friendship

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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An Apologist, No More

I am currently dealing with an upper respiratory infection that has moved on microbially, but rendered me voiceless. Classic laryngitis. I can make guttural noises that resemble words, but it all sounds like the by-product of an unholy merging of the vocal stylings of Rose Marie, Brenda Vacarro, Suzanne Pleshette and Harvey Firestein. Family and friends love this forced silence, meaning it allows them to get a word in edgewise, but make no mistake, I am taking my current aphasia out on my keyboard.

While trying to remain quiet yesterday, I decided to do the most dumb ass thing in the world: I looked up old boyfriends. After a few inquiries I got bored. I guess I’ve moved on…

BUT….

I’m not so emotionally evolved that I couldn’t pass up the chance to check out the people I once. knew, tolerated, liked, and considered to be a friend, even though we were both forced upon each other, thanks to work or collegiate environs. In the real world, we would never have known each other. Our paths would never have crossed. And that’s okay. Life is like a trellis and we are the vines, forever trying to climb upward, or at least, that’s what we should be doing.

And nothing can remind us more of all that we haven’t done or become or accomplished or faced, quite like looking at an old acquaintance’s life through FACEBOOK eyes. Yes dear friends, this is the new millennium’s version of beer goggles.

I dropped out of the whole FB scene in early January. I got tired of the ‘look at me/notice me” effort that I was making and that so many people yearning for their eight and half minutes of fame.

It used to be 15 minutes, but with the sequester and all…

Anyway, I found a woman I once knew a lifetime ago. Thanks to blogs, a few podcasts, FB, My Space and an article or two, I was able to glean together what her life has been like in the absence of our friendship. Hers has not skipped a beat. And really, I didn’t expect it to.

She came from money and because water, they say, always seeks its own level, she married money. And her wealth isn’t that storied old money kind…you know, with longtime family friends named Bitsy, Roth, Barren and India who all look like they stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad shot at Martha’s Vineyard. Well healed and well wheeled trust fund babies who knew how to eat lobster and use finger bowls while the rest of the infantile world was still making uncoordinated jabs at cold Spaghetti O’s slathered across the tray table of a high chair. No, not this woman. To be more succinct, she came from new money and she married new money and she is what I can only describe as a “contained version of being over the top” in everything she does. Does that make sense? Not quite Phyllis Diller, but not Grace Kelly either. She takes chances with texture,color and style in ways I couldn’t.

Or wouldn’t.

Based on what I read; on what I saw, she seems to consistently makes eclectic choices that go beyond my comfort zone. And mind you, I’m not such a fashion backwards kind of broad. Not all that long ago, I used to have and yes, used to wear, a mini dress patterned just like the Partridge Family’s bus. It made me look as wide as one, but dammit, I took chances in my own way, but this woman and her bevy of friends make me look like a piker.

And why shouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t they? She…they are much younger than me. If memory serves, she’s in her 40’s now, she has three children and still ridiculously pretty. That Patrician profile of hers gives way to a face that is Hollywood gorgeous. She’s genetically gifted with symmetry. But somewhere along the way, since getting married and birthing, she became someone who I no longer recognize. In articles, she frequently drones on applying the adjectives such as glam and fashionista in everyday affect. Then, there’s the insertion of yummy, delish and fab to describe clothing or decor. Bracelets are fun. How about a kicky pair of earrings? I was waiting to read the word jaunty in her description of a set of tea towels.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very decent woman and there’s nothing wrong with her parlance. She appeals to a certain type of people, a different demographic and they all speak the same lingo. Her’s is an audience who knows about pretty living and pursues it regularly. Again, she is kind, considerate and generous as the day is long, but it was obvious the day we met, that yes, we had similar backgrounds, but we lived them very differently.
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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 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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Three Funerals And An Awakening

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It has been a very auspicious four days. 

In that short amount of time, I said goodbye  to three relationships.

I woke up this morning and realized that I’d just metaphorically buried one life-long relationship;  one 38-year-attachment that has in many ways, plagued me all of my adult life and one peripheral “friendshipship” that was as dysfunctional as it was brief.  

THE CAST OF CHARACTERS:  One family member; one old boyfriend and one new friend, three entities that comprise the trifecta of relationships.  I’m nothing if not thorough.

What I’m about to convey defies Biblical tenet, but I don’t believe one can completely honor thy father and mother.   Sorry Moses, but if there is cruelty and abuse, you must severe ties.   I did that and am quite comfortable in the choice I made.   In many ways, this person had been dead to me for a number of years, but he did something a few days ago that forced me to throw the last clump of dirt on his grave.

There is now finality.

That was Burial #1.

And old boyfriend who was my first love 38 years ago came back in my life recently and remained there for 29 days.   There were a million reasons why we couldn’t completely reconnect and I won’t bore you with the principle reasons, but I can tell you that it became obvious to me at least, that we’d grown up differently.   I know I did.   Talking to him though answered gnawing questions that I’d always wanted to ask.  

I only loved a distant memory, but I allowed it to interfere in many relationships.   First loves are incredible.  They set the bar because you have nothing to guage them against.  After he and I broke up,  I set up every other relationship to fail.  I thought he hung the moon and the stars only to realize that I forced myself to believe that in order to cover up my fear of committment and failure.  

In some ways, I never wanted to reconnect because I knew the man he had become was inconsequential.  I never wanted to meet him.  I only wanted to remember the young man he once was.    When we started talking again a few weeks ago, this became etched in stone.  Plus, the woman I had become made me realize that we had grown apart on so many levels.  I came from a diferent world.

But, people change and so do the circumstances of love.  The time; the place…everything really has to align just right.   There is even perfect alignment when things end, too.    And this relationship finally ended.

Closure.   The neat, tying up of loose ends…. forever.  

Emotional ashes to emotional ashes.

Farewell, my love.

This was  Burial #2.

I met her a mere five months ago.   We became friends despite the fact that we had little in common and eight years separated us in age.   We defied our our differences and tried to be friends, but things became  toxic and problematic and I stayed in the friendship longer than I should have.   Nothing was conducive to remaining friends.   She isn’t a bad person; neither am I.  We were just no good together.

Platonic dust to platonic dust.

Burial #3.

These were three very vital goodbyes, each pivotal to forward progression.  My forward progression.   Even so, I also awoke this morning to a somber day.   Solemn in mood and feel, but necessary.  I have no regrets, but I’m not happy about what happened either.   As I said, endings hurt, but despite the natural and appropriate sadness I feel, there’s an underlying sense of rightness to what I’ve done.

All of this, while right, is also confusing.   I used to have an idea of where I was going in life.   I don’t right now.  I’ve not a clue actually, but for the first time in my life, I have a real sense of where I’ve been and there’s a solidity to my past that never existed before.    No lingering questions–the welcomed absence of the painful and inevitable  “What if?” query;  nothing left unresolved.    I experienced everything and saw the door both swing open and then slam shut.   I got to witness the alpha and the omega.

Mercifully, I have closure and it’s wonderfully emphatic in its permanence.

Thank God.

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Onward.

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Life…In Real Time

I decided to amp up the number of times I exercise each week and in addition to that, I plan on adopting an even stricter enforcement of the amount of damning carbs I consume.

So in an attempt to jump start that, I decided to take my battered and rheumatoid body out for a walk around Memorial Park, one of two major parks due west and southwest of downtown Houston.  Memorial has a decent walking trail that’s three miles long.   Perfect way to start this far more intense effort to lose the extra butt I’ve been walking around with since that caloric onslaught we call Thanksgiving.

A lot of people were of like mind this afternoon.   The track was crowded but that’s understandable.  It was partly cloudy and the high today was 50 degrees.  For Houston, this is winter.   In a city where the seasons consist of hot and not quite as hot, this was a rare day indeed.

I like walking in the chillier temperatures.  Nothing gets my head straight  quite like walking in the midst of it.  I get a walker’s high I suppose.  And not only that, walking in Memorial Park allows that me to get back to nature.   One thing you may not know about Houston is how green it is.  Trees are everywhere.   Big trees.  Majestic oaks and  towering pine trees that soar upwards of 100 feet tall….some even higher.  Flowers too.   The humidity creates something of a greenhouse affect.

Great on our skin; hell on our hair.

This afternoon, I parked my car and entered the walking trail.   The air was clear , clean and cool.  Dead pine needles did as Nature instructed them millions of years ago and fell to Earth at the appropriate time of year.  They carpeted the sides of the trail and crunched underfoot.   They mixed in with other affected foliage, both on the ground and in it.  It was all quite pretty actually.

I thought about a myriad of things as I walked;  what my life was like a year ago; what it’ll be like a year from now.  Change and growth that’s already transpired and the mental and physical adjustments that I’ll have to make in time.  I thought about the people who’ve entered and exited my life and all the lives in which I’d arrived and departed.

Change.

That’s when I noticed a huge pine tree cut in sections, obviously felled by Hurricane Ike went it came ashore three months ago.  I walked over to a four foot long piece that had been cut and examined it’s rings.   Being the botanical nerd that I am, of course I counted them and according to my abilities to  understand the sequence of 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, this tree died at 97 years of age.  That really got me thinking about how it had been previously able to survive so many things.   Heat and drought, other hurricanes and the handful of times when snow dared to come this far south and drifted down to this trees boughs, never staying very long.

I thought about the person who planted it.  The families who over the years picnicked under it; the young couples who got engaged in it’s shade on a hot summer day.  It saw so much life in it’s rooted existence in Texas soil.

Change.

That got me thinking about the struggle I’ve had with that notion all of my life.   Then, that segued into thoughts about a childhood friend who died on my birthday this year.   I went to her funeral which meant traversing back to the scene of the crime–my youth.

Then, I remembered a post I wrote on an afternoon spent not only at my friend’s funeral,  but my visit home made me present for the official death of some memories I never wanted to keep and sadly, a few I never wanted to relinquish.

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APRIL 27, 2008

They say you can never go home again. There are times, when you just don’t want to, but I had to this weekend.  I went back to my hometown to say goodbye to a childhood friend whose life ended on the 49th anniversary of when mine started.

I left that sleepy, little South Texas berg in May of 1977. I’ve been back a few times since, but only a handful of times in the past 15 years.

My sister Karol, my mother and I arrived early and had a few minutes to ride around town before the funeral was set to begin. Ironically, a few minutes is all it takes to tour the city. It’s amazing what you can see if you’re looking; it’s amazing what you can feel when you trying not to feel a thing.

Everything was familiar, yet it wasn’t. The city itself seemed old and decrepit. Buildings were boarded up and collapsing in disrepair. I drove by places where I played, road my bike, swam. I passed by locations where seminal events happened…my first kiss; where I learned to drive; the high school auditorium I walked across to get my diploma. It was devoid of color, like the first 90 minutes of the movie, “Pleasantville”. It was as if enlightenment stimulates vibrancy. But that wasn’t the case here. Everything I saw was dull and lifeless. And extremely limited;  or that’s how it appeared to me. Everything had changed; it was all so different. But, I was also looking at everything through a different pair of eyes.  I left at 18;  a long time ago.

Then I saw people I knew. Or people I once knew.

I didn’t know these versions of my “life-shapers”–people who were so instrumental in helping me create the person I’ve become. They were people I knew as a kid: adults, teachers, parents of friends I’d grown up with. Their faces were in so many photographs of my memory–but not these faces. I didn’t recognize these faces.. Who were they? What happened? They had the audacity to get old. And they had the temerity to hammer that point home by their blatant use of hearing aids, wheelchairs, canes and walkers.

Senility; fragility.

My heart broke in the time it took for me to explain to one of my former teachers who I was for the third time in one conversation. And this was one of who quite fond of me.

What hath time wrought?

Then, I wondered how these people saw me. Most hadn’t laid eyes on me in decades. How DID they see me? Did I seem older, younger, chubbier, thinner, withered, taut, wiser, sillier? Or worse–God forbid– did they see me as completely unchanged?  Was I still that little girl, clamoring for attention?

There were those that were lucid and they remembered me right off the bat. We smiled at each other, then hugged–allowing vague familiarity to embrace more than anything else, and then our eyes met. In a fraction of a second, we tried desperately to remember things such as the last time we saw each other, grasping for recall of stories to convey–anything to quell the awkward silence brought on by fading memories and a gaping 30-year time span. And then, we must have thought as we scanned each others faces, “Dear God! How can nature be so cruel???

We’d both changed. In each other, we saw the sins committed by life and time.

He noticed my puffy eyes with dark circles; I saw his incredibly receding hairline, thinly veiled by an attempted comb over comprised of a few, sporadic strands.

She noticed the lines around my mouth; the puppet lines as they’re called. I saw the turgidity of her 75-year old stomach. Her jaundiced complexion would indicate liver involvement. Her lack of energy and malaise would indicate it’s latter stages.

At the wake, this “recognition” happened with amazing frequency that afternoon.

THEM: “Oh Laurie, it’s so good to see you!

ME: “Hi Mr/Mrs (Insert name here) How’s (insert name here). I haven’t seem him/her since high school. Is he/she married?”

THEM: “Yes, he/she and (insert name here) married and are now grandparents if you can believe that. Now, are you still in Houston? On the radio?”

ME: “Yes, I’m still in broadcasting. On the periphery, anyway”

THEM: “The last time I saw you, you were……”

You could finish that sentence with any number of places, adjectives, pronouns; what ever. They would all fit, and I assure you, they were all uttered in the course of one very sad afternoon.

In the end, I said my goodbyes, shared one last hug with old friends who’s lives had been so affected by death and then we left.

I was happy to do so because leaving ultimately meant I didn’t have to stay.

Did I pity those that had to stay? Did I feel sorry for them or better than them because they chose small time life as opposed to my choices? Was I so damn happy living in the city? Is where we live, ever more important than how we live? And if we’re happy–in whatever form happiness takes, really, isn’t environment just a component of that? Is the scenery just a somewhat minor part of the entire picture?

If that’s true,  then ultimately, does location matter at all?

As I looked around at friends, people and buildings I no longer recognized, I answered my own question: yes, it matters a great deal.

And so does the cruel, cruel process of aging and the wretchedness it incurs.

I drove off, wiping away a tear. I looked in the rear view mirror  as I did and witnessed the day’s final insult. I saw an 80-year old friend of my mother’s struggle to get into her car. Ten minutes earlier, she and I had been conversing and in her old, wrinkled face, I saw my mortality.  In her, I saw my past, my present and my future.

My inevitability.

At that moment, I wanted to vow that I’d never return, but I knew I’d have to. Fate would ensure I’d have to eventually to come back for more goodbyes.

Final goodbyes.

They say you can never go home again. But there are times, when you have to.  And while you can thank God you don’t have to stay, in some ways, you can never really leave, either.

.

Home

They say you can never go home again. There are times, when you just don’t want to.

But I had to this weekend.

I went back to my hometown to say goodbye to a childhood friend whose life ended on the 49th anniversary of when mine started.

I left that sleepy, little South Texas berg in May of 1977. I’ve been back a few times since, but only a handful of times in the past 15 years.

My sister Karol, my mother and I arrived early and had a few minutes to ride around town before the funeral was set to begin. Ironically, a few minutes is all it takes to tour the city. It’s amazing what you can see if you’re looking; it’s amazing what you can feel when you trying not to feel a thing.

Everything was familiar, yet it wasn’t. The city itself seemed old and decrepit. Buildings were boarded up and collapsing in disrepair. I drove by places where I played, road my bike, swam. I passed by locations where seminal events happened…my first kiss; where I learned to drive; the high school auditorium I walked across to get my diploma. It was devoid of color, like the first 90 minutes of the movie, “Pleasantville”. It was as if enlightenment stimulates vibrancy. But that wasn’t the case here. Everything I saw was dull and lifeless.

And extremely limited…or that’s how it seemed to me. Everything had changed; it was all so different. But, I was also looking at everything through a different pair of eyes.

Then I saw people I knew. Or people I once knew.

I didn’t know these versions of my “life shapers”–people who were so instrumental in helping me create the person I’ve become. They were people I knew as a kid: adults, teachers, parents of friends I’d grown up with. Their faces were in so many photographs of my memory–but not these faces. I didn’t recognize them. Who were they? What happened? They had the audacity to get old. And they had the temerity to hammer that point home by their blatant use of hearing aids, wheelchairs, canes, walkers…senility.

Fragility.

My heart broke in the time it took for me to explain to one of my former teachers who I was for the third time in one conversation. And this was one of who quite fond of me.

What hath time wrought?

Then, I wondered how these people saw me. Most hadn’t laid eyes on me in decades. How DID they see me? Did I seem older, younger, chubbier, thinner, withered, taut, wiser, sillier? Or worse–God forfend– did they see me as completely unchanged? Was I still that little girl, clamoring for attention?

There were those that were lucid and remembered me. We smiled at each other, then hugged–allowing vague familiarity to embrace more than anything else, and then our eyes met. In a fraction of a second, we tried desperately to remember things such as the last time we saw each other, grasping for recall of stories to convey–anything to quell the awkward silence brought on by fading memories and a gaping 30-year time span. And then, we must’ve thought as we scanned each others faces, “Dear God! How can nature be so cruel???

We’d both changed. In each other, we saw the sins committed by life and time.

He noticed my puffy eyes with dark circles; I saw his incredibly receding hairline, thinly veiled by an attempted comb over comprised of a few, sporadic strands.

She noticed the lines around my mouth..the puppet lines, as they’re called. I saw the turgidity of her 75-year old stomach. Her jaundiced complexion would indicate liver involvement. Her lack of energy and malaise would indicate it’s latter stages.

At the wake, this “recognition” happened with amazing frequency.

THEM: “Oh Laurie, it’s so good to see you!

ME: “Hi Mr/Mrs (Insert name here) How’s (insert name here). I haven’t seem him/her since high school. Is he/she married?”

THEM: “Yes, he/she and (insert name here) married and are now grandparents if you can believe that. Now, are you still in Houston? On the radio?”

ME: “Yes, I’m still in broadcasting. On the periphery, anyway”

THEM: “The last time I saw you, you were……”

You could finish that sentence with any number of places, adjectives, pronouns….what ever. They would all fit, and I assure you, they were all uttered in the course of one very sad afternoon.

In the end, I said my goodbyes, shared one last hug with old friends who’s lives had been so affected by death….and then we left.

I was happy to do so because leaving ultimately meant I didn’t have to stay.

Did I pity those that had to? Did I feel sorry for them or better than them because they chose small time life as opposed to my choices? Was I so damn happy living in the city? Is where we live, ever more important than how we live? And if we’re happy–in whatever form happiness takes, really, isn’t environment is just a component of that? Is the scenery just a somewhat minor part of it?

If that’s true,  then ultimately, does location matter at all?

As I looked around at friends, people and buildings I no longer recognized, I answered my own question: yes, it matters a great deal.

And so does the cruel, cruel process of aging.

I drove off, wiping away a tear. I looked in the rear view mirror and witnessed the day’s final insult. I saw an 80-year old friend of my mother’s struggle to get into her car. Ten minutes earlier, she and I had been conversing and in her old, wrinkled face, I saw my mortality. In her, I saw my past, my present and my future.

My inevitability.

At that moment, I wanted to vow that I’d never return, but I knew I’d have to. Fate would ensure I’d have to eventually to come back for more goodbyes.

Final goodbyes.

They say you can never go home again. But there are times, when you have to.  And while you can thank God you don’t have to stay, in some ways, you can never really leave, either.

Allow Me To Intrude

I like prying into your life.

I am a blogging voyeur.

You are fun to get to know; fun to analyze. And yes, it is analysis, of sorts. Since I know nothing about psychology, this gives me the opportunity to gain entre′ to your life and that in turn, USUALLY allows me to feel MUCH better about myself if I know what screw ups everybody else is.

And frankly, at this moment, I need a little help in that arena, so indulge me, won’t you?

Answer these questions, help me feel better and in doing so, you’ll be helping me knock out a cheap, quick and conceivably, quite interesting post since at the present time, I do not possess a single creative amoeba in my body.

Thank you.

•••••••

QUESTION ONE:

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to another person? Morally, ethically–nothing criminal, please. Frankly, I’m SOOOOO not in the mood to be part of a police investigation, so pretend I’m just a friendly, neighborhood, heterosexual priest in your friendly neighborhood confessional.

Tell me about about the person you were when you did these things: were you mean to this person or these people? If so, how, when and why? Did you humiliate them? Hurt their feelings? Break her heart or crush his spirit?

And then, tell me how you still feel about what you did.

QUESTION TWO:

If you could relive three hours of your life, what would they be? Why would you do it and when was that particular time? And if you got this incredibly unique opportunity, what you do differently this time?

QUESTION THREE:

Describe love to me. Physically, emotionally. School in the ways and means of love. Tell me everything. You see, I worry I’ll never find it. Would I even recognize it if it were before me?

I fear that my life will get all Eric Segal, the author of Love Story and someday someone will say to me, “Love means never having to say you’re Laurie”.

What a drag.

Seriously, tell me about love; your visceral reaction to it….everything.

QUESTION FOUR:

Who, what is God to you? No long, ecclesiastical, Bible quoting dissertations here, please. Just answer the question.

It’s easier than you think.

QUESTION FIVE:

There are just five questions in this post…that’s all. Hardly one of my lengthy, more pressing ones which drone on and on for pages indicating that I am obviously in love love with the sound of my own keyboard.

So, now then–let’s discuss lessons learned.

In this, my final query, I’d like for you to tell me about the time in which you felt the most fear. In the simplest of terms, when was the last time you were scared to death…scared , shitless”   Tell me about the last time you were absolutely scared to death –when you feared for your safety and well being or for someone else’s?   Tell me when it happened, where were you when it happened? How old were you?  Details.

More importantly, what did you learn from the experience?

•••••

EPILOGUE:

Sometimes, facing simple truths about ourselves is difficult. Brevity doesn’t always prompt ease and length or duration shouldn’t automatically instill the fear of complexity.

If my blog–more particularly, this post–can do anything it all, I want to hold it up to your face. Like a mirror. I do it to myself all the time, but this time, it’s your reflection looking back at you.

What do you see if you have nothing else in your line of sight but you? Do you see fear? Loathing? Confidence? Confusion? Regret? Remorse? Excitement? Optimism?

Hope?

I want those last three things for you, I really do, but like you, I’m human.

Mortal.

I wish that I could wish all of those evil things to the cornfield, Anthony, but I can’t. I can only relate. So, if you’re scared, I get it. I know. Hell, I’m petrified!

We’re scared of failing, we’re scared of succeeding. Scared of winning and losing; of loving and then one day realizing we’re lacking. Fear can be paralyzing. Immobilizing. It makes us grab on to the first thing that looks remotely secure. And then we continue to hold on because it makes us feel secure, no matter what.

But looks are deceiving…and so is stability.

It’s hard to let go, but nothing impedes progress more than refusing to relinquish your grip on something.

Or someone.

“You can never cross the ocean unless you’re willing to lose sight of the shore”

–Christopher Columbus

Come with me…….my ship sails at six bells.