On March 20, 2024

Movie Diary: You’ve got a friend

In life, inevitably, you will accumulate a group of people who traverse major milestones with you. You may not necessarily pick these people as much as haphazard circumstances bring you together.

This certainly has been the case for me.

After college, I moved back to my hometown; my college sweetheart followed soon after. We found an apartment, secured our first jobs, and began building our lives. 

Everything was new so we had to figure out how to navigate adulthood. Would we combine our bills? Who would cook? How would we handle emergencies? School taught us subjects like math and creative writing, but no one taught us how to handle the daily grind of existence. Our families helped, but many of the greatest lessons came from the close friends who were navigating life alongside us.

I already had many friends since I grew up in the area, but my girlfriend knew no one. I’m not sure that it was forefront in my mind, but I knew part of our success as a couple would be her assimilation into a social group.

Luckily, I played men’s league basketball and softball and during those outings, inevitably friends and girlfriends would show up to watch. And that’s how she struck up her first alliances. 

The local girls pulled my girlfriend into their friend group, adopting her as one of their own. Soon, she was playing softball, going to concerts, and getting us invited to parties. The more laughs we had, the stronger the group connections became.

As time passed, some of the relationships strengthened, and some fell away, but the deep bond of the group always remained.

Soon, the first marriage occurred. You grow up going to weddings, but when one of your friends marries, it has a unique effect. Over the next few years, almost everyone in the group got married, including us. 

And then came the first house purchases. We joked about going into debt and the commitment of home ownership. The parties moved from the apartments and nightclubs to our backyards and living rooms where they took on a new, unique flavor.

Soon after, the babies began to arrive one by one, and each of our family dynamics changed as the little ones were added. Our kids played and fought together. And the parties kept happening, but the kids became an integral part, changing the flavor once again. 

The kids grew up and got involved in sports and many of us dads took on the role of coach while the moms played head cheerleader. Together we went from celebrating our own milestones to those of our children.

And then, without warning or preparation, came the first death. We were all shocked several years ago when the first member of our extended group died. It was sudden and shocking. We gathered in camaraderie and disbelief, all of us quietly pondering this final defining moment of life.

I’m writing about these passages of time because our group lost another member this past week. It was, once again, sudden and shocking, pushing our friend group into a makeshift triage for his family. 

I “knew of” Butchie Goulette before I knew Butchie. He had a personality that preceded him. He arrived early in the formation of our group, having taken a liking to our friend Mary Ann. It didn’t take long to realize that Butchie and Mary Ann were going to be inseparable.

They eventually married, had two boys, and built a beautiful home where we were neighbors. Their home became the focal point for many of the aforementioned house parties. Butchie loved to host, moving gracefully from the kitchen prep to the basement for an impromptu card game. And inevitably, before the night was over, he’d set ablaze a massive bonfire in the backyard.

Butchie was an athlete and eventually found his way onto my men’s league basketball team. While not a prolific scorer, he was a rebounding force and could be counted on to body-up the toughest guy on the opposing team (which led to an ejection or two that we would always laugh about later). He was the player you wanted to play with, but not against. 

Butchie could move from gregarious to soft-spoken within seconds. But his defining characteristic was his laugh, which at a moment’s notice, could fill any room he was in.

However, to me, Butchie’s most endearing quality was his ability to be present when you talked to him. You knew by his demeanor that he was listening to every word. Eventually, life separated us geographically, but when we reconnected, he was always interested in me and my family. I loved that about him. 

So, our group now gathers again to say goodbye to another member and to traverse another difficult milestone together.

Life is hard, but thankfully we have our friends to travel it with.  

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

Editor’s note: Wilbur E. Goulette, Jr. “Butch” 53, of Rutland died unexpectedly Thursday, March 14, at his home. Funeral services will be held Wednesday March 20, 2024 at 1 p.m. at Christ the King Church in Rutland.

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