death

Something For Walter

walter1.jpg

I must request that you indulge me in something.

I need to take a break from the madness; my madness and remember someone who was very close to me.  Someone I miss a great deal.

Walter Minter Tarpley was my best friend.

We had a strangely initmate love/hate relationship that only a gay man and a straight woman can have.  Our disagreements could divide a nation; our good times often bordered on criminal, but life with Walter was so much fun.    My life with him was amazing.

He didn’t believe in much, except that a good time was had by all .    His circle was small and I always felt quite honored to have stood at one of the corners.   Circle in a square; square in a circle and somehow, it…we always fit.     He could be extremely cavalier at times and his carelessness bothered me, but then again, he made me realize that I wasn’t really the hip, happenin’ chick I thought I was.   He was liberall;  Tim Robbins liberal.   I was Conservative and becoming more so as each year passed.  It had gotten to the point that I was inching toward being politically on par with Elizabeth Dole, save for the fuel injected Southern hair.

We argued about the ever growing abyss between the two parties, but we learned to sway the topic if politics reared its head.   And despite our differences, we cared a great deal for each other.   Our first outing together was  Halloween in 2005.  We made a vow that we would always spend Halloween together.   We had a wonderful time that night and the next day, I had a tough time working because I kept laughing at the things we’d done..said…felt.  I remember thinking that day that we’d be friends forever; but forever only lasted two years.

He died on July 4th 2007, a mere nine days after being diagnosed with AIDS-related pneumocystis pneumonia.

We used to go out and make merry every Halloween and frankly, I can’t let another one go by without honoring my best friend and remembering how his life cand death, altered the course of mine.

I wrote this post exactly ten years ago years ago.     I republish it today.

For Walter.

Twenty years ago, I dreamed of meeting one  special man that I could be friends with for the rest of my life…one man to laugh with, cry with….share my most intimate thoughts with.

He was given to me on a warm and sunny August day in 2005.

Walter came into my life quite by surprise, but hardly by accident. He sent me an e-mail at the radio station where I worked. It took no time at all for us to become friends and when we did, I found that I adored Walter.  He was devilishly handsome, brilliant, crass but polished, opinionated, fearless, acerbic, openly gay and hilarious.

To me, he was Perfection.

He was also a tortured soul. As was I, when we met. One would think that two fractured people would just create a pile of emotional shards. But that wasn’t the case with us. We seemed to provide the bonding needed to keep each other together. I think it was laughter that served as the consummate adhesive. We became best friends.

My relationship with Walter was rather cloistered. Few people understood our connection. I’m not sure even we understood the degree of our closeness. That was fine with us; we preferred it that way. When other people listened to us speak, it was as if we were speaking Esperanto. We jokingly said we spoke “TarKen”; our own language which was interspersed with many expletives and the requisite “Filthy” and “Dirty”, all spoken in a feigned British accent we used.

Few “got us” and that was OK.  We held on to each other, only letting go only when the other stepped free, but even so, the bond was never completely broken.   We were content  knowing that we’d found each other. We were happy to have found a certain “punctuation” to the paragraph of our lives.

We just clicked; my cup to his saucer—mismatched, chipped and crazing down the center, but still beautiful, even in it’s damaged state. Perfectly flawed.

Walter entered my life at a time I needed him most. He brought joy and laughter where there was none. He helped me learn to live again.   In fact, he was best time I’ve ever had. He felt like home. Comfortable, safe and secure. Like a hug, accented with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in a soft, familiar blanket.   He never dismissed me or made me feel anything less than extraordinary.

He was never aloof, nor did he ever exist passively in my life. He was a willing participate–fully involved, concerned and more importantly, he was there when I needed him. We were good about being there for each other. Walter understood that Life is inconvenient. So is Love. Neither will ask for permission and both can be obtrusive.   Still, he was never too busy for me, even when I was.  He was kind in the sense that he never decreed me as anything other than one of his very best friends. What an incredible honor!

Make no mistake, we had issues.  We had our disagreements which were legendary. And vicious!! Imagine a film recording of Joan Crawford telling off the board of Pepsico on a continuous loop that plays at painful decibels.We never stayed mad at each other;  at least, not that long.

Ultimately with Walter, I always felt loved. Unconditionally so. I could be thin, pudgy, hair perfect or teased up to a dizzying Elsa Lancaster’s Bride of Frankenstein height. I could be sans make-up or with a full compliment and wearing something that fashion-wise, would’ve have been considered only luke-warm from five seasons earlier. That didn’t matter.

To Walter, I was always just Laurie. No pretense.

To me, he was always Walter. No pretense.

One night he asked me why I couldn’t have been born a gay man. On that particular day, I had to fire six members of my staff. I was crying in his arms. I was wearing this silk blouse with, pink feather scuffs. I looked up at him, mascara streaming down my face and said, “Take one look at me, Walter. Look at what I’m wearing then take a gander at my make-up! I have to ask you, what makes you so sure I’m not?”

Our friendship was enduring and so incredibly special.  We had this idea that we’d grow old together. That we’d live long enough to comb gray hair, use our AARP discounts at dinner, complain about arthritis and those damn kids and their crazy music. We thought surely one day, I’d be Blanche to his Baby Jane. Aging wouldn’t matter as long as we could view the process through each other’s eyes. Together.

But the Universe had other plans. It gave me Walter, but the one thing it couldn’t give me was a relationship with him that could be measured in years. He was only in my life for a mere 23 months. That was all. Even though I have many brilliant memories that could rival the most dazzling, star-filled constellations, I felt this was and still is so incredibly unfair.   I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I’m still not. My first hello to him–seemingly uttered just yesterday– still resonates on my lips!!

I wanted more time.  No, I needed more time for one last look at his wonderfully handsome face; one more chance to absorb the warmth of his smile; to hear that wicked, wicked laugh; to read his soulful eyes; to feel the touch of his hand.

I grapple with the Divine more than I care to admit and when Walter got sick, I felt angry.  When he died, I felt cheated.  I’m told that people are put in our paths for special reasons.  Sometimes,  it’s to force us to give of ourselves and sometimes it’s for us to receive.   If so, then that means sadly, tragically, these beautiful, divine human gifts must also leave our lives for special reasons.     Why Walter left mine is something I’ll never, ever understand,  but I know why he came into my life. And that was to save my life  and as a result, I’m a much wiser and richer woman for my all too brief experience with this angel.

I love Walter and always will.

His death cannot negate my feelings or the relationship I’ll continue to have with him. The love lives on because I do. And I live on because this precious man gave me a reason to do so.   His friendship in many, many ways gave my life back to me.

I went to his memorial service and saw his ravaged body lying in the coffin.   He would’ve hated that.   He would’ve loathed how his make-up had been applied and how badly he looked.   I made myself look at him,  I needed to see him one last time.   I fought the urge to cry as I touched his withered and drawn face.   I stood there and actually mustered a smile for a few fleeting moments as I thought about the strange, cyclical nature of life and how for every mortal journey, death is the final destination.

This was Walter’s time to die, but unlike so many people, Walter also knew how to live.  And for an all too brief moment in time, his beautiful life intersected mine.

And I am so incredibly grateful.

Twenty years from now, I’ll dream of how I met that one  special man who I wanted to be friends with for the rest of my life…one man I laughed with, cried with…shared my most intimate thoughts with.

And I’ll remember how he was taken from me on a warm and rainy July day in 2007.

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Good Grief

If I had superpowers at my disposal one would the uncanny ability to remove soapscum from a bathtub at will.

Being a human capable of flight sans an airplane is a superpower I’d love to have.    And never finding onseself in a situation of saying or doing something that would end in regret would be another.

I’m about to quote someone who once heard  Dr. Phil ( I’m not a fan) quote Will Rogers,  “Never miss an opportunity to shut up”, or something like that.    Knowing when to completely self-edit is something I’m keen on trying.

But apparently now isn’t the time to start self-help endeavors.    Lately, I’ve been so incredibly angry.   Hotel reservationsists, and several poor saps at a call center in Mumbai have experienced it firsthand.

And it’s not so much anger as it full on rage.

I’m mourning the loss of a friend and the better part of a ten year relationship that ended in his taking the perpetual dirt nap.   This happened just over two months ago and I’m only now addressing the residual effects of those left behind.  Ours was a complex duet that most most people didn’t understand.    He was an asshole, a crook, a dick.    People freely  called him names without knowing him.  And maybe he wasn’t a shining example of humanity.   I’ve always said I can’t beatify the dead simply for dying,   Still,  he meant something to me.   Even so, I should have defended him more.    But I couldn’t.   I guess after a while, I either weenied out or got tired of the fight because it was easier to allow  people think as they wanted.   I was outnumbered.   I had to dismiss him when he was alive and remain as dismisive in his death.    Now, instead of calling him names, they say nothing at all.    This means  I’ve been doing a lot of mourning all by myself, partly on purpose, partly because his death like his life, remains awkward for people.    Hell, any grieving person is awkward for anyone to deal I don’t care how much empathy or sympathy you think you have.   You can feel shock and be apologetic during the funeral and wake, but afterwards, you get to go to back home to life as you know it.    You’re barely on the periphery.

That sounds like such a luxurious place to be….on the outside and only infrequently looking in.

There are supposedly five stages of grief, first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.   They are the denial and isolation combo, anger,  bargaining, depression and  ultimately,  acceptance.    I understand there are caveats to all of these.  Aits different across the board.  One grief stricken person won’t necesssarily go through the stages precisely as Ross determined them, others will,  some won’t experience any of them.  Others might go through a few of them.

I understand isolation and anger, as little Habib who instists for English speakers, his name is Greg Jones, can surely attempt.  But I consider myself too rational to bargain.     There are no ‘what ifs’ in life, much less in death.   Depression?    Hardly anything new.  Denial?    I’m too much of a realist and acceptance was /is something I’ve always found easy.   Acceptance of all things is immediate with me.   Once I knew my friend was dead, I acceped it.      I didn’t like it, I felt it happened too quickly, so suddenly,  too out of the blue, yet I accepted it.   Like Automatic reflex.

But the anger!!!

I’ve been doing dome thinking and Ive realized there  are subtexts to anger and isolation Ross never considered.

1–The pajamas phase.  It’s very important that we exeperience a denial in terms of personal hygiene.    This means a complete lack of desire to bathe or shower and  a full on need to be consistent in our filth.   Such as wearing sweat pants, pajamas, the same robe or caftan for days and days and days.

Usually there’s weight loss or significant  weight gain during this time.   And if we eat at all, the majority of food becomes part of the daily uniform.    We wear our food.   And the kind of food also matters.    Grocery shopping is out of the question so, we either have food delivered or if that’s not an option,  the minimal amount of effort is using the drive throigh, but if that’s not possible, we eat whatever we can find in the fridge, And this can lead to some very weird  combinations.    For example:  Peanut butter and mint jelly on stale potato chips.

2.   Isolation:    Mourning  is personal .   In the beginning,  well-meaning friends and family call and try to visit and we tell them, no, no, we’re fine, all is well.   We tell them not to come by and we refuse to answer the door if they stop by.   Then, they eventually  stop dropping by, they stop calling as much or completely, which can be a double edged sword.   We want to be left alone,  but we still appreciate the effort.    Wether we admit or not, the concern makes us feel relevant, a little less alone.   But grieving really is an extremely personal process, even with four people living in your house, it can still be a very lonely process.     It makes us uncomfortable and skiddish, even for those who’ve walked in your shoes, even those who know then mourning game first-hand.    The reality of loss is very inconvenient and even more inconsiderate.   It plays by its own rules and often strikes at our core at 3:15 on a rainy Sunday morning, seven months after the funeral.  Sometimes three years later.     Sometimes longer.

3.   We become mini-hoarders.    We endure this isolation and anger sub-phase by becoming quite messy.   There is no order in grief– why should there have any in the life of a gerievinf person.     Our environmental hygiene suffers, too.  Dishes are piled high in the sink.   Bottles, cans everywhere.    Empty food bags and wrappers.     Junk mail is everywhere, mixed in with bills that have gone unpaid.    Days old pizza still in the box on the couch.   Shoes  everywhere.     The ever-growing pile of Mt. Laundry is in the corner of the room with new foothills that can be found throughout the house.

These brief  dalliances with hoarding behavior comes as no surprise.  Hoarding is a direct response to loss.   I don’t necessarily get how or why one feels compelled to cling to an outdated page of Burger King coupons,  but I understand that’s part of the hoarding process.     And hoarding is the result of how a mentally ill person deals with loss.

3.  Emergence.    The darkness in grief can be stunning.  It can take a month or three, but newfound singles who earned that title through the death of a mate or divorce (loss is loss, my friends)  will eventually come around.    Most of us have to.   We have to work.   You have to be wealthy to be have degenerative grief, the all consuming kind that seemingly lasts forever.    When opportunistic  mental illness comes to visit and stays resulting in the way you can only traverse  your home through the tunnels of junk you’ve created then yes, you’re smack dab in the middle of a crisis.    You might not realize there’s problem until  a few TLC producers, a camera crew and a HAZMAT  team knocks on your door.    While those sad cases we see on the TV show, Hoarders: Buried Alive  are the exception rather than the rule, most of us (if we even get to the messy phase) rarely stay there.   We arrive at a point where our reactions to death start to wear  thin.  Basically, boredom can set in.   Monotony.    This is healthy forward progression.  It doesn’t mean we no longer love our dearly departed, or that their death has become any less significant.    It simply becomes a matter of moving on.

It pains me to quote Dr. Phil a second time (I’ve actually gotten more psychological assistance  from watching reruns of Frasier) but he often asks people, “What are you getting out of this?”   Or worse, “How’s that working out for you?”

Shudder, but there is truth in the queries.

Living life in a perpetual state of mourning means you’re not living.   Change is tough, You can’t eat your way through this….or sleep through it.  Stockpiling garbage isn’t a healthy response.  There’s not enough Scotch or Vodka in the world, not a Xanax big enough.   There aren’t  enough carbs to eat your feelings and by contrast, refusing to eat won’t work either.  When your life stops working for you for whatever reason, it’s time to make a change. Yes, you’re heartbroken.   The death of a mate or spouse or a relationship of any kind, even the loss of a job, means the end of an ideal.  It means the death of plans, hopes and dreams and these things are horrendously painful.    So yes, Loss hurts.   Break ups, divorce…terminations of all kinds.    The death after a loved who one lingered  with an illness, a suicide, a sudden massive coronary or aneurism, are all very painful.   After a point, the process by which one arrives at death doesn’t matter; the end result is the same.  So called prep time doesn’t matter.

But if the sadness is overwhelming and not subsiding,  if guilt has beome an unwelcome roommate who won’t leave, if your grief has literally taken over your life, then please seek help.   And if you keep glancing over at that bottle of pills and that quart of whiskey, please, PLEASE  seek help.     Death + death only = more heartache.   It’s the simplest example of negative math.  And if by some chance you are thinking of taking your own life, well depending on your faith, you won’t end up in the same place as your dead wife,  so why bother?

So, rid yourself of ‘end it all thoughts’.    Embrace your curiosity about life and maintain your healthy fear of death.    Be brave enough to dare yourself to wake up tomorrow just to see what the day brings.   Until then, go with your pain….cry, or not,  get angry, feel free to wear sweats containing a poly blend AND  the four basic  food groups for a week.   There’s no rule book.   No game plan.    Just understand that you have ultimate control over all of your feelings.   Please look  for that eventual break in the clouds.    Even tarnished silver linings are better than none at all.

So, wail, cry, shriek.    Punch a wall….I won’t judge.    Just do your best, even in the midst of it all, to understand why your heart aches.    Be very clear and honest within your pain. Death is the ultimate ending.   It’s life’s final play of the game and when it happens to someone  you know and love, it becomes your new reality.  This death is now a part of your life,  a fact that mercifully becomes something  you’re just going to have to live with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings

Some of history’s biggest catastrophes have been created by devious people with a lot of time on their hands.    For example, Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’, 9/11, the use of Napalm as weaponry, Watergate,  The University of Texas Longhorns 2016 season.

I was fortunate enough to retire from a more than three decade career in Broadcasting.  Since shutting off the perpetual live mic, I’ve read a lot, watched a shit ton of documentaries on mindless topics such as a day in the life of a lemur, how and why honey never, ever spoils and of course the Maysles’ Grey Gardens, and a strange but colorful 67 minute journey into the life of style maven, Iris Apfel, a woman who never met a feathered boa or bracelet she didn’t like. 

Oh yeah, there’s the one about Hitler’s fascination with the occult,  one about Virgin Mary’s personal concert for three Portuguese shepherd children at Fatima (that one required Big Pharma) and an intriguing documentary about another  Prince William, a dashing sort and oddly handsome for a British royal.    He was killed in a plane crash almost 60 years ago.   Look him up.

I have eclectic interests, I suppose and what I can’t look up on this contraption, I think about in my head.

I muse about things.     I wonder if Caroline Kennedy has ever seen the Zapruder film.  I wonder what she does or thinks about every November 22nd, if she think or does anything at all.  I wonder if Fidel Castro’s death meant anything to her.

I wonder who the first person was to watch an egg emerge from a chicken’s…..whatever….and decided to crack it open and determine it was edible and eventually vital in many recipes.     How was flight conceived?    Who in the hell thought that smashing atoms could be weaponized and a used as a fuel source?   Yeah, I’ve seen documentary on Hans Bethe, but he basically conceived nuclear fission by looking at sunshine. Huh?  Must’ve had a welder’s mask.

I’ve thought about politics lately.   I’m glad Trump won but a lot of sore losers are going to make his political life a living hell.   I wonder what affect his presidency will have on his hair.

Then, there’s Benghazi.

I listened CSNY today singing a live version of “Ohio”.    For you youngins, that’s a song written  about four anti war protestors who were shot and killed by National Guardsmen during a riot on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

Hence, the title.

Then, I started musing lyrically.   It’s missing a few lyrics but you’ll get the gist of it.    And here it is, with apologies to Mr. Young.

No soldiers, no Clinton calling
They were definitely on thier own.
That September there were four bodies
Four dead in Benghazi

Gotta get down to it

Ansar al-Sharia cutting them down
Should have been protected long ago.
How much did Hillary know with
Chris Stevens dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

I also think about how some people with absolutely no moral compass can live with themselves.

My, my…how you young know-it-all millennial saplings who think you’re so much more emotionally evolved than everyone else, would have loved the Sixties.   Tumult was so in vogue back then.   There was a real purpose to it back in The Day.

Today? Not so much. Bitch about whatever offends your concept of diversity and when you throw a brick through a window because of that, or because of university rape cultures, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, global warming, trans bathroom issues, entitlements of all kinds, or how being female in 2016 somehow means being a victim, remind yourself you could be in a Humvvee and drive over a powerful IED on a deserted road in Afghanistan.

You could be in a massive firefight in a hellish jungle in the Mekong Delta.

Or near the 38th parallel.

Or liberating what’s left of a fucking Nazi death camp.   Endure any of those things, then you can tell me you need a safe space and a therapy dog.

That’s all I have to say.

(Turns on mic on last time, then releases it from hand to drop on the ground to imply righteous indignation)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Untitled Ode

If I were asked to name a new rock band, I’d call it Ava’s Gardner.

I thought about that while waiting in line at the Walgreen’s in my hamlet.   I know it would only be  funny to ‘people of a certain age’, still,  I found it funny.

Then, I pulled up to the clerk behind the bullet proof glass and the metal drawer that when fed various forms of negotiable currency,  magically dispenses all kinds of drugs that are supposed to help combat issues associated with ‘people of a certain age’.    If only the drug dealers of my wanton youth were as attentive and accommodating and NOT under DEA surveillance.   My bedside table looks like a crime scene photo from  Marilyn Monroe’s bedroom.    Like hers, my bedside table is littered  with amber hued plastic pharmaceutical bottles.  Unlike Marilyn’s collection of Big Pharma, my collection includes  none of the fun stuff.   Aging it seems, is a condition that must be treated medically.

In 1973,  when I transitioned from an  8th grader to a high school Freshman, I discovered FM rock stations.   What a concept.   No AM static or hiss or loss of signal when you drove under an overpass.   Even standard songs that ran amuck on AM station playlists sounded better on FM.    I remember one of the first songs I heard on this amazing new format–’twas aural splendor.  It was an Elton John tune that was a few years old and rarely played then, much less now.  It was entitled Friends, from the French movie of the same name, about two young teen lovers (a term I loathe).  The beginning of the second verse is as follows:

“It seems to be crime that we should age….”

Turn 14 and all that that implies, and listen to those lyrics and try NOT to experience new-found teenage angst and existential doubt.

Funny how amplified a pimple, a break up, an unrequited crush, a mid-term exam, the prom, being popular or not, can be everything at one point in life.  How small the world is in the life a young teen in a free society circa 1973

In those years, all I wanted to do was experience what my new masters, the surges of estrogen, were commanding me to do.   But mother didn’t like it.   To her, I’d become  a problem child.    I proclaimed  her “pubic” enemy #1.   I matured faster than my two older sisters who were more demure and feared her.   I didn’t.  The fact that I would  argue and debate points  WHY I’m should be allowed to attend a senior party, were lost on her.  She didn’t see it as burgeoning negotiation skills.  It was me being a sassy.  A smarty pants.      It’s as if she viewed my larger boobs as dousing rods that would lead to bad behavior.   She was very strict based on reasons she couldn’t explain.   I was actually very normal for my age, but she was intent on coloring me abnormormal, compared to the two daughters she’d previously raised.   I was constantly threatened with being sent to a convent school and forced to see priests and shrinks because she couldn’t understand me.

It wasn’t long before I realized our mother/ daughter dynamic was textbook skewed.    She knew it too.  The truth is, she was hardly the mother that a girl like me should have had and I wasn’t  the daughter that  a woman like her should have had.    We’re were misplaced in each other’s lives.  We were a living conundrum–very much alike while also being polar opposites.

She was/ is short in stature and even shorter now, and even though I surpassed her in height decades ago, she has always been nine feet tall,  completely imposing in her very counteneance.   I saw that as a challenge.     I’d get grounded, but felt it worth it if I got a good line in as my two week sentence was being handed down.

It took a number of years before I understood her as a woman with issues of her own.

She turned 86 in June.   She is slow and doddering, her memory will lapse, she searches for words and can stand  with vacant eyes, her mouth agape until what ever synapse starts firing normally again.   She’s now at that point where if she can’t remember it, it didn’t happen.    “Damn liar!”,  I’ve decided, is a term of endearment.

It’s taken years to understand how unkind onset of senility can be.   

She has good days.   She has bad days.  She has aches and pains.   She’s deaf and refuses to wear her hearing aid.   She’s often grumpy.   Her front and back bumpers of her car are mosaics of colors from things she’s  bumped into.    The familial discussions about additional care and imposing new restrictions such as allowing her to continue to get behind the wheel, are becoming more frequent.     It’ll enrage her to learn she can longer drive. But we would do it for her own good though she’ll compare to a stint in Abu Graib?

It was her choice to move into a lovely semi independent home earlier this year, though  she doesn’t socialize with her fellow residents.   She talks more openly about her death, a topic I hate, but I know it’s my duty as her daughter to remain quiet and absorb everything she says as opposed to denying her the priveledge.   After growing up in The Depression, after watching friends and brothers  leave to fight in World War II or Korea and never return home; after all she’s witnessed, such as  the advent of TV, astronaut Neil Armstrong take one giant leap for  mankind…and after giving birth to two compliant  daughters and one ABC After School Special (aka me), she’s earned that right to talk about her life and the end of it.

It’s taken a few years to appreciate aging along side my mother.

It’s odd that we’ve finally reached something akin to a canvass  of common ground that’s painted as gray as our hair and on a landscape of  mirroring wrinkles.

My two sisters see her once a month.  Her decline is more obvious to them.  But I notice it too.   Often, from day to day.

But despite that, life goes on thankfully and I’m renewed in some way that we still argue, we still have distinctly different views on almost everything but we have a better understanding of each other which remains unacknowledged.    And that’s okay.   We’ve never been demonstrative in word or deed.  She told me she loved me by giving me coupons for products I liked or  highlighting newspaper articles about weight loss, a knee with encroaching arthritis or how  to find THEE man of my dreams.    I’m emotionally awkward too, though I can say I love you easier than she can.  She’ll say it in return if told first, but she never initiates it.

And that’s okay, too.

I understand so much more than I did at eight or 18 or 38 or 58, which if you must know, staring me down in a matter of months.

The reality is my time with her grows short.   Someday, sooner rather than later,  the phone will ring and life as I’ve known it, will cease.  One day, I know I’ll miss being told no with a hand slap,  or that what I’m wearing, watching, reading,  driving, drinking and thinking is all wrong for me.   I’ll miss hearing  my hairstyle is 20 years too young for me and there no more be questions about the  eye liner I’ve applied being or something from the Slut Line of cosmetics.    She’s old, but still biting.

I’ll even miss being called a Communist spinster with a bad attitude;  hearing the  constant criticism that comes with wearing bra that’s completely ill-fitting for a woman with what she calls, some “heft”.

Someday, she’ll be gone.

And it will take years for me to get over it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Will of Elizabeth Edwards

She died in early December  and I will admit, I was saddened by the news.  It didn’t matter that we all knew her death was inevitable…cancer  ensured  that.   Still, that knowledge didn’t make it any easier and her death was one that could be mourned regardless of your political opinion.  

For Elizabeth, I ached.  I pitied her, but that always gave way to admiration.   She was stalwart in her personal battle to live and die  as she chose.  I respected her, but I can’t say that for the man she married, a truly arrogant sociopath in my opinion.   That’s why I couldn’t help but smile when I learned  that  the will she signed days before her death last month makes no mention of her estranged husband and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards.

Elizabeth Edwards left all her possessions to her three surviving children.     That should come as no surprise, really.  The Edwards separated early last year after 32 years of marriage. John Edwards admitted he fathered a child during an affair with a former campaign worker.

That’s when he wasn’t blowing campaign dollars on hundred-dollar haircuts.

John Edwards’ idiocy has never ceased to amaze me.  The man is a decent head of hair with the integrity of a polyp.  That’s all.   He’s a handsome face that  morphs into something incredibly ugly and grotesque once you get to know more about him.  I’ve never laid eyes on him, but I wouldn’t need to in order to know that vapidity completely engulfs his baby blues.   His lack of substance is amazing.   That he made it as far as he did politically is a testament to his cunning  pathology.

If you wonder about  my vitriol, it’s deeply rooted.  I’ve  been the daughter of and the girlfriend of infidelity more times than I care to admit.  It creates a searing pain, like red-hot metal to skin and it brands one bitter and cynical.  That said, I will always indict John Edwards in my own court of  opinion, no matter what he does.  That’s his penance in Laurie Kendrick’s penal system.   In my eyes, he’ll  never be able to recover from this heinousness.  And while I questioned Elizabeth for staying with him as long as she did, I applauded her for leaving when she did because she left as her illness was winning the battle.  That had to have been egregiously difficult.   I would like to think she did it out of principle.  I would like to think this allowed her to die  feeling  less physically and emotionally encumbered by that man and his thoughtless, selfish actions.

And all of this happened–the affair, the very public betrayal, the realization that a child had been fathered and all of the ensuing humiliation–as she was being  handed a death sentence.  But sheer will took over;  she courageously died on her own terms.   In doing so, there was victory in her life’s defeat.    

So rest well, Elizabeth.  You’ve earned that right.

Hold your son, Wade in your arms and greet the eternal light, free of the things that others instigated in your lives.  No more  pain, sadness, fear, want or loneliness.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

Ring the bells that still can ring …
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

–Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

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Something For Walter

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I must request that you indulge me in something.  

I need to take a break from the madness; my madness and remember someone who was very close to me.  Someone I miss a great deal.

Walter Minter Tarpley was my best friend.  

We had a strangely initmate love/hate relationship that only a gay man and a straight woman can have.  Our disagreements could divide a nation; our good times often bordered on criminal, but life with Walter was so much fun.    My life with him was amazing.  

He didn’t believe in much, except that a good time was had by all .    His circle was small and I always felt quite honored to have stood at one of the corners.   Circle in a square; square in a circle and somehow, it…we always fit.     He could be extremely cavalier at times and his carelessness bothered me, but then again, he made me realize that I wasn’t really the hip, happenin’ chick I thought I was.   He was liberall;  Tim Robbins liberal.   I was Conservative and becoming more so as each year passed.  It had gotten to the point that I was inching toward being politically on par with Elizabeth Dole, save for the fuel injected Southern hair.  

We argued about the ever growing abyss between the two parties, but we learned to sway the topic if politics reared its head.   And despite our differences, we cared a great deal for each other.   Our first outing together was  Halloween in 2005.  We made a vow that we would always spend Halloween together.   We had a wonderful time that night and the next day, I had a tough time working because I kept laughing at the things we’d done..said…felt.  I remember thinking that day that we’d be friends forever; but forever only lasted two years.  

He died on July 4th 2007, a mere nine days after being diagnosed with AIDS-related pneumocystis pneumonia.   

We used to go out and make merry every Halloween and frankly, I can’t let another one go by without honoring my best friend and remembering how his life cand death, altered the course of mine.

I wrote this post three years and a half years ago.     I republish it today.

For Walter.

Twenty years ago, I dreamed of meeting one  special man that I could be friends with for the rest of my life…one man to laugh with, cry with….share my most intimate thoughts with.

He was given to me on a warm and sunny August day in 2005.

Walter came into my life quite by surprise, but hardly by accident. He sent me an e-mail at the radio station where I worked. It took no time at all for us to become friends and when we did, I found that I adored Walter.  He was devilishly handsome, brilliant, crass but polished, opinionated, fearless, acerbic, openly gay and hilarious.

To me, he was Perfection.

He was also a tortured soul. As was I, when we met. One would think that two fractured people would just create a pile of emotional shards. But that wasn’t the case with us. We seemed to provide the bonding needed to keep each other together. I think it was laughter that served as the consummate adhesive. We became best friends.

My relationship with Walter was rather cloistered. Few people understood our connection. I’m not sure even we understood the degree of our closeness. That was fine with us; we preferred it that way. When other people listened to us speak, it was as if we were speaking Esperanto. We jokingly said we spoke “TarKen”; our own language which was interspersed with many expletives and the requisite “Filthy” and “Dirty”, all spoken in a feigned British accent we used.

Few “got us” and that was OK.  We held on to each other, only letting go only when the other stepped free, but even so, the bond was never completely broken.   We were content  knowing that we’d found each other. We were happy to have found a certain “punctuation” to the paragraph of our lives.

We just clicked; my cup to his saucer—mismatched, chipped and crazing down the center, but still beautiful, even in it’s damaged state. Perfectly flawed.

Walter entered my life at a time I needed him most. He brought joy and laughter where there was none. He helped me learn to live again.   In fact, he was best time I’ve ever had. He felt like home. Comfortable, safe and secure. Like a hug, accented with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in a soft, familiar blanket.   He never dismissed me or made me feel anything less than extraordinary.

He was never aloof, nor did he ever exist passively in my life. He was a willing participate–fully involved, concerned and more importantly, he was there when I needed him. We were good about being there for each other. Walter understood that Life is inconvenient. So is Love. Neither will ask for permission and both can be obtrusive.   Still, he was never too busy for me, even when I was.  He was kind in the sense that he never decreed me as anything other than one of his very best friends. What an incredible honor!

Make no mistake, we had issues.  We had our disagreements which were legendary. And vicious!! Imagine a film recording of Joan Crawford telling off the board of Pepsico on a continuous loop that plays at painful decibels.We never stayed mad at each other;  at least, not that long.

Ultimately with Walter, I always felt loved. Unconditionally so. I could be thin, pudgy, hair perfect or teased up to a dizzying Elsa Lancaster’s Bride of Frankenstein height. I could be sans make-up or with a full compliment and wearing something that fashion-wise, would’ve have been considered only luke-warm from five seasons earlier. That didn’t matter.

To Walter, I was always just Laurie. No pretense.

To me, he was always Walter. No pretense.

One night he asked me why I couldn’t have been born a gay man. On that particular day, I had to fire six members of my staff. I was crying in his arms. I was wearing this silk blouse with, pink feather scuffs. I looked up at him, mascara streaming down my face and said, “Take one look at me, Walter. Look at what I’m wearing then take a gander at my make-up! I have to ask you, what makes you so sure I’m not?”

Our friendship was enduring and so incredibly special.  We had this idea that we’d grow old together. That we’d live long enough to comb gray hair, use our AARP discounts at dinner, complain about arthritis and those damn kids and their crazy music. We thought surely one day, I’d be Blanche to his Baby Jane. Aging wouldn’t matter as long as we could view the process through each other’s eyes. Together.

But the Universe had other plans. It gave me Walter, but the one thing it couldn’t give me was a relationship with him that could be measured in years. He was only in my life for a mere 23 months. That was all. Even though I have many brilliant memories that could rival the most dazzling, star-filled constellations, I felt this was and still is so incredibly unfair.   I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I’m still not. My first hello to him–seemingly uttered just yesterday– still resonates on my lips!!

I wanted more time.  No, I needed more time for one last look at his wonderfully handsome face; one more chance to absorb the warmth of his smile; to hear that wicked, wicked laugh; to read his soulful eyes; to feel the touch of his hand.

I grapple with the Divine more than I care to admit and when Walter got sick, I felt angry.  When he died, I felt cheated.  I’m told that people are put in our paths for special reasons.  Sometimes,  it’s to force us to give of ourselves and sometimes it’s for us to receive.   If so, then that means sadly, tragically, these beautiful, divine human gifts must also leave our lives for special reasons.     Why Walter left mine is something I’ll never, ever understand,  but I know why he came into my life. And that was to save my life  and as a result, I’m a much wiser and richer woman for my all too brief experience with this angel.   

I love Walter and always will.

His death cannot negate my feelings or the relationship I’ll continue to have with him. The love lives on because I do. And I live on because this precious man gave me a reason to do so.   His friendship in many, many ways gave my life back to me.

I went to his memorial service and saw his ravaged body lying in the coffin.   He would’ve hated that.   He would’ve loathed how his make-up had been applied and how badly he looked.   I made myself look at him,  I needed to see him one last time.   I fought the urge to cry as I touched his withered and drawn face.   I stood there and actually mustered a smile for a few fleeting moments as I thought about the strange, cyclical nature of life and how for every mortal journey, death is the final destination. 

This was Walter’s time to die, but unlike so many people, Walter also knew how to live.  And for an all too brief moment in time, his beautiful life intersected mine.

And I am so incredibly grateful.

Twenty years from now, I’ll dream of how I met that one  special man who I wanted to be friends with for the rest of my life…one man I laughed with, cried with…shared my most intimate thoughts with.

And I’ll remember how he was taken from me on a warm and rainy July day in 2007.

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Observations On Ted Kennedy’s Funeral

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There’s something  extremely interesting about watching a Kennedy in the process of being a Kennedy.   Tragically, funerals seem second nature to this family.   They’ve had many opportunities to fine tune this almost preternatural ability to mourn with grace and dignity.  

Because it seems death has never taken a holiday from menacing the Kennedy family on a fairly regular basis, one might ask (as one has many times before) is there a curse attached to Joseph Kennedy’s extended family?  

Who can say, but I would think you take your chances when you’re wife gives birth to nine children.   Then,  those nine grow up to become equally prolific.     The larger the family; the more your increase your odds that well, in the simplest of terms, shit is going to happen.  

It is true that some Kennedy’s seem to die more tragically then most people, though.   Joe Jr. died in the midst of a military mission.  Kathleen died in a plane crash in the mid-40’s, Rosemary was born a tad slower than the rest of her siblings and her very proud father who couldn’t handle having a daughter who wasn’t as full of the same “vim, vitality and uh, viguh”  like his other children, had her lobotomized.   John and Robert were murdered; one while in the Oval Office;  the other while trying to get there.    There were the overdoses, the car accidents; the skiing mishap, the illnesses, the rape trial and of course, John Jr’s. plane crash.

What kills Kennedy’s?   Arrogance might be a factor, but plain old life and it’s “luck of the draw” randomness plays a role, to.

I wouldn’t think it easy to be a member of this clan.  I would think it to be quite touch in fact.   The legacy of public service;  that of achievement.   I would find it daunting to be a Kennedy.   Yet, they come together for family events..the happy evens and the sad ones and each seem to know the role they play. 

Teddy knew his.  He assumed the role of patriarch after Bobby was killed in 1968.     That only made him more visible and that only amplified the many mistakes he made in life.   Well, that and simply being potential headline that every Kennedy seems to be.

I knew several people who refused to watch the funeral because they couldn’t separate the man from his misdeeds.    I won’t chastise them for that.   Free will, you know?    Despite my feelings for the man, his actions and his politics, I decided to watch his funeral because if for nothing else, there is something  fascinating about watching this family as they try to hold the unit together…even though it slowly shrinks by attrition and time.

Just on a surface level, I must say this:  the organ playing left much to be desired.  I’ve never sat down at a huge, wall-to-wall Wurlitzer before and I’ve never tried to play one.   I can imagine that the prowessand dexterity needed to play must be incredible.   OK, I’ll give you that, but I do believe dexterity was an issue today, because I think I heard some “misplays” on the keys.

Secondly, did anyone else notice how hollow and old Bill Clinton is looking?   He’s pale and his stark, ruddy looking nose  and a swollen, reddish face only contrasts the difference.   Why the red nose I wonder?  Well, I could venture about three decent guesses, but I won’t.  Not here; not now.  Plus, as Clinton  was standing in a pew,  holding a funeral card, his hand shook vehemently.   Palsy-like.     It was odd.

And frankly, during the Intercession of Prayers when younger family members stood up and offered them, I was made a little uneasy and frankly, I didn’t appreciate the way they were politicized.    Health care was mention–that it should be a right and not a privilege.

One child mentioned his uncle’s desire to end all war.

Basic human rights for every one:  man, woman…gay and straight.

Then, Obama stood up before God and man and hit home more agenda driven comments that he should have omitted.

I’m all for peace.  I’m all for decent health care that makes sense to every American and not some knee jerk response to asuage a political mind set.   I love my gay friends and wish them access to tha  which makes them happy and feel equal.

But to extol these things out of the mouths of young children and in a Catholic church at a funeral for a man who’s own life was often tarnished by his own actions????

No.

If rhetoric like this was spewed forth during a Conservative’s funeral, the media would be all over it.  

Funerals are a signifying event which in no uncertain terms, commemorate a life lived; the ultimate indication of change.

They are not, nor should they ever be political rallies.   

Ted Kennedy’s life was not exemplary, regardless of how his family and political colleagues try to paint it post script.  His funeral never should have been as polarizing as his life had been and personally, I found many of the comments quite polarizing…especially in that they well placed during a nationally televised broadcast of a funeral.

That said, his life should have ended differently–his painful battle with brain cancer not withstanding.  This is just my opinion only, but there should have been more across the board closure involved with this ceremony of closure.   

And sadly, politicizing a funeral mass was not the way to do it.

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