Here is another.
It was unbearable. The whole thing. Every second worse than the last. I just kept thinking about calling him, wondering what would happen, if anyone would answer. In the last weeks, we’d been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing. The pleasure of remembering had been taken away from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.
I’ve been meaning to write you all this past week for the obvious reason: August 15 would’ve been your 31st birthday. It pisses me off I can’t directly tease you about becoming a dirty old man despite the fact I am older than you. I still feel cheated out of years of memories of us. I suppose I had such a clear vision of us still arguing over memories in our 70s and 80s, just like your Great Aunts E. and G. and my Grandma, I still can’t quite believe it just wasn’t meant to be.
The passage above describes well what I feel nearly three years after you passed away. I’m afraid those quirky memories we made in childhood, high school, and then college will die if I happen to forget. I just don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to forget. I’m glad I read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green before I tried to write anything. Now this letter has a purpose.
That is what is so aggravating. Every time I think of you, what I want to say to you, or memories of us, it just seems to go nowhere. Without you here, who is left to really care, besides me? No one. Once I come to that conclusion for the hundredth time, I realize how futile writing a letter to you is. And yet, I can’t help it. I have to do something. There were way too many things left unsaid.
By the way, don’t get the impression that I’m the only one who remembers you. I can only imagine the hole left in your family. Just the other day I came across a post Carla posted on your Facebook wall. I know she misses you just as much as I do, as does Jelly. Some time ago I saw Jelly when I ordered something at Tony’s, and we just didn’t even know what to say to each other. It was the first time I saw her since you passed away. We talked about anything and everything else, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t first and foremost on our minds.
So here it goes. Here are a few memories of us:
High School –
Freshman Year. You ended up getting hours of detention for picking on me in Freshman English. It became so bad Miss V. quipped that you and I would probably end up married someday, we were that practiced at nagging each other. Every time I think of Friends, Romeo and Juliet, or Great Expectations, I think of Freshman English and you. I can almost feel you tapping me on the shoulder and hear you make some smartass remark about people trying to look like Courtney Cox. By the way, I know you knew you had it all wrong. The haircut was called the Rachel for a reason. You just liked to play dumb to get attention. I still find it amusing that you ended up with detention and I didn’t.
Prom. I will never forget you on Prom Night, senior year. You ended up taking my cousin K. (Rusty) as your date, and she became Prom Queen. I’d never seen you so incredibly happy. You had to tell everyone that you were the date of the Prom Queen and were genuinely happy for her. I know it is stupid, and I never admitted this, but until I saw you that happy, I was envious of K. If you’d asked me to the prom, I doubt I would’ve said yes. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t imagine it. It could’ve made up for years of us being ostracized by our class. We could’ve spent all night making snide remarks, joking around, and just proving everyone wrong. In the end, I don’t think either one of us had the guts.
Kayaking and Guy. I’ll never forget your Aunt L. and Guy visiting from Texas one summer. Somehow I was pressured into taking Guy kayaking. I don’t think I ever paddled so fast in my entire life. The entire trip was strange. I just felt like I had to show him up, he was that cocky. You were very right about him. I can understand why you two weren’t exactly friends. I’m trying in vain to remember whether or not you went with us. Maybe you just came to the Livery and didn’t go kayaking? It doesn’t matter. We did talk about Guy and came to the conclusion that he was a little too wrapped up in Friday Night Lights.
State. I distinctly remember the day we received our housing assignments for our first year at Michigan State. My jaw dropped when I realized not only were we going to attend the same university, we were assigned to the same dorm complex, Snyder-Phillips. Quite frankly, I wasn’t happy. I just wanted to start fresh as MSU, and there you would be, a reminder of school years I would rather forget. In the end, I’m so grateful for that simple twist of fate. Quite simply, college would not have been the same without you.
A National Championship and the Flintstones. I love the fact that we somehow found each other among throngs of people in Cedar Village after MSU won the 2000 National Championship. I think about that April night a lot. How could I not? That picture of us outside Cedar Village – you smoking a cigar and your arm around me, me smiling like my life depended on it – is among my favorites.
2nd Floor, Snyder Hall. You used to love hanging out on my floor in Snyder Hall. I’ll never forget the crazy 3 AM political conversations we had, Kim included. I just can’t wait until we have the first female President of the United States. I’ll smile, think about how you just lost a bet, and carry on, thinking about how very wrong you were the entire time. Sexism doesn’t pay.
Where were you? I’ll never forget getting a call from your Mom freshman year at State. She couldn’t get a hold of you and simply wanted to know if I knew where you were. I didn’t at that moment, and the entire thing broke my heart. I wish I could’ve helped her – and you.
Capstone. We’d lost track of each other during those years I studied abroad. Nevertheless, you found your way back into my life. You just wanted me to look over your résumé and rekindle our friendship. It worked. You once again became a fixture in my life.
Crunchy’s and a Broken Heart. D, I have no idea what your true feelings for me were, but you must have truly cared for me on some level, whether you wanted to acknowledge it or not. During the spring of 2004, as my life was endlessly shifting under me before I could even regain my footing, you somehow knew how heartbroken hearted I was. You knew that I simply needed a night out with an old friend who understood just how upset I was. I wanted that job in Austin desperately, not to mention the mess that was my personal life at that point. Many things happened that evening, of course , and even the next day. I’m not going to talk about them here, but I need to say this: Thank you! You knew just what I needed, even if I didn’t.
Brian. That same spring, 2004, I began my relationship with an old friend, Brian. Your teasing still makes me laugh. Some of it was so spot on, especially those jokes about how I could never have any fun while living in Arenac County. You basically stated that any night of debauchery in Arenac County would become common knowledge before I even made my way home. So very true. I got the sense that you were happy that I finally had a man in my life, my first true romantic relationship. Those were some wonderful days for Brian and I, and I think you could sense just how happy I was at that moment. If only I could live in those moments forever.
A phone call or two. It still upsets me that we weren’t closer in those first few years after I graduated from Michigan State. I thought we would have time. Unfortunately that is what we didn’t have. There were several times I wanted to call you up and just lay everything on the line. I wanted to know what your feelings for me were. That was one thing I could never figure out. I wanted to know why you had so many issues with your Mom and brother, especially your Mom. I wanted to know what was really going on with you. Unfortunately we never had those conversations. I didn’t realize just how wrong things were until you were gone. It was too late.
Great Auntie G.’s Funeral. Of all my memories of you, your Great Aunt G.’s funeral stands out. It was the last time I ever saw you. It started immediately. We just gravitated toward one another. I suppose that’s no surprise as we were the only people under 50 in the room. Then, of course, my Grandma asked us to go get her a package of hearing aid batteries. We may have been at a funeral, but it sure didn’t take us long to start laughing our butts off once we were out the door. You either laugh or cry, right? You have to admit: It was the perfect excuse for us to catch up. After picking up the hearing aid batteries, you and I just drove around and reminisced. We covered a lot of ground from Standish to Omer. I’m so glad we had that opportunity. In a way, it was almost as if you were saying goodbye. The last time I saw you, you and your Dad were leaving the funeral home and walking toward the Granton. It angered me at the time, but I suppose everyone deals with death in their own way. I just never figured out how to deal with yours.
You have no way of knowing this, of course, but I never made it to your funeral. I ended up having to work. I suppose it is just as well as I would’ve been an absolute wreck. A few weeks after your funeral, I tried to find your grave. There were things left unsaid (most of which I am writing here today) and I wanted to get it all off my chest. There is so much in our hometown and in East Lansing that will always remind me of you.
And yet, there is one thing that still bugs me. What was our relationship? Whatever it was between us was much deeper than simple friendship, and yet we never had a romantic relationship, not even close. The closest thing I can come up with is that we were family without actually being related. We knew how to get on each other’s nerves, we knew how to make each other laugh and cry, and above all, I think we both cared. Was it really as simple as that? I like to think so. I love you and miss you.
PS – Oh, and one last thing. Your Mom. I never told you this, but your Mom happened to be my Grandpa’s favorite nurse. I know that you didn’t have a good relationship with her and it never was any of my business, but I am grateful to her. She took great care of my Grandpa when he was dying. I wish I could simply tell her thank you. I wish I could talk to her about you.