Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Two Years

I really didn't want to post this and I have a lot going on but I also don't want people to think I'm not, well, thinking about it. Yes, tomorrow marks the second anniversary of Mike's death. The first year was such a blur dealing with the...stuff...you have to deal with when a loved one is gone that when I looked up, I was shocked to see that a year had passed. This year was a little different but no less painful. I don't go a day...an hour without thinking about him in some way. Of course, Charlie's presence is a constant reminder. I was attending a panel last week in New Orleans, listening to a lecture by Danny Bilson. I had just found out he'd worked on the TRANCERS movies (really bad movies that Mike and I loved) when I thought, just for a split second, about sending Mike an email about it. It brought tears to my eyes, as it always does but it passed quickly. I guess I'm getting used to it. Part of me is glad but mostly I feel guilty about it. I don't think I should ever stop crying about it.

But I don't want this to be a sad post so I'm going to tell a funny Mike (and Mom, Suzanne and me) story. It's definitely one of those "you had to be there" moments but it's something I remember so fondly I want to tell it.

About five or so years ago, my parents went to Italy for three weeks to visit some friends from Dad's Army days and they took Suzanne, Mike and me with them for one week to show everybody how big we'd gotten. (In my case, it was really big. I'd ballooned to 300 pounds and was several months from my much-needed weight loss.) Every time we were re-introduced to someone, they'd look at us and say, "Aaiiieee! Que grande!" (I realize that's probably written in Spanish but it was said in Italian. :) )

We visited two older people named Filicina and her husband, whose name escapes me. They were two of the sweetest, friendliest people I'd ever met and they didn't speak a word of English. Suzanne and I didn't speak any Italian but Mike had retained enough from his childhood to at least follow the rudiments of a conversation even if he couldn't really participate in it. We also kept joking about not knowing any Italian by quoting Steve Martin's routine about visiting countries that "don't have the courtesy to speak English." We mostly just smiled and listened to my parents talking to them. Italian really is a lovely language.

At some point, we'd ended up back in the home of Mom and Dad's good friend Bruno (where we were spending much of our time) and Dad was off somewhere with Bruno and his daughter Theresa. That left the rest of us in the living room speaking, thankfully, exclusively English and talking about our visits. Filicina's name was pronounced "Fill-a-chee-na" but we couldn't remember how to say it to save our lives. We kept calling her "Fettucini," which we thought was the height of comedy. We kept cracking up over it which I think annoyed Mom because she was so fond of her. Eventually, Mike realized none of us were mentioning her husband by name and said, "What is his name, anyway?"

Without missing a beat, I said, "Alfredo."

Mike instantly burst out laughing, followed by Suzanne. Most people don't think I'm very funny so I was taken aback at Mike's reaction at first but eventually, since the laughter went on for so long, I couldn't help it. I broke up. Mom was bewildered for a minute until she got it and then, despite herself, laughed out loud. We laughed so long and hard that our faces turned purple, we were crying and could hardly breathe. Mike did that thing he always did where he'd laugh a little, then repeat what made him laugh and break up again. Which would send the rest of us back into a hopeless fit of laughing again. I don't remember how long it went on but I'm surprised we all survived it.

From that day on, that nice, sweet couple was known as Fettucini and Alfredo. Bless their hearts.

Thanks for that day, Mike. I miss you, bro.

UPDATE: Newsarama has a wonderful retrospective of Mike's life and career here. Thanks to Scott Weinstein for the link.


Tim Perkins said...

Hi Matt,

I can't imagine what it must feel like to lose Mike.

I got a phone call from my younger brother today and just reading your words here made me aware Chris and I hadn't spoken for a couple of weeks, because of our incredibly busy schedules, but at least we still can.

What I would like you to know though is that I thought Mike was a shining light in comics, from the day back in 1993 when I first saw Bob Downs inking an episode of the Flash over Mike's pencils, as I sat in the Defiant offices in NYC, and listening to Bob's enthusiasm for them and my thinking wow I love this new guy's work.

My deluxe copy of Tellos - Collosal sits on the shelves here in my studio at the side of me, a reminder just what a talented storyteller he was.

I still look at his stuff all the time and I have to say we lost one of the few leading lights for the kids looking at comics nowadays two years ago, but his work continues to inspire folks all around the world. True talent does that.

It's always great to hear your anecdotes from the past and this one seems like it was a lot of fun! The ones where we say you had to be there always are.

I'll be thinking about you and your family tomorrow and wanted to just send my thoughts and prayers to you and your folks and hope the messages you will, no doubt receive, help to celebrate Mike's achievements.

Best Wishes from across the pond,

Josh said...

I didn't realize it was the second anniversary today. I miss Mike posting on his blog on his site. I checked out his blog everyday to see if he posted something new. That Italy story is funny. Fettucini and Alfredo. It made me laugh.

Brian said...

Good to be able to remember the happy times.

I'll keep a good thought for Mike today.

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,

OMG - That story is just too funny!

Sorry for your pain, but these memories always seem to help a little.

Take care.

Squeeze said...

Fettecini and Alfredo- OMG that is still the funniest thing to this day. We were all holding our stomachs we laughed so loud at that one. Maybe Matt will tell you guys the "Uncle Louie" story from Italy too. THAT'S the one I remember Mike repeating and laughing and repeating and laughing and repeating and laughing. We got so much mileage out of that one on that trip. Nothing was better than the two Wieringo boys together running some joke into the ground over a week or a weekend. Nothing was better...... Miss you Bro N Law.

Cully Hamner said...

Just thought I'd swing by and let you know I was thinking of him-- and you guys-- as well. Two years... weird.

And BTW, I can totally picture Mike's big, helpless laugh at the Alfredo bit!

mattcrap said...

great story, man

Heywood Jablomie said...

Great story Matt, thanks for letting us in on it.

I posted this on Todd's page, but I love hearing stories about him, he seemed like one helluva big bro.

portalcomics said...

what a great story Matt... it's those moments that will keep hi with you until you guys see each other again.

Leanne said...

I meant to leave a comment here early this morning before I left for work, but kept deleting and starting over, deleting and starting over. So I thought I'd come back to it once I got home because I figured by now I'd have worked out what I wanted to say.

But... I still don't, really. So I thought I would write about something that I remembered during the day.

One day when I was in my last year of high school, one of my friends came in wearing a pair of shoes with big, jagged soles on them. I instantly loved them and would always tell her she was wearing "Wieringo shoes." She had no idea what the hell I was talking about, but I loved those shoes because they reminded me of the way Mike drew feet back then-- big shoes with large, jagged soles. I LOVED that (and imitated it for a long time in my own drawings). After a while the name caught on, and to this day my friend still remembers her pair of "Wieringo shoes."

I've been thinking of you and Suzanne (and Mike) today, and I'm really glad Rod and I have gotten to know you both. I can't believe it's been two years, but I wanted to say thanks-- your story was hilarious (so was Todd's), and it made me laugh out loud. I will never tire of hearing these stories. You guys are the best.

Matt Strawbridge said...

What a wonderful story to share with us all on this day. Thank you for digging deep and sharing a happy memory. I hope that it helped YOU by pushing away the sadness some.

I'm going to eat my dinner now and then go tuck away in a corner and re-read Tellos Collosal again. It's one of those books that always cheers me up and reminds me of the wonderful peopele in my life
and the wonderful times that I was blessed enough to have with them.

All the best thoughts to all of your family, each and every day.

Matt Strawbridge

PJ said...

You know the people we love never leave our heart even after their gone. The love is still there deep within us and just as strong as it always was, we may not tap into it as much as time goes on but when we do it can be surprising how unabated it can be.

I always remember him whenever I watch LOST because of those great sketches he did.

Paul Rogers said...

Fettecini and Alfredo! I can just imagine that burst of laughter from Mike, and the follow-up repeat, 'Fettecini and Alfredo!' (as he would often repeat those things that made him laugh his ass off to the point of tears!), with an extra long burst of laughter from all of you guys. That's good stuff. Good, Good Stuff. And that is another reason that I think about him and remember him every single day. Love to you Matt, Suzanne, Mr & Mrs Wieringo and, most of all to you, Mike. Thanks for your friendship. I miss you buddy. Paul.