I first met Mike when we were sophomores in high school. I played cornet in the school band, Mike played the sousaphone. Although we didn’t become close friends until our senior year, Mike was hard to miss. Tall, dark hair, rosy cheeks, well-equipped to carry a tuba, and Mike had an infectious laugh that made everyone smile.
Our paths crossed, in a life-changing way, in January, 1971. Our high school drama department announced the spring musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”. I loved going to the plays, but had never been in one myself. I had no desire to act or get involved. In Drama class, however, I became acquainted with a lot of students I hadn’t known before, and got a tiny bit of exposure to the stage.
I don’t remember how I got roped into playing the piano for the auditions. It was so unlike me. Hiding was more in line with my inner self. I thought I was better on the piano than I actually was, and sight-reading was not my forte. I remember trying to play “Eleanor Ribgy”, for a girl attempting to impress the the directors. When I plastered the song I had never heard of, she said, “You’re terrible!”
When the auditions were over and almost everyone was gone, the music director said to me, “Are you going to sing something?” I said, “No.” He said, “Come on, just try it.”
I literally felt like I had a finger stuck in my back, pushing me. I gave in. The director handed me “Climb Every Mountain.” As I sang, he walked to the back of the choir room and listened. As I finished, “….’til you find your dream!”, one of the student directors said, “Sounds like Frank Butler to me!” I didn’t know who that was.
The next night I went to the acting tryouts. I knew I didn’t have a chance, I was just following the encouragement of the director. I read lines as I was paired with various other students several times.
The day came when the characters for the musical were announced. I walked into the Drama classroom after school. Several students were gathered around the bulletin board and a girl named Mary, said, “You got it!” I knew who she was, I saw her in several other plays. I didn’t think she knew who I was.
I looked at the actors’ list and read, “Frank Butler – Dale Parsons. Dolly Tate – Mary Wagner. Sitting Bull – Mike Lynch,” and many other names of those who would quickly become friends.
Mike and I soon began spending time together. He said, “I knew I was going to be ‘Sitting Bull!’ There was a part in the musical when Frank Butler joins the wild west show headlined by Annie Oakley. Mike was supposed to walk up to me in all of his chiefly attire, face to face, and gruffly say, “You in show too?” We busted out laughing every time he did it.
I treasured the time I spent with Mike, as we had a great deal in common. He and I both believed we were called to ministry. He planned to become a priest in the Catholic Church, I planned to become a minister in the Protestant Church. We often read Scripture and prayed together after play practice.
Before meeting Mike, my repertoire of music enjoyment was all churchy. Our car radio was glued to a local religious station owned by the church I attended. That’s not a bad thing, I just rarely listened to secular music. Mike introduced me to “Chicago.” Oh my gosh! I loved it! What a sound! “25 or 6 to 4!”
The topic of girls came up in many of our conversations. As rehearsals for the musical continued, there were two girls I was thinking about asking for a date. One was in the play, one was not.
One night after play practice, Mike and I talked about the two girls and he said I should draw straws to decide which girl to ask, so I did. One straw for Marcia, one straw for Mary. I pulled out Marcia’s. I said, “I’m gonna ask Mary out.”
Mary and I went on our first date on Friday, March 5th. We will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next year.
“Annie Get Your Gun” was an incredible success. Three nights of performances, standing ovations, surrounded by new friends, and in the final scene standing next to “Dolly Tate”. We’re still standing together after all these years.
During the summer of ’71, Mike and I continued our friendship. He actually came over and helped me work on painting our old barn, a job I never finished. We talked, laughed, cried, and dreamed.
Sadly, after Mike and I went to college, we lost touch. I didn’t write as often as I should have and the communication finally stopped.
Last Sunday night was our oldest grandson’s baccalaureate in preparation for high school graduation. As we sat waiting for the ceremony to begin, my wife noticed the name of the first guest speaker, “Pete Lynch, Catholic Deacon Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church.” She said, “I think that’s Mike’s brother!” I didn’t think it was possible.
As Pete was sharing his inspiring message of faith in Christ, he said, “I remember when I graduated from high school in 1975. My brother gave me a Bible.” Mary said, “I think that’s him! You have to talk to him!” Pete said it wasn’t until years later he began reading the Bible and followed God’s plan for his life.
After the ceremony, I walked up to Pete and said, “Did you graduate from Lapeer High School?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Did Mike give you that Bible?” His eyes widened and he said, “Yes! Who are you?” I said, “Dale Parsons.”
We laughed and hugged. I introduced him, again, to my wife, Mary. He remembered us. In fact, he said, “My sister and I were just talking about you a few months ago.” Pete has that same bright smile and laugh I remember in his big brother.
I asked about Mike. He said, “Mike passed away with cancer six years ago. He had several bad bouts with cancer.” I told Pete I hadn’t heard, and was sorry to hear that he was gone.
Deacon Pete and I exchanged phone numbers. We’ll get together for coffee and talk about life, family, and ministry. We’ll also talk about Mike.
I’m sorry I didn’t continue writing to Mike. I last saw him fifty-one years ago. I’ll always be thankful for him. I can see his face and I hear his laugh. I see the straws in his hand, and I see the one I pulled out. I’m so thankful I broke the rules.
I’ll see Mike again some day. We’ll get reacquainted. I know what he’ll say when he sees me.
“You in show too?”