09:57:39 pm on
Thursday 20 Jun 2024

A Deep Cut
AJ Robinson

Amy “Schneid” Schneider

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about visiting Martha’s Vineyard, attending Grand Illumination Night and meeting an old friend, Marina Firestone. She and my mother have been close for sixty, maybe seventy years. I got her phone number so they could re-connect. As I mentioned in the story, I knew it would be a while before they did, as both fine women face the same dilemma of old age: outliving the people in their lives.

We don’t expect our friends to pass, early.

I have faced some aspects of friends and family passing over the course of my life. I had to say goodbye to my grandparents, father, aunt and other members of the older generation. I grew up expecting the older generation to leave first. Everyone does.

Then the loss of a sibling, my dear brother Stephen, cut deep, deep into my soul. It will take some time to get used to living with the loss of him. Granted, Stephen was older, but not that much older and he was my brother.

A contemporary or someone younger dying is always a blow I had thankfully avoided, until now. Recently, I learned of the passing of an old college friend, Amy “Schneid” Schneider. We attended Florida Southern College, in Lakeland, together; we were members of the Vagabonds theatre group and I considered her a good friend.

I hadn’t kept in touch, with Schneid. We hadn’t seen each other in years. We didn’t exchange emails.

Still, she was a friend. I remember, so well, her brash out there attitude, her voice, which had quite the distinctive “twang” to it. Looking back, I remember her protective stance toward me.

All those years ago, when we were fab, I wasn’t merely a geek. I didn’t understand the autism that afflicted me, its effects on my social skills. Many things people said and did had no meaning to me or I completely misinterpreted their intent.

Amy knew. She was always there to protect me. I never knew that until many years later. I am endlessly grateful.

I wrote a stage play.

Some years after college, when I was still dealing with lingering issues from that time, I wrote a stage play. This play was a coming of age story. It dealt with a dorky young man, an engineer, finding friendship in the theatre department of the college he attended.

As a playwright, I didn’t over stretch. One of the characters, in my play, I named Samantha Schneider in her honour and, I like to think, is a spot-on representation of her. Sammy engages in a good deal of verbal sparring with several characters, puts the guys in their place at times and has her own catch phrase, “I key yah, I key yah!” which was something Amy used to say.

“I key yah” was her shorthand way of saying, “I’ll kill you!” Of course, she wasn’t being literal. It was one of her little jabs and we always smiled when she said it.

Her catch phrase even passed into the lexicon of phrases used by the members of the Vagabonds. Yes, Amy was a colourful person who definitely left an impression on the heart and soul, despite the long years of no contact. I shall miss her.

I wish I had some pictures of her and my other friends back in our glory days. When you’re in college, I guess that’s not something you think of, at least not at the time. I did find an old poem, by Joyce Grenfell, that I feel sums up Schneid, well.

Death (If I Should Go)
If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell.
But life goes on,
So … sing as well.

Good old Schneid, do us a favour, my friend. Save two seats, center orchestra section. We’ll go see Babes in Arms and catch up.

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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