Another day filled with a myriad of emotions, none of them positive or constructive. My dear friend remains in the morgue, 22 days after his suicide. I still can’t fathom how his next of kin can allow this to continue, how they can have so little respect for a man who shared the family name for 60 years. Is this really how families act? When the childhood you shared has long gone, does all sense of respect and dignity go with it? Do people stop caring about civility when they reach a certain age? Do they become so involved in their own lives that the years they shared long ago with family simply fade?
I struggle with these questions every single day yet I can’t form an opinion or come to a definitive conclusion. I’m disillusioned, angry and incredibly sad . I’m angry that he chose to pull the trigger with saying goodbye, angry that he couldn’t hold the dark grip of depression at bay, angry that I didn’t check on him sooner, angry at the disgusting, raptor like actions of the landlady and her two cronies. Angry at the police who put a weapon used in a suicide back inside an empty unlocked house, angry because they notified the wrong next of kin and justified it by saying “It made more sense to notify family that lived in state”, angry that because the officer in charge thought the house contained “junk”, he left a wallet and other items there for the taking, angry that the police seem more concerned about landlord rights than the fact that a man’s life possessions had been thrown out of windows, onto the ground, taken for resale, or simple trashed. I am extremely tempted to upload photos of my dear friends tossed belongings, strewn about the yard like bird droppings on a sandy beach. I’d like nothing more than to share with anyone reading my blog the visual nightmare I encountered upon my arrival on May 1. It is only out of respect for my friends privacy that I don’t. Trust me when I say it’s hard. I’m angry at a family that leaves his earthly body in a cold drawer because their computer is “on the fritz”. Angry that they calmly told me on the telephone that they didn’t have a correct phone number for him. Oh boo fucking hoo. He was listed in the area phone book ~ did anyone ever think to look??? I’m angry at myself for sometimes doubting him over the years when he told me stories of emotionally distant family members. I know he wasn’t a liar or prone to embellishment but I thought perhaps a bit of self-pity was creeping in. How wrong I was.
I’m sad to the point that I’m becoming physically ill. I go two and three days without eating and don’t even realize it. The fact that I’ll never enjoy a spirited conversation with him, never get an impromptu education about the mating habits of a particular bird, never discuss a book we’ve shared, never enjoy a day at the river watching the dogs swim and soaking up some sun. I’ll never get to do his laundry, watch as he and my husband play checkers or chess, listen to some of his government conspiracy theories , laugh at an email he forwarded me, or listen to him complain about the woes of still being tethered to dial-up internet service. We will never comfort each other as one of us mourns the loss of a much-loved aged pet. I miss that little smile that crept up despite his efforts to look stoic. It would start at the corner of his eyes and end with a partially upturned lip. Oh he tried to pretend it didn’t happen but I assure you it did. I’ll miss cooking meals that, although I never told my family, I used to cater around food he favored such as pork. My family can eat my cooking any time whereas he was never invited to anyone’s home for a meal thus I always tried to prepare something he would enjoy. I kept Trader Joe’s Peach Salsa on hand because I served it once and he really liked it. In the summer I kept Raspberry Twisted Tea in the refrigerator because I knew he enjoyed just one every now and then.
It never dawned on me what an integral part of our family he had become. The tapestry of his life was woven into ours as surely as if we’d known each other since childhood. I know that as the sun will rise tomorrow I will miss him for the rest of my days. I told him many times, both in person and in emails, that we cared about him, we considered him family and that our feelings for him would never change. Yes we may disagree at times, even get mad at one another, but in the grand scheme of life that’s irrelevant because when you truly care for another person, you don’t let minor misunderstandings or perceived slights come between you. I wonder if he believed me? I wonder if he knew how much I cared? How much my husband and daughter cared? I wonder if he knew that he held, and continues to hold, a very special place in our hearts? I can only hope that he did.
I have never been affected by anyone’s death as I have by his. Part of it is because of the way he died, part is the travesty that occurred following his suicide, and part is because I’ve never lost anyone that I loved as much as him before. Yes I mourned for my “parents” but because I spent my early years being abused in ways that one would not think possible, I wasn’t devastated or emotionally incapacitated by their deaths. I respected my parents, loved them to a degree, took care of them as they aged and became frail but I never truly mourned them the way I do him. I cried sincere tears, felt a sense of loss then processed my emotions and moved forward. With my friend’s death however I seem to be paralyzed with raw, seeping grief. I am stuck and don’t have the emotional resources to get past this because of the craziness still lingering. I am unable to attain any sense of acceptance or closure because he remains in the morgue, like a homeless person that no one steps forward to claim. It’s eating away at me bit by bit, day by day yet I am powerless to do anything. Today my husband and I briefly discussed attempting to get “whatever” so that we could have him cremated the way he wanted. We decided that it would require a lawyer, a legal battle, and who knows what else. So for now, we sit and wait for the family to make a move and I call the Medical Examiner’s Office to see if he still remains there. The last thing the family conveyed to me is that one of the nephews was looking into having the VA pay part of his cremation costs. It took me less than (5) minutes to find the information; the government will pay $300 towards final expenses and pay for interment in a VA cemetery along with a plain headstone – something our friend explicitly did not want.
He was an immensely private person. He valued his privacy and for the most part cherished his time alone in a small but darling cabin in the woods with his beloved cats. Sounds rather simple and easy to do right? Not really because he was at the mercy of a “caretaker” who, as I mentioned in my previous post, thought it acceptable to enter my friend’s home whenever he was out. What a horrible way to live! After he could no longer afford the upkeep/repairs to his truck, we were his sole means of transportation. We would pick him up, take him to do errands, then bring him to our house for food, friendship and laughter. Inevitably after an hour he would get “antsy” because he feared for his cats and his personal property. Last Thanksgiving was an exceptionally good day for him, so much so that as we sat in the living room, enjoying the fire as we discussed which movie to watch, I asked if he was concerned about the caretaker. He told me no because he had devised a new plan to keep him out. Instead of the string trick which merely indicated if someone had entered the door, he had used his chainsaw to drop some rather heavy yet still moveable trees. Before getting into our car, he would drag the trees across the driveway about 1/4 mile before his cabin. He knew that the caretaker was physically incapable of moving the trees and even if by some miracle he succeeded in moving one, he wouldn’t be able to move them all. His mobility was somewhat impaired and with the trees as a barrier, he would be unable to walk the 1/4 mile to my friend’s cabin. Ingenious idea but why? Why was he forced to such measures? He rented that cabin from the scavenging landlady for 20+ years with a rent to own deal in place (the notarized paperwork which I had previously held and read was missing of course) yet he was subjected to blatant disregard for his privacy and his home by her friend, the foul-mouthed foraging caretaker. I remember two winters in a row when I became stuck in his driveway because it had not been plowed. I saw all the other driveways plowed as I drove into the landlady’s cul-de-sac of sticks. Most of the cabins in her empire were rented by transients; there for a month or two then gone leaving a yard full of trash in their wake. It seemed that every time I drove down to my friends he had new neighbors. But by golly in winter they were all plowed except for him. How utterly disgusting!
Today I retraced our friendship, thought about how it began and what made us so incredibly close. It didn’t take long before I remembered we’d met over a little dog dressed in a Mrs. Claus dress. That wasn’t the pivotal point that drew us together however. As our friendship flourished, it became defined by the fact that we had both, at different periods in our lives, been accused of something we didn’t do. I can tell you without pause or reservation that being falsely accused is a terrible feeling, compounded by living in a small community where people you don’t even know are aware of your personal affairs. It bothered our friend so much that he wouldn’t sit in a coffee shop with us for fear of being scorned. When we took him to the store he was in and out in record time. My heart ached for him because he was such a kind and gentle soul who wanted nothing more than to live in peace. I asked him many times why he just didn’t move; get a fresh start either in another part of the state or in a different state. His answer was always the same ~ he had nowhere to go nor the resources to do it with. In time I devised a plan; a plan that I’m confident would have succeeded. I’d been working on it for nearly a year, consulting with outside sources. In hindsight I should have told him but I chose not to because he would have objected. He was not only a private person but fiercely independent.
How I wish he could have held on just a little longer for I was almost there. Now my plan will never come to fruition but most of all, I won’t see him again ~ at least not in this world. I am so very sad and so completely lost.
I love you and I miss you dear friend. I fervently hope you are at peace.