Old Friends

Went to a funeral last night.

The grandmother of my oldest friend died at 92. This was the kind of death that people call a relief because she had been ill and incapacitated for the last five years or so. Hospital bed in the middle of the living room, diapers, oxygen and IV.

Watching people die is never easy. The impulse is to hold on to them as long as possible, and so my friends self-preservation doesn’t factor in. Like a frog boiled in water that is heated slowly, she was unable to see the toll caring for her grandmother took on her.

My friend has had a hard life, and will likely continue to have a hard life. Her brother died last April at 46 of a heart attack leaving her the sole care-giver for both her grandmother and her mother, who is on disability. She will keep going and support her Mom but at this point its not clear which of them will bury the other.

It is difficult for me to see folks who still call me by my childhood nickname. My friend is effectively the last one who really knows me from the past. Who I was before I crossed the river to the never-never land of the suburbs. It might as well be Mars.

The chat turned to kids as it does once everyone has them, and my friend remarked that I had lucked out because my kid is so well-behaved. No drugs, no drinking, no smoking or running around in the middle of night with dangerous boys – everyone laughed remembering just how much of that we did. I said ‘Yeah, I am very lucky indeed’.

Another friend started asking me how I “broke that cycle that we are all in” with my kid because she was really worried about her niece. I said ‘the difference is my daughter has nothing she needs to escape from that can’t be accomplished with a good book’. I got a blank look.

I told her when we were kids we were escaping from crappy lives into whatever danger or reality altering substance was available. A giant game of chicken because, so what?, past present and future all looked the same. I got a nod.

Finally I said to her, ‘You know what? Tell your niece her life right now is not forever and she can get out if she wants to. She just has to want to’. I got another nod.

I wish I could remember when or why or how I decided I had to get out and do something different. I would like for there to be some epiphany I could share with others and be all inspirational like Geoffrey Canada. But all I got right now is – You gotta want to.

I hope thats the end of the funerals for a while.