This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written. But I can’t put off writing it because if I do, it might be too late. It’s already too late for a lot of things, but saying goodbyes are never easy. I’m no stranger to cancer. I’ve bawled my eyes out at funerals for friends with breast cancer who didn’t make it. This time it’s a little closer to home and way more personal than you’d think it would be if you knew the person I’m saying goodbye to is on the other side of the planet. But old friends will always be old friends, and there are so many memories that come flooding in when I listen to music from the 70’s and 80’s, things that remind me of my youth.
I want to run away from the keyboard and go take a long walk, but I really do need to put these thoughts down, and share them, hard as it is.
My first boyfriend, the first guy in the world to ever take an interest in me and who thought I was amazing, beautiful and all that sweet stuff – he had just turned 16 and I was about 13. We went to the movies. Lots of movies. Towering Inferno, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Muppet movies, you name it, we saw them. We dated on and off all through my high school days. I visited him in Traverse City when he was going to college there, I spent so much time at his home in Saginaw I eventually moved in with his mom when I returned home from the Air Force and my mom had moved up north in the meantime. I got my first job while living there, and later, found my first apartment and moved out on my own.
Time marched on, I got married, had kids, we bumped into each other and had lunch once. More time passed and then we ran into each other on MySpace (I think) and later Facebook. We’ve kept in contact pretty much ever since. He once offered to buy a webcam for my kids so I could Skype with them. That didn’t happen, but the offer, and the firm belief that no matter what, I had to keep in as much touch with kids (who at the time weren’t able to use their Dad’s computer without supervision). And now that the kids are older, we really are in constant communication.
A few months ago, he started mentioning things like chemo on his Facebook page and I finally had to ask him privately what was up. He has terminal cancer. The type that people don’t want you to know they have. Until recently I didn’t know what that was about, but I get it now. And I will keep that info to myself. You’ll notice that some celebrity deaths also don’t mention the type of cancer. There’s a reason for that. But it’s not my place here and now to write about that.
He tried a chemo trial that might have given him an extra 6 months of time, but unfortunately it didn’t work and he’s now spared a lot of the extra trauma of going through the nonsense stuff people don’t even realise cancer patients have to deal with. In his case it was trying to get to the hospital the day before chemo to have blood tests, and then get a ride back to the hospital for the actual chemo and stay with him for the hours that it took, and help him home afterwards. He’s living in an upstairs apartment and planned to move before becoming very ill, but that didn’t happen and navigating the stairs has been extremely difficult as well as just living alone. Thankfully his sister has arrived (after driving cross-country and nearly ending up in Mexico accidentally). I’m so relieved to know he’s no longer on his own.
Over the last several months, I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate my thoughts on losing a long distance friend – a friend that’s been a part of my life for so so many years. Worries about how I’ll find out… Over time, there have been several long distance friends – some that I’ve only known on the Internet – that have simply disappeared. Just last year, one of our regular clients and a breast cancer survivor disappeared. Emails to her started bouncing and I found her domain had expired (very unlike her) and after a great deal of searching by several friends, we found that she had died, but no one knew to let her online friends know. She had no close relatives where she lived. I don’t think that will happen as local friends have been good about letting us Facebook people know when he’s been in hospital and such. But it’s still a fear.
I also want to be able to say goodbye. But not in a way that’s sappy or anything. I just want to say, wow, we sure shared a lot of memories together, I’ll never forget you and believe it or not, you’ve actually been a good influence on me. I don’t want you to go, and I know you don’t want to either. I hope you are able to go with some dignity and I hope that one day, in the next world, we’ll be able to again pick up where we left off. I will miss you, my friend.