15 September 2009

To Patrick Swayze....

Actually, the news came out last night but it wasn't until this morning that I realized why I'd been sitting in front of a TV screen last night, weeping at the death of Patrick Swayze.

North and South was the first thing that brought him to my notice, a handsome young Orry Main with the lush shock of blond hair and a southern accent that was reminiscent of whiskey and sensuality. Most people won't remember that. Or that he was on Broadway in the original cast of Grease. Or that he'd done a couple of movies, Red Dawn and an adaptation of S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. No, they remember him mostly as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. Or Sam Wheat in Ghost. Or Dalton in Road House.

Ah, my youth. I remember being glued to the TV for that miniseries of John Jakes' view of the Civil War. A hell of a cast, you know. To be honest, I never got into that series of books--the Civil War was never my time period. But oh, that handsome man with the husky drawl.

Then, my friend Kevin Ayers and I going to see Dirty Dancing every night for two freaking weeks. Might have been longer than that. We saw it so many times, we could quote the dialogue...and frequently did. Kevin was a bit younger than I was, barely out of high school and I was 31, and we met doing theater--Shakespeare in the Park in Columbus, Ohio.

And there it is. The obvious--losing a wonderful talent that, maybe, wasn't always in the best of movies--hits hard. He certainly did some crap...but damn, he was brilliant and talented in everything he ever did. Gotta admit that. The vehicle sucked but damn, he was glorious in it. Intensely sexy, talented, not afraid to take on something different and challenging; a phrase comes to mind--probably overused too but it fits here--an "actor's actor." I'm going to miss all the performances he'll not be giving now. I'll miss the love story of Patrick and Lisa, one of the few lasting marriages that gave me hope that romance wasn't dead. Definitely hits hard.

The next obvious is the disease that killed him--pancreatic cancer. Considering that I lost my Mom three years ago to lung/liver cancer, that one hits harder still. It hurts to know that one more has lost that particular fight and every time it hits the news, it's like ripping a scab off of my own personal wound. Especially since, like my Mom, he was beating it.

But the part that wasn't obvious, the part that is no less painful is that saying goodbye to Patrick Swayze is saying goodbye to a large part of youth. To good times, to carefree days, and wild nights spent with friends. To dancing and singing, to music and theater. All loves I've lost, the friends that have moved on. And he always seemed to be somewhere in the mix. A movie. A song. A picture in the news. He was a part of my life. And now he's gone. And it's gone. And I miss it--and him--very much.

My heart goes out to his family and to his wife, Lisa Niemi, for the loss of someone so precious. The lights are slightly diminished because of it.

And so if I may paraphrase and quote a little....  To Patrick Swayze: thanks for everything. I've had the time of my life. No one will ever put Baby in a corner again, thanks to you. Be well, be blessed, be free. And fare ye well.


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