giving it a moment's thought.  There is nothing in this world Obes did not do for his kids.  Here is to honoring him - and them - by doing now what he is not able to do any longer.  

In doing so, we may remind them perhaps that even in the longest, darkest days, there is light on the other side.  They deserve nothing less.  

Neither does Obes.  



Robert J Darden said...

Eloquent as usual Adam!

Shari said...

Beautifully said Adam