The Precious Gift of Laughter

There’s no equal to the love of a great friend. They know all your secrets and would never tell a soul. They hang with you with no expectations outside of just being in your company. A true friend is someone you live to spend time with. Life has blessed me with a wealth of great friends and acquaintances—loyal committed friends and family I value beyond words.

I just received word from back home a lifelong buddy and cohort in mischief passed from heart failure. I read his son Johnathan’s words in a text and sat there and cried.

Raymond Francis Hinson and I met in a junior high school Social Studies class in 1968.  Our meeting had to have been pure destiny—extraordinary chemistry like no other at the time.  We had a mutual mindset—to wreck as much havoc as we possibly could during school hours and act like we knew nothing about it.

We were certifiable stinkers it seems everybody remembers.

Ray and I connected with precision on Day 1.  We made eye contact and it was all over but the crying.  We’d make sounds where no one knew where they were coming from.  Then, it was, “Who’s making that noise?!”  from our Social Studies teacher.  Ray and I would trade glances and try to hold back the laughter.

When we were seated in quads with two other poor slobs, we always managed to get the entire table in trouble. Seasoned educators saw us walk into a classroom and knew it was going to be the worst day of their lives.  Teachers would catch on to our antics and promptly separate us.  I’d be in front of the class and Ray would be relocated to the back. Sometimes, we were told to go stand in the hall.

That didn’t work. 

I’d hear Ray giggling 30 feet away and get a fit of the giggles.  I just couldn’t stop laughing. Of course, we never meant any harm with our mischief yet always did as much damage as possible.  One of our most favorite places was the school lunchroom.  And – you had better be wearing a raincoat at lunchtime whenever we were in attendance in front of the cafeteria.

Vegetable soup was always good for entertainment, especially wet soggy carrot chunks placed in a soup spoon used as a launch pad for these projectiles.  Ray would place the carrot chunk strategically in the spoon and launch it with great accuracy toward a table full of young ladies. This strategy was always good for drama.  The corresponding scream meant Ray’s carrot hit the target. 

I would innocently ask Ray why they called the side salad a “tossed” salad and he would calmly reach over and toss it all over the lunch table.  You couldn’t bowl on a league with Ray with any precision because he’d make a hysterical comment, flatulate, or belch in the middle of your delivery to break your concentration.     

After school when the building was empty, we’d find a nice quiet restroom in which to continue mischief.  Ray’s goal was to stop up all the toilets and urinals to overwhelm the floor drain.  Sometimes, the flush valve would stick and it was time to run like hell because the flow of water was not going to stop.  In a room full of Sloan Quiet Flush valves, there was always at least one that decided to stick. 

I am quite sure there were custodians at Samuel Ogle Junior High School who hated us with a passion because we always left them a huge mess to clean up.  While in summer school in 1969, we decided to stop up all the toilets including one where someone had been decidedly ill where its contents ran all over the floor.  Two custodians marched in and we were cold busted.  We were nearly expelled from summer school and managed to flunk 7th grade at the same time.  It was rough explaining to the principal why we chose this path of visible and destructive vandalism. 

Even tougher to explain to the parents. 

Son Johnathan, wife Cindy, and Ray on the right.

Ray and I repeated the 7th grade together and nearly flunked a second time!  And—and how did we manage to survive Vice Principal Arthur Lakin?  Lakin came out of the District of Columbia school system and was a U.S. Marine.  We watched him bounce students off the walls in utter astonishment wondering why we were still alive or not severely maimed ourselves. 

Ray and I moved on to high school in our hometown of Bowie, Maryland.  As time passed, Ray and I finally grew up and apart.  In time, we lost track of one another.  Ray moved way down into Virginia’s hill country, met and married his lovely good-hearted Cindy, and raised a family.  I went in the United States Air Force and migrated to Oklahoma.  After that, my career efforts took me far and wide all over the United States.

In time, I began to wonder whatever happened to Ray.  I’d ask around.  No one knew where he was.  On a lark, I decided to look up his siblings in Facebook.  I found his baby sister, Debbie.  She remembered me from long ago and connected me with Ray.  When Ray and I hooked up after decades of wondering where each of us was, it swiftly became one of those relationships where we picked up right where we left off in the 1970s.  That was the kind of friendship we had.    

Just such a friendship is as rare as the Hope Diamond.  Ray and I were diamonds in the rough to be sure.  Our very nature was to make each other laugh and marvel at the mischief we always knew how to get into.  Throughout our long-distance discussions, we spoke of having a reunion at our junior high school but were never able to get together.  Between my living in California and Ray in a very remote part of Southwest Virginia a continent away, we were never able to get together.  And, Ray, suffering from heart disease, struggled to travel anywhere as his health deteriorated. 

At 3 am on a Saturday morning, Ray, with just 20-percent heart capacity, passed as his son Johnathan, tried to revive him.  No one deserved a better send-off than Ray.  He passed from this world surrounded by the love and affection of a great family.  What I know about Ray is, he possessed a huge heart and worked very hard all his life.  He took good care of his family and friends, and always knew how to make people laugh.  He delivered a great sense of humor and managed to keep a smile on his face despite adversity. 

Raymond Francis Hinson—you, my friend and soulmate—will be forever missed.            

2 thoughts on “The Precious Gift of Laughter”

  1. What a crazy and wonderfully fun relationship! You were blessed to be his best friend, even though you two gave the teachers hell! LOL! RIP to Ray, who has earned his Angel Wings. I know these memories will stay close to your heart and they will bring you peace.


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