Twenty-five years ago today — on a spring morning in 1991 — I sat in the audience in front of the Oviatt Library at California State University in Northridge and watched Tommy receive his Bachelor’s degree.
I think of that day often, with gratitude that I could be there to see that ceremony. Tom’s mom was also there, along with his Grandma and Grandad Crater. Tommy was 22 at the time, and none of us dreamt that we would all — with the exception of Tom’s grandmother — outlive him.
During the 20 years that Tom continued to live after his graduation, he walked a bright path. His kindness, humor, and light-heartedness earned him many friends, who loved him and continue to miss him dearly.
I think of Tommy every day.Often I find myself, inexplicably and unexpectedly, speaking his name out loud. When I’m out hiking, especially, I find myself calling his name, half expecting him to answer “Dad!” from a distant bend in the trail.
These days when I think of Tommy, more often than not he appears in my thoughts as a small child. Even as a boy he already showed the grace and enjoyment of life that endeared him to others. He had many enthusiasms, but one of the things he particularly loved as a small boy was riding in his Uncle Billy’s sports car, which we often borrowed. It was an Austin Healy Sprite. Outings in the Sprite often included stops at the Santa Monica pier to play video games at the arcade, and later a snack at Tom’s Number Five at the foot of Pico Blvd.
Those nighttime drives along Ocean Avenue, with the top down, abide in my memory after all these years: memories of the ocean breeze in our faces, the stars glittering overhead, and the future beckoning, as wide as the horizon, and as bright as the stars themselves.