Milo was a good guy. There was hardly ever a time he wasn’t smiling back at you from behind his coke bottle glasses. He didn’t care what anyone thought about him and ultimately paid the price for it in the end. You see, Milo was the first real punk I had ever met. It would seem that from the day he was born society had labeled him an outcast before he could ever decide for himself. He was one of the most caring and thoughtful guys you would ever want to meet, always willing to share the last bite of his sandwich, extra change to ride the bus back home, a place to crash for the night, or even the shirt off his own back.
I don’t know a great deal about Milo’s home life but I can only assume he shared many of the same experiences that those of us that found comfort in punk rock share. Clad with boots and a mohawk, Milo would show up smiling even after a healthy ass kicking from the local football team. He loved everyone he met and accepted all people, even those that didn’t accept him. I don’t know how it is now, but back then just by sporting the punk rock garb, you were an immediate target of violence by rednecks, jocks, and anyone else that was bigger, stronger, or traveled in packs. Milo knew this, but he didn’t care, he didn’t choose the punk rock lifestyle, it chose him, and he was proud to wave that flag.
I spent some of my more interesting memories throughout my youth with Milo and our group of friends. He was always a little bit ahead of the pack and by following his torn and tattered boots, we were able to spend the afternoon in squatted buildings, listening to terribly mixed cassette tapes, and hanging with the older punks that we idolized. It seems like these days the punk rock outfit is just that, an outfit. For some of us, we easily could have washed out our hair dye, taken off our patches, and gone back home to our loving families. Milo didn’t live that life. He was as invested in the punk lifestyle as anyone could be.
At some point it seems like our scene split. I became enamored in the more hard-core punk and found myself attracted to the straight edge scene. That became my rebellion. Milo stayed true to his boots and braces, and waved a banner proclaiming “punk’s not dead.” If I were to say that Milo were the last true punk I had ever met, that would be an understatement. He lived and breathed the lifestyle, the rebellion, the life of an outcast. To this day Milo is someone I look back upon with fond memories. Certainly I was never as close to him as some of my group were, but over 15 years later he still pops back into my head and I think about the times that we shared.
As I traded in my combat boots for a pair of vintage Nikes and a Youth of Today 7 inch, Milo delved deeper into the punk rock lifestyle. I knew at this point he was living in a “punk house” with a bunch of other “crusties” whom were able to redefine communal living on their own terms. It wasn’t like I ever saw Milo unhappy, but he certainly seemed happiest then.
Somewhere along the line, the punk rock lifestyle caught up with him. Milo caught a case of meningitis and it ultimately took his life. Meningococcal disease is an extremely serious infection of the blood or membranes around the brain. The disease is contagious and most common in babies, adolescents and young adults. It is a disease that is spread via person-to-person contact. One of the many ways he could have contracted it include kissing, sharing utensils or toothbrushes, drinking from the same cup, sleeping in the same room as the infected person, direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions, or coughing in close quarters. All of these things happened in the punk house, I’m sure. When one of your friends fro high school passes, you can be introduced to a harsh and brutal reality about the frailty we all possess and it’s tough to imagine what could have caused it or how we could have stopped it. We hear about the heartbreak that close family feel when one of their own passes away but the impact reaches so much further.
Today there are vaccinations against the type of meningitis that took Milo’s life. They are recommended around age 11 and a booster at age 16, the age right before people are most susceptible and at an increased risk for the disease. When I hear people talk about vaccinations it seems that people are cut and dry about one side or the other. Unfortunately things are not so black-and-white and its your duty as a parent to really research and find out what’s best for your child. An Internet blog, a conspiracy theory website, or a friend that knows a friend that was a nurse is not research. Reviewing scholarly studies, talking with physicians that you trust, and considering your own real life family history are. This is a statement from my personal experience, one I was inspired to write after continually seeing things that reminded me of my dear old friend. May his life continue to inspire others, through this story and through those that remember him.
My grandfather, for example was able to witness firsthand how the polio vaccine not only saved peoples lives but ended an epidemic. I had to turn off the conspiracy theory websites for a minute and consider to weigh the risks when it comes to situations like this and my own child. If everyone in that punk house had been vaccinated, would Milo would still be here today? I don’t know. I had never even heard of the disease and I wasn’t vaccinated for it at the time myself. What makes this so important to share however, is that meningitis is most common in communal living situations. This means for kids off to college especially. I just had never heard of it at all. It is one thing to refuse the vaccine and another to not have the choice. Education is key here.
That is just one vaccination to consider. I know that vaccinations are a hot button, and that is your absolute right to either love them or hate them. I don’t submit myself nor my child to every form of vaccination there is either. Only the ones that I feel the benefits outweigh the risks. That is my duty as a parent and I have to live with the decisions I make until she is old enough to make them for herself. This isn’t by any means a call to arms for vaccinations, it is your duty to do your own research and follow your heart.
As I am finishing up this story, tears are welling up in my eyes. For over 15 years I have mourned the loss of a friend silently and quietly now realizing how crushing that must have been for his family to watch him die in such a short time. The decisions we make for our children affect so much more than we realize. They affect us, they affect our kids, they affect those around us and 15 years later they are still affecting a kid that spent half a school year side-by-side with Milo admiring him and cherishing their friendship.
The world can be a messed up place and all we can do is our best…here’s a toast to the last true punk I ever knew. See you on the other side, Milo.