Michael Anthony Groteke 02/08/1992

Well it’s that day again, February 8th. Last year I wrote a nice long entry, like this one, only to have the computer maliciously clear it just before I was ready to post. I wrote a shorter one and blamed Mike’s ghost for the computer tampering. I’m braced this time, I’ve been saving regularly as I go 🙂 A few months later some of Mike’s relatives posted comments on my journal thanking me about remembering him. At first that kinda freaked me out, I had never thought about them reading it, but it turns out they are really nice folks and, of course, miss Michael dearly.

So yeah, it’s that day again. After 13 years I don’t remember the significance of the day until the afternoon or evening, though I have this feeling all day that there’s something I’m forgetting… then it hits me. 2892. Those 4 digits have been parts of my passwords and pins over the years.

13 years ago on the Dayton / Yellow Springs road Mike slid on the ice into the opposite lane and was killed when returning from renting videos (Red Dawn and something else with the word Red in the title, he always rented things in strange patterns like this) in Xenia, OH. I didn’t hear until early the next morning when his wife Staci called called me. I immediately walked down the hall to the room of another friend of Mike’s, Brian Jenkins, and woke him up to tell him. We sat for a while in stunned silence and tried to digest the suddenness. The night before Mike had called both of us asking if we had wanted to come over to his house to play Risk but we were both busy. Wow do I still regret turning him down for that.

I think one of the things that totally freaked me out about this was the fact that it was HIM that lost control on a snowy night. I say this because he used to be so psyched when it was snowing heavy ’cause he could get in his car and go to empty parking lots to practice skidding, doing donuts etc. If I had to pick ANYONE to be my designated driver on a snowy night it would have been him. This was a heavy dose of reality that accidents can happen to ANYONE. I think up until this point of my life I was still in my ‘immortal teenager’ stage, where I knew I wasn’t immortal but nothing had really penetrated this bubble fully until Mike was ripped from my life.

I still have dreams where he shows up in them on occasion. Earlier ones, in the first few years, he shows up to tell me he’s not really dead, that he faked his death to get out of debts from Antioch (something which I’m sure, if he could have pulled off he might have 🙂 ) and that he couldn’t contact me until the statute on limitations on somethings wore out, just to be safe (hey it’s a dream, it doesn’t have to be logical!). In the first few years I believe there were a few times I woke up and thought he was in the room. This did wonders in freaking out my wife Emily, though I explained to her that if he was there he wasn’t trying to spook us, more likely he was wondering if we wanted to play Risk 🙂

The dreams now consist more of him just hanging out somewhere, and when we talk and I say “Um.. Mike.. you’re dead, right?” He says “Yeah.. sorry about that” and then changes the subject to something else as if the fact that he’s dead isn’t really relevant to the moment.

In these dreams, over the years, he has talked to me about my cats, cars, and of course computers. I know I’ve told him all about internet stuff that really he got me excited about telling me what ‘BitNet’ was etc. back when I was still a BBS kid. At Antioch College we led mini-crusades to the business / presidents office to push for the college to get on BitNet back in 1988 – 1990, asking about grants and such. They would humor us, occasionally even taking notes or telling us to talk to a faculty member etc. After doing this over and over and over with no progress we finally gave up when we learned enough about how things worked at the college to realize that unless we walked in those offices with a wad of cash or a grant no one was going to listen to us. Mike dropped out in 1991 or so to work for some company in Cincinatti though I believe he was still on some extended coop as far as the college was concerned (or at least that’s what he told us).

Other Mike memories. Hmm. He and Staci got married on way short notice. I remember waking up on Valentines day in .. hmm.. must have been 1991, and walking down the hall to his room. He and Staci were looking up phone numbers and he said ‘Hey.. want to come to my wedding?’
“Yeah we decided, we’re getting married.. today.. in Kentucky” (or maybe it was Cincinatti)
“Wow .. really… we’re going in two cars, it’ll be Staci & I, Christiana(?), Dawn (?) and Dave (Schinhoffen)” (I may have forgotten some others). We’re leaving soon”
I ran down the hall to my room and pulled out my old sports coat that was missing buttons and didn’t really fit, and found my darkest most formal pair of ripped blue jeans and rushed back. ‘
At some point Mike actually called his Mom to let her know. I can just imagine her on the other end of the phone “What? Today? AIGH!”.

We drove down to Cincinatti/KY and I believe we visited his brother’s house for a while, though that may have been some other trip, I don’t recall really. There was alot of calling going on trying to find the place they wanted to do this wedding, but I was on the sidelines for all this and don’t remember any specifics. Sometime in the afternoon they finally found this little house where the minister performed the service and his wife was one of the witnesses. David was Mike’s best man and ok, yeah, I was jealous. I believe there was some time spent in a bar in Cincinatti basically just waiting around, this may have been before or after the ceremony. I recall the bar owner explaining that the place was haunted and had ghosts in the basement from some dark tale of previous owners, but again, this is all a blur.. but it must have been some trip like this with Mike ’cause I don’t go to Cincinatti often and have certainly never been in a bar. I suspect this was another stop to use a payphone for a half hour to call family/minister etc.

After the ceremony we went to some chain restaurant in Cincinatti with his mother and possibly other family. It was a rather surreal day. To be honest, I was still in shock that he and Staci were even getting married, probably because I never got to know her that well. In retrospect I suspect I was probably jealous of her ‘taking’ his time away from me or something like that. His getting married was the first ‘slap’ of reality of real life, the first of ‘grown up moment’, where I had accept the fact that I, and my friends, were growing up and not just being buddies hanging out down the hall.

Another story – We road tripped to Jacksonville, Florida one weekend in winter 1988.. Yes, this is possible from Yellow Springs, OH provided you have enough caffeine and sheer dumb motivation. Hey we were young. We left on Friday morning/afternoon and rolled into Jacksonville the next morning. There was a YRUU conference happening there and I was going because some friends I knew were there, and Michael tagged along (and drove the whole way, mind you, I didn’t have my license back then) because I think he was a) Bored and b) Had hopes on meeting some cute Unitarian women 🙂 (Ok that was probably some of my motivation too). Now that I think about it I think Rachel McKay was on this trip with us, though I may be merging some other road trip with this in my memory. I only remember this because she got pulled over on the way back doing 88 miles an hour in a 55 zone and GOT OUT OF THE TICKET BY CRYING. (A technique that was suggested by Kate Powell, at this conference, I believe.) Michael and I teased her for years after this by just saying ’88 miles an hour. Shame on you’ Guess you had to be there (oh and yes, you can fit 3 people in his little car so long as one of them, me, squishes low in the back under blankets. TOTALLY unsafe and not recommended, especially if you have a 17 year old woman from PA driving 88 miles an hour, but that’s the way things happened.). My other memory about this trip was us stopping for gas and him looking at me and saying ‘your turn’. I had never pumped gas before, as I said above I didn’t drive at this time, and I explained I didn’t know how to pump gas. He basically said ‘Figure it out, it’s cold out there and it’s your turn.’. So I got out and figured it out.. took a while and I think Michael was giggling about this for sometime afterwards, but I think about this moment often when I am pumping gas.

For my first coop job I was a teaching assistant at a private grade school (The Jordan Glen School) in Archer, Florida. Antioch let out in mid/late March and Mike agreed to drive me down to Florida, again, since he wanted to go to Spring break in Miami and my job was on the way. We stopped in Jacksonville to stay with Kate Powell and he roommate for a few days before he drove off to Miami. Brian Jenkins also came down to visit Kate at this time, which is funny because he came to Antioch the next fall. (see my references to my secret powers in another post on this journal 🙂 ) This ended up being a rather crowded 2 bedroom apartment and since Mike’s little car was the only car available, if I recall correctly, going out to eat or doing any trips was a rather crazy event. I stayed a few more days before I caught a bus down to Archer, Florida. I still kinda wonder if I should have gone with Michael down to Spring break.. not really my scene but I never got another chance for a scene like that.. or much more time with Mike. Ah regrets…

and one last Michael memory while I’m on a roll. This one, coincedentally, also involves Brian Jenkins. We were at Young’s Jersey Dairy late one night and as we were leaving the store a teenager walked up to us, specifically Brian, and very politely asked if we wanted to fight. Now mind you, I’m 6’2 and at the time was probably 220 lbs, Brian is about the same size and Michael wasn’t small either. I just stood there in awe, was he serious? Mind you, I am also a pacifist so if it came down to it he wouldn’t be dealing with me but he didn’t know that. Michael was also rather surprised “What?”. Brian just said “No thanks” and ushered us a long. The kid nodded and went his merry way. To this day this event seems totally surreal. A) Why would he want to fight complete strangers? B) Why THREE at once? C) Do people always ask politely when picking a fight? I haven’t been in any kind of a ‘real’ fight in my life but I suspect they don’t start with polite chit chat. The three of us had a good giggle about this event while we ate our meal, keeping an eye on the weird kid just in case.

I mentioned earlier that he had rented ‘Red Dawn’ when he was in his car accident. He was ALWAYS renting this movie, which is a bit ironic since it’s a totally anti-communist, pro-gun, violent bloody action flick… not really the typical ‘Antioch’ fare. Mike was into strategy games that were semi-warlike like Strategic Conquest, Spaceward Ho on the computer and of course the aforementioned Risk, but he never struck me as the kind of person that would watch “Red Dawn” over and over and over again. WOLVERINES! Anyways, I figured I’d mention this. On an unrelated note i’ve since met a number of geeks who also liked this movie, so maybe Mike was on to something.

Once when driving back from Xenia (probably from renting movies or going to Taco Bell). When the officer asked for license and registration Mike started to do his usual maneuver (yes I was with him on at least 3 or 4 other times when he got pulled over, he had a lead foot). This procedure was this – He would hand the officer his wallet with his license and his conveniently located metal ‘Policemen’s Benevolent Association'(? I don’t remember this exactly). According to Michael this button was one that only family of officers got and since his brother was a police officer in Cincinatti he had one. Often the conversation would go like this;
“License & registration sir”
“One moment officer.. (shuffle shuffle), here’s my license, let me look for my registration…”
“Where’d you get this pin?”
“My brother is a cop”
“What precint?”(or something along these lines)
Michael would then give his brothers precint etc. while handing the officer his registration. This almost always ended up in his just getting a warning, even when we were in other states than Ohio. Powerful little pins 🙂

That’s all for now. It’s been 13 years and I still miss him. So here’s a tip of my virtual hat, once again, to Mike.

3 thoughts on “Michael Anthony Groteke 02/08/1992”

  1. There was a great picture of Mike pitching a softball in the Antioch yearbook. I always think of that when you mention MIke.

  2. Matt,

    Thank you for your reminisces on my son Michael. They really mean a lot to me.

    Michael and I were never close as he grew up — possibly he was too rebellious and I was too much of a 9:1 personality. Either way, we both missed a lot of chances to know each other.

    Your stories of adventures with Michael have opened up new windows for me into his personality, and I will wait for more as the years go bye. It is unfortunate that we never reeally realize what we have lost unitl the deed is done.

    That should be a good lesson for all of us.

    Dan Groteke

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