rest well my friend

It’s an unfortunate association. Deadpool the movie and my friend Adam.

Adam was sick when I met him. I was a new Mason and was attending my first meeting at another lodge. He sat by himself, near the door. Several times during the meeting he slowly got out of his chair and left the room. He was absurdly bloated, his face in particular. He was clearly in a lot of pain. I wanted to know his story. I approached him after the meeting. Masons do that. We want to meet everyone in the room because a Stranger is a friend you have yet to make.

At first we made small talk. Conversation was difficult because other people kept approaching us to talk to Adam. He was clearly very well-liked. It was also clear that he was very sick. I would later find out that he had nearly died of cancer 8 years prior and he was still very sick from all of the harsh treatments he had endured.

Adam and I became fast friends. In addition to Masonry and both having a Chronic Illness, we had much in common and we always had something to talk about. It wasn’t long before we were hanging out. Usually at his house, the poor bastard was always sick or recovering from something. It was hard to watch, he was a young guy, not even 40 years old.

When we got him out of the house, on days when he still had a few spoons in the drawer, he was a joy. He was so happy to be able to enjoy those moments, he knew that the next ones weren’t guaranteed. As time went on, those outings were fewer and farther apart.

Adam was a good and kind person. He got a bad shake in life. He was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer on his leg at age 30. With a survival rate of about 18% he defied the odds. But post treatment the cures began to kill him. Knee replacements, hip replacement, a pacemaker, enough medications to kill a small horse. He had several infections in which he was hospitalized for months at a time that left him weakened and compromised. By age 40 he was barely hanging on. Fortunately he kept his sense of humor and his love for movies alive. The movie that I saw him get most excited about was Deadpool. As soon as he learned that the comic series was being made into a movie he was planning to go see it. When that day came he was downright giddy. I wasn’t able to go with him but the other guys said Adam had a blast. It warmed my heart that something as ordinary as going to a movie could make one person so happy. In that moment my friend was happy. If anyone ever deserved it he did.

Not long after Deadpool Adam developed an infection. He was hospitalized for over a month. Tragically, he never came out. His ravaged body couldn’t fight anymore. I was so angry with myself for not going in to see him, despite his father’s assuring me that Adam wasn’t present mentally and it wouldn’t have mattered.
His parents had mourned his death long before it happened.

I miss my friend. I miss the big smile and quick wit. I miss his giving nature, he never talked about himself but instead tried to help others. It made him forget for a moment how sick he was. I miss hanging out at his house arguing politics. I miss the many lessons I constantly learned from him in toughness and optimism.
He can finally get some rest. He put on a big smile for all of us but behind that smile was so much pain. It took so much out of him and it took a lot out of us to watch it.

Rest well my friend

Inconspicuous absence

There will be a funeral for my Aunt tomorrow. A “social distancing” funeral where no more than 10 people at a time are allowed graveside, including clergy. All others are to remain in their cars. It’s a 2 hour drive for me.

I will be inconspicuously absent.

I have an excuse, I have dialysis. As far as the attendees are concerned I made every effort to change my appointment but couldn’t make it happen. Call it my little secret, but I didn’t even try. Why do I care? Most of the people in attendance don’t want to see me. And I couldn’t give less of a shit if I had to.

Riverside Cemetery is in my hometown. An enormous, sprawling landscape of rolling hills and old, massive oak trees providing abundant shade for the eternally resting, Riverside is full of stones with familiar names. The amount of stones with my last name is staggering.

Ellie bought a plot near my grandparents on my father’s side. It’s that section of Riverside cemetery that I don’t want to visit. A place of meditation and introspection for most of my family, to me section C is representative of a house divided. Many of the stones are dedicated to good, honest people with a solid legacy in town. Many others turn my stomach.

Tomorrow, Ellie will be laid to rest next to her abusive brother in law who raped her nieces and beat the nephews. Only when he wasn’t shitfaced and beating her sister. On the other side of her will be the brother that died in prison, a career criminal known in town as a pedophile with three known child rapes and voluntary manslaughter under his belt. I could go on but I won’t.

There is no way that I can tell this story in this blog. I may tell it later. The only thing I can say in order for this to make sense is that many of the people buried in Section C of Riverdale in my lifetime, and many attendees tomorrow, colossally disrespected the most honest man I have ever met. My father.

I thank God every time I visit that he is buried in a different section.

Tomorrow’s attendees may have no problem at all with the shameful past of Section C. I do and always will.

If this story is something that you want to hear more of, drop a note in the comments section.

Ellie

We weren’t close. I’m sad to admit it. But she’s family.

My father has 2 sisters, Margie and Ellie. Margie had 6 kids and survived an abusive sonofabitch of a husband. He died and she met a man who would make up for all of the abuse and more. Sonny. He did everything right by her until he died ten years ago. Margie recently became unable to care for herself and she was forced to move to a nursing home.

Ellie was a far less accomplished woman. To be honest, she led a unaccomplished life. Born with Epilepsy she, by all accounts, used her illness as a crutch. She barely graduated from High School. She never worked a day in her life. She lived with my Grandfather and cared for him (he was sick with Emphysema from my earliest memory) until his death in 1983.

I worked at the local Supermarket through High School. Ellie and my grandfather lived on “the Pond”, a section of town named after an actual Pond, Martin’s Pond, a huge area of town notorious for lower income but hearty families. Many of my friends lived there, “Ponderonians” as it were. My kind of people. The entrance to “the Pond” was a street off of the main road that started as a long and steep hill. Ellie and Gramps lived on the very bottom where it flattened out. Gramps had a view of the water on one end of the house and the street on the other. Confined to an oxygen tank, he inexplicably chose the street view and sat in the window year round. He was notorious for his omnipresent face in the window. Ellie’s notoriety was to be seen slowly plugging up the hill with her obvious (and unexplained) limp as she pulled her makeshift shopping cart with her. She spoke and dressed poorly. She was the focus of a good bit of mockery among my Supermarket colleagues. Kids can be cruel and it wasn’t until they learned that she was my Aunt that they let up a bit, in my presence at least.I’d like to think that I wasn’t ashamed of her but I think I was. In the back of my head, however, I always reminded myself that she was family and you never turn your back on family.

It was easy to underestimate Ellie. She was an unremarkable person. My father didn’t care for her, his own sister. He had no respect for her. He thought that she could have done so much more and he believed that she hid behind her illness. According to my cousin Mike, who I am the closest to, her Epilepsy wasn’t a constant nuisance to her, her episodes were few and far between and there was no reason she couldn’t have worked, or volunteered or done something other than sit and watch soap opera’s.

I lost touch with her for a lot of years. We reconnected a little last year at the Nursing home. She ended up in the same facility as Margie. Margie is lucid and strong, Ellie has dementia. Catching up was not to be with her, she was on a loop in which she asked me the same questions every ten minutes. She was cheerful at least.

My relationship with Ellie wasn’t complex. But it has been a secret source of shame for me for many years. I could have been nicer to her, I could have kept touch with her. She was always nice to me.

It’s too late now. She and Margie contracted the CoronaVirus last week along with 59 other patients in the home. Margie is hanging on.

Ellie died yesterday.