I am just about three million miles away from anyone right now. Emotionally, I am in a boat floating aimlessly on open ocean and though the sea is calm beneath me I feel the distance between my boat and everything else just expand, expand, expand …
In my apartment the clock on the wall is ticking its way around to three thirty am and I have been lying in bed awake listening to it claim little bits of my life.
You know, a friend of mine just passed away. And, I must be going through the stages of grieving mightily slow because the hits just seem to keep on coming. I heard of his passing over a week ago but I can’t help myself from dwelling on the simplest aspect of it all: He’s just not here anymore.
I trip over it like it can’t be true because this man seemed to be bigger than everything, bigger than us all. He was louder than the rest of us, funnier than the rest of us … and just one of the brightest lights I had ever seen. When I think about that kind of man just not being with us anymore, I simply cannot not reconcile it. Not in my mind and certainly not in my heart.
My friend was a ballsy ass, cocky, boisterous kid and everybody adored him. My best friend always likes to say that when she first met him she thought to herself, “Who the hell does this jackass think he is? We aren’t going to be getting along,” but by the time he said “Come have a smoke with me,” Andrew had turned her impression of him around and she suddenly adored him like the rest of us. He was genuine. Genuinely a decent man with charisma up his butt to spare. And this was how it happened for everyone, you were powerless to not feel lucky for meeting the guy, being his friend or even being the one kid who got the nickname “Scrot,” short for scrotum.
I worked with Andrew for years at a job that was my second home. I don’t even have to say how all of my memories of what I like to call the ‘glory days’ of my life, have him there. I close my eyes and there he is on the line in the restaurant’s kitchen, corralling all the cooks, hooting and hollering, getting one of the newbies to eat a week old floor sausage. Andrew was the guy everything happened around. If he went out for a smoke, so did everyone else. If he was filling his milkshake tin with soda from the fountain pop, nobody would be concentrating and he’d just be entertaining us all. He always, always said hi to me when I came through the door. I could count on it, and I wasn’t even all that important in the grand scheme of things. But, hell. He knew my name. He used my name. He made me feel like I meant something to that place and in time we grew to know much more about each other and he would once in a while drop his act, walk over to me at the coffee station and say, “Hey Kels, how are you really doing, eh?”
That time in particular I remember so vividly now, that thinking about it gets me going and my throat starts to tense up. Because he’d remember something I had said weeks prior in passing about my life. Something small and to him, insignificant. But Andrew remembered. You knew Andrew cared, not about the detail but about how you were. He could always turn it around. Whatever it was, Andrew could take it off your mind, cure it or get you laughing so hard nothing else mattered. He was no angel but that’s what somehow made you trust him. I don’t think I’ll ever know anyone else that has even half his style.
I just can’t make it connect. Can’t reconcile it. How did this time ever end and how is the world not falling in on itself now that we are lacking a spirit like his?
See? At four am I’m even worse for sentiment and schmaltzy lines, god help me.
As a parent myself one of the things I cannot ever let myself think is “What if I ever lose my son?” I can’t keep it together when my mind drifts into that realm. Could I sit in a funeral home and listen to stories and claims that my son affected people, their lives, their memories in such a manner? Would it help the pain or make it unbearable on top of unbearable? I don’t know. But it all weighed so heavy on my mind tonight that I had to tell someone. So, I am telling it to the void instead of someone else close to this reality. I just figure … if even I, merely a shadowy figure of a past friend, can’t make sense of his death, how can his mom and dad survive this? Where do they go from here, from today?
My son isn’t even his own person in my eyes some times. He’s just an extension of me, of my husband and of our love. He’s our heart. How do you live on when something takes away the heart of your being? The thought upsets me to the point where I am sure I’ll finish writing this and then have a good long cry …
If we as parents could conceive of the possibility of losing a child before having our babies in actuality I wonder if that would stop some of us. I would never say that I regret having my son, that isn’t what I am saying, but tonight I lay in bed thinking about losing a loved one, a child, and the thought crossed my mind that ultimately I live in a little fear that the possibility is a reality. Now and forever, a possibility. And, it sucks the air right out of my chest.
So? That is how I got in this goddamn boat. Feeling seasick and lost.