My Mate Matt

My mate Matt had suffered epileptic fits for years, ever since a nightclub bouncer sent him tumbling down a set of stairs and cracked his skull.

His head was held together with metal plates and screws and these sometimes interefered with the electrical activity of his brain, setting off a seizure.

He was a sunny-faced bloke with olive skin and long dark hair in a ponytail beneath his bush hat. He claimed ancestral links with indigenous Australians and Native Americans and had many layers in his mind, ecompassing a range of spiritual beliefs.

His big, boof-headed dog, Calorm, was almost always by his side as they walked our streets while Matt organised community projects involving music, art and fashion, mixed with local sports and social clubs. His aim, always, was to bring people together.

If you rang my mate Matt, he always answered the same: “School of Hard Knocks,” he’d drawl, in his cracked Aussie baritone.

Apparently, dogs can tell when someone is going to have an epileptic seizure up to 12 hours before it happens. So Calorm must have known long before Matt did. And Calorm must have been the first to know also, when Matt choked on his tongue and died one night.

I had visited him hours earlier, in his tiny tumble-down home beneath the pine-tree, with the thigh-high weeds and the abandoned chicken coops in the garden, a piece of old-time anarchy in the midst of staid suburbia.

As I left, he had stood in his doorway, grinning in the moonlight, and called his usual farewell.

“Ma-a-ate,” he’d drawled. “Enjoy…”

I found out about his death the next day, while on my lunch-break. A mutual friend –the father of one of the kids in the class I worked with at the local school- had broken the news. I went and sat on the steps of the little weatherboard church near the school and had a quiet cry, and then went back to work.

The kids could see I was upset. One said, with typical child’s candour: “You’ve been crying, Dex.”

“I have,” I told them. “I just found out that my friend died last night.”

“Who?”

“His name is Matt,” I said.

“Not Calorm’s Matt!” protested Trey, whose Dad had told me the news. His face was suddenly drained and anguished.

“Oh Trey! I’m sorry… of course, you knew him…”

Trey dropped cross-legged to the library floor and covered his tears with his hands.

“He was like my Uncle!” he blubbered.

I squatted next to him and we hugged and cried together, while the rest of the class looked on. It was a sad, sad lesson they learned that afternoon.

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Next week marks the fourth anniversary of Matt's death at only 41. Each year a group of his friends gather in our local park where he and Calorm so often walked and fraternised, to remember him. There is a bench there where Matt often sat, on which the local council kindly let us fix a brass plaque which reads: Matt's Bench. In Loving Memory of Matt Bryant, a mate to people and dogs from all walks of life.

amberdextrous amberdextrous
51-55, M
12 Responses Feb 22, 2010

and it helps to have a friend like you.

Thank You for those kind thoughts and comments, ladonnasangel.<br />
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The night after Matt's death I went to Trey's parents' house with some beers and we all shared our stories about Matt and had a good cry. His dog, Calorm, was stretched out on the floor at our feet, looking exhausted and depressed and pricking up his ears each time there were footsteps outside. Then he'd sigh and lie back down when he knew it wasn't Matt. We gave him lots of pats and hugs.<br />
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That was the last time I ever saw Calorm, as he went to live with Matt's sister in the hills outside Perth. He was already quite an old dog four years ago, and I am pretty sure he would not have lasted much longer without his great mate. So my guess is he is back with Matt again, walking in that Heavenly park you describe.<br />
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All the best to you, my good friend.

I just read your story and it was so sad but so loving as well that he had such a wonderful friend as you and others ; and he always had his Dog where ever he went and i know his dog must of had a breakdown as well not knowing why it happened and where he was going to live now.Your a kind soul and anyone who is a friend to you is one lucky son of a gun as true friends are hard to come by...I know your mate Matt is in heaven now with no screws or bits in his head and just walking in the parks up there looking down on you and all his mates and family...I also must say that kids are much smarter than we adults take them to be' as you seen when the boy broke down as well.What happened to the dog?I know in my heart that you made sure he was well loved and cared for as well....I wish you all the best and all the happiness this world can offer.

Thank You, gryf. I am gratified to read that your lovely granddaughter is managing her condition well and living a fulfilling life. Epilepsy doesn't have to be the crippling affliction it once was, thanks to pharmacological advances and better understanding and acceptance by communities.

I have a beautiful granddaughter with epilepsy. She is a college graduate--has a good job and is very much in love with a nice young man....it's a strange and serious affliction....still, many great human beings have had it and lived full lives....I'm sorry for the loss of your friend--he sounds like he was a dear person.

Wow... I'm so sorry to hear about your lose. <br />
Your writting is amazing. I felt that, the pain of loosing a friend. <br />
I hope everything works out for you.

:/ sorry for such a loss.

I'm so sorry about your friend. Good people always leave this world& mostly suffer in it.i can tell by your words he'll be always love&remember. Warm regards.

Indeed, Dex...my son is not an artist, as such, but is very creative!! Thanks for you for the good wishes!!

I am sorry to read about your father in law, 2E. It is a condition which was stigmatised for centuries, and only recently has it been fully controllable with drug therapy. You are right that it is more serious than most people realise.

Thank You for the hugs and sympathy, tgrsldy. <br />
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I am sorry to read about your son's epilepsy, and hope things work out well for him. <br />
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Many fantastically creative people have had epilepsy, and science has established links between epileptics and great art and insight. Perhaps your son will be an artist or creative thinker?

My oldest son has grande mal epilepsy...i feel for you....<br />
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(((((((((((((((Dex)))))))))))))))))))