David Thompson died Monday afternoon. To the best of my memory, we’d known each other for twenty years, first meeting in Missoula, Montana, when I was visiting my parents’ home on break from college, and he was visiting a writer who happened to be my father. On that trip, he quickly became an honorary Burke, looked over like a son by my parents, and beloved like a brother by my sister and me.
More than a decade passed before David and I would have a professional connection in addition to our friendship. By the time my first novel was published in 2003, David made sure that my first road trip was to what I had already come to see as “his” store, Houston’s Murder By the Book. He helped my then 96-year-old grandmother to her seat in the front row, and he of course hand sold the hell out of that novel. After the reading, we had drinks with a newer store employee, McKenna Jordan. I’d already heard enough about her to know they spent A LOT of time together. I could also tell they liked each other. “Like”-liked. Afterward, I game him endless grief about his romantic foot-dragging, a subject that would eventually become the hook of an article about their storybook marriage.
By the next trip to Houston, David had manned up, and the inherent couple-ness of David and McKenna was complete. They became one of those couples that my husband and I assumed we’d grow old with. They’d visit my Grandmother with me when I came to Houston, and stay with us on trips to New York. We’d started vacationing together.
When I got an email early yesterday morning inquiring about a “rumor” that David Thompson had died, I wanted to believe it was precisely that. I wanted to call my friend and tease him that he’d joined Justin Bieber and Jeff Goldblum in the fake cyber death-rumor mill. But of course that conversation could never take place. Instead, I went to my computer and re-read the email message he sent me the previous afternoon, a photo of their dog, Jack Reacher, after his bath. I re-read a comment he’d posted on my Facebook wall, alluding to upcoming plans to visit us in New York. I found comfort in comments posted throughout the day about his kind soul, love for McKenna, and championship of writers. And I cried. A lot.
David had too many wonderful traits to describe here, but he never lost the childlike part of his heart. When my nephew was little, we used to love asking him to guess the ages of adults he met. Usually he’d estimate by comparing against his only benchmarks: babysitters, parents, and grandparents. He usually paused a long time before responding, and finally answered with utmost caution. But when we asked him how old (31-year-old) David was, my nephew didn’t hesitate: “David? David’s eleven!” More than any person I’ve ever known, David Thompson embraced his inner kid and could help you find yours if you’d only let him. I’m forever grateful I did.