Ron Rath's wake is today from 4-7 so Karen and I are going up to Cedar Rapids later. His obituary is here. In that obituary, while it mentions his two sons Tom and John, it doesn't mention (nor should it) that John has been one of my closest and best friends since 4th grade. That was the year we were both assigned to Mrs. Bacon as part of a 3rd grade / 4th grade combination. We began that school year with 3 boys: John, myself, and Tom McElmeel but some time during that school year, Gary Hatfield moved back from Texas - his dad worked for Rockwell Collins and had been transferred to Texas - to give us 4 boys. The tomboy in our class, Lesile Maple, who everyone called "Fuzz", was also in that class.
I mention that because there was a tradition in 4th grade. I would call John's house in the morning to see if his mom was home. If John answered, it was safe to go to his house before school to play his Atari 2600. He wasn't allowed to have anyone in his house if his parents weren't home so I was supposed to call each morning. One time, his mom answered, I panicked and hung up. I can't count how many hours I spent in the basement of that house on Falbrook Drive that year. We played video games until it was time to go to school.
In addition to spending hours playing that Atari 2600 and spending time with my best friend, I also think those hours cemented in me one of my core principles that I've carried with me for pretty much all of my life. Ron Rath had a den. In that basement, next to the room with the Atari 2600, Ron's den was the coolest room I'd ever seen. My parents didn't have a den so having a room dedicated to being a den was something different. Ron had a desk and bookshelves and a leather couch. I loved to just look at it.
Even in high school, I think I would have described my bedroom as more of a den than a bedroom. I had all my books and music. I think now, as an adult, it is why having a den in both of the houses I have owned was a priority to me. Hell, even in the two bedroom apartment Karen & I lived in when we were first married, the second bedroom was more of a den than a spare bedroom.
All of this because of Ron Rath. He was a good guy. I am so sorry for my friend's loss.
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