I didn't know Mike well... but I liked him at once. Partly because he looked like so many of the men on my father's side of the family with his white hair and boyish face, partly because he was such a pleasant fella. He was a student at Wildacres when I taught there year before last -- not in my class but he introduced himself because I know his sister. We both tended to show up early for breakfast and we got to know each other a bit over the breakfast casserole and turkey sausage.
Mike was working on a book that combined his love of western North Carolina and fly fishing. We talked about that and about inconsequential things. I really can't say I knew him well. But I liked him well and we emailed back and forth a few times when his book came out . . . and when he started a blog . . . and when he was diagnosed with cancer -- a bad, aggressive sort of cancer.
He continued to work on his next book and the last time I heard from him, he said the treatment was going well. . . and I began to hope that I'd see him at Wildacres this year. . . early at the dining hall, like me.
Alas, his sister emailed me yesterday that Mike is gone. And, though our friendship was such a casual one, his going has left a Mike-sized hole in the Wildacres experience as far as I'm concerned.
I'm so glad he wrote his book -- I wish there'd been time for more.
In her email yesterday, his sister said:
"You will appreciate that he kept his sense of humor up to the end. In advising his wife Paulette about his obituary, he instructed her, 'Don’t tell people to donate to a charity in my honor—tell them to buy my book!'”
The words of a real writer. . .
It's a lovely book and I have it on my Kindle, all the more precious because I know how much it meant to him. . . and because there won't be another.
For those of you who might be interested, here's what Ron Rash had to say:"Revenge on the Fly is a beautiful meditation on the ties that bind us to family and place. Michael Cavender is a gifted writer, an exciting new voice in North Carolina literature."Ron Rash, New York Times best-selling author of Serena and The Cove.
Farewell, Mike. You are missed. . .