Yesterday, I received word that a long-time friend had passed away early in the morning. I was stunned because I hadn't realized that he was that critically ill. I was horrified because I had let so much of our contact lapse over the past few years. As the day progressed, I was anguished as an array of gut-wrenching memories flooded over me.
John and I have been friends for 23 years, since his mother moved next to my parent's home. He was in college, but he took the time to befriend a rather lonesome 14 year old. He helped me and several neighborhood kids get a decent part-time job at the foodcout he managed. He listened to my woes and as I grew up, we grew closer. Throughout college, graduate school, the missionary years and back to graduate school again, he was there. For two entire years while I plugged away at my MSW, we had a standing date for Chinese Food and a movie on Friday nights.
He knew I was a lesbian many years before I did, but never pushed the matter. He simply took me along to Pridefest, gay picnics, cruises and gay bingo. I had a blast and it was that familiarty that made my own coming out process very smooth.
He emailed me recently and told me to give him a call. I put it off because I was busy and it would occur to me at times that weren't convenient for a long phone call. I kep thinking “Oh, this Sunday I'll give him a call,” but that Sunday never came.
23 years is a long time to have a friend. After a sad afternoon and evening with his family and his beloved pets, Ledcat took me for something to eat and I just wept in the booth. For him, for me, for his family and friends, for his pets who don't understand, for the pet who won't be treated by him.
John was always there and it is difficult to imagine a world where that isn't the case. He's so real in my mind and memory right now — like a montage on a soap opera or a television show.
I'm terrified that as that montage starts to play less frequently, he won't be so real to me.
I have two other friends that I haven't called in awhile. You'd think I'd have rectified that by now, but I'm afraid it will be me weeping inconsolably about John.
He wouldn't approve, but he would understand.