Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And in the End

The memorial for John was nice.. as much as those things can be.

My sisters have gone back to Phoenix.  John's sister is heading to Houston for a college graduation ceremony.  It's just me, Riley and Token for the weekend now.  I need to get my ass in gear and get some things done.

My mental state isn't much changed, but having my sisters here made a big difference.  I could move back to Phoenix, but I don't want to do things simply as a crutch to my getting myself back together.  I think I need to work on me for a while and see if I can recover what is left of myself into something worthwhile without constantly seeking people out to cry in front of.  

The only thing I see ahead of me right now is time.  I hope I can do this.  I've seen other people crawl into themselves and disappear before, and I would rather that not be me.

Below the 'read more' link is my eulogy for John.

First of all, thank you for coming.  John had many friends who loved him, and he loved in return.  I’m sorry Riley and Token are not here, because John loved them as much as me… and they very much adored him.  They helped us not just be a couple, but a family.  That started with Zoe, Betsy and Sunni and we knew that we would always have dogs.

I have an intense anger at John – only for being gone.  Each of us has our strengths and our weakness.   In some of us, those two sides are miles apart.  John’s strengths were exceptionally disproportionate to his weaknesses.  Any anger I have at him is simply for the weakness that causes him not to be here, and still with us.. with me.   That is the only thing I will have to forgive him for.  The list of things I have to thank him for is endless.

After that anger is only extreme awe.. in what he was.  I truly was in awe of John from the first day I met him.  I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to be with him, but I had just got to Dallas and wanted to be a new person in a new city for a while.  Looking back, I knew that wasn't possible because John had me at ‘hello’, as silly as that sounds.   The awe turned to love, but I thought that love wasn't possible for me.  I never use that word, the L word, and feeling it at age 35 was strange.   It was my first time.  I still have a hard time using that word, but I know John changed that in me… I hope.

Before I moved to Dallas, I asked my mother, who had passed away a year before, to help me.  I had been laid off from work, and I was quickly running out of money.  I was lying in bed, and I said it out-loud “Mother, please help me”.  I didn't just think it; I said it while lying in bed. I think I had about $500 and a credit card to my name when I got to Dallas.  I got the job offer 2 days after asking mom for help after trying for over 6 months to find a job.  I wrote on my resume that I wasn't willing to relocate, but somebody called me anyway.  I have a massive fear of change, so I was willing to go broke in Phoenix rather than go somewhere else where nobody knew me.  Desperation got me here.

I have no idea what is coincidence or what is divine intervention, if there is such a thing.  I try to take things as they come, but no matter how it happened, I got the best job of my life, which I still have 10 years later, and I got John.  If mom arranged that, I owe her big time.

I talk to John now as if he can hear me.   There was a sign from him after the first time I did that… honestly. I looked at a picture of him and I, and I yelled at him, and then I pleaded with him, and then I told him how desperately I loved him.  I walked out of the bedroom where the picture was, and something happened.  The details don’t matter.   Coincidence could be to blame again – but even in my most skeptical of hearts, that told me that talking to him matters.  Maybe just for me, or maybe it does for him too.  

I did ask him to repeat himself, and he didn't  which is not terribly surprising.  I guess they don’t want to make it too easy, lest we do something stupid to go be with them too soon.  That or there are rules about what the departed can do.

He answered me again yesterday morning… in a rather fitting way I suppose.  I would not lie to you about this.  I got up at 8am, and I wandered around the house a bit.. and I just couldn't handle it and so got back into bed.  I laid there a while and thought I should talk to John.  I said, out loud, ‘John, please help me’.. a couple of seconds later, I heard the sound of a page of a book turning.. on the floor right beside the bed. .. on my side.  It was clear as a bell and sounded like a really large page had been turned.  I leaned over and looked down; there was nothing there but the rug. Not 2 seconds later, Riley and Token, who had been laying on the couch in the family room, came around the corner of the bed.  I was stunned.  Did the dogs sense him there?  Did they hear it too? I don’t know.  I think so.

Beyond all the qualities that John had that I was enthralled by, and there were many, his sense of empathy and love were the greatest.  He felt intensely for other people, and animals.  When I met him, he had Zoe, Betsy and Sunni.  Sunni was a blind girl that he had adopted, and when we walked the dogs around the block, Sunni was off leash.  She followed right behind John by the sound of his footsteps.  She laid on him like Riley did when we watched tv.  I wasn't much for having dogs sleep on the bed, but I was the new guy  - the dogs were going to be on the bed, the 3 of them, and whatever 4th dog he had for fostering.  I remember waking up one morning with some dog underneath the pillow that my head was on.  I got used to it.. and then I liked it.  John probably knew I would.

Dogs are creatures of habit, and I don’t want to make this celebration sad.. but Riley and Token had their bed-time routine with John as well.  Part of that involved Riley licking John’s bald head for an inappropriately long time before he settled down in between us.  I know that was pure joy to John.  Now when I go to bed, Riley looks for John and he’s confused.  I have to get out of bed, find him, and bring him back to lie next to me so I can fall asleep.  The dogs feel this loss.

Over the course of our relationship, as time went on, we did a lot of things together.  As I thought about the trips and events we went on, it occurred to me that the important part wasn't where we were or what we were doing.  It was simply that we were together.  We talked to each other about everything.. just deciding where we were going to stay, what sights to see.  I was thankful to him for taking me to Hawaii for my birthday, but now I realize the only thing that mattered is that we were doing that together.  It could have been anywhere.  That trip had a lot of adventure to it, but just looking at the pictures I cannot believe how happy he looks.  Being with me.  I never thought in my life that anyone could love me like that.

As I look at the pictures from those trips.. John is just beaming.  He felt that bond, understood it far better than I did.  It took a while for me to catch up on what that was all about.  There was no one without the other, and when I went on business trips there was only business until I talked to John on the phone every night, and then I was fine again.  He took me to the airport.  He picked me up when I got home.  He once sent a limo to my house to drive me to the airport for a business trip.  That was when we were just “dating”.
In some ways, it was overwhelming for me.. but I eventually got there too with how I felt about him.  I just didn't understand as early as he did.

We were married in every sense of the word, for all those reasons they tell you guys when you stand up in front of a preacher.   We never formalized anything, we couldn't  we just lived it.  And that is the thing that I miss the most.  I miss talking to him, and I miss the way he made me feel.  Even when I was being less than compassionate about something, he never lost that feeling that we were with who we were meant to be with.  He never uttered a mean word to me… or made me feel bad, ever.  Not once. All he did was shower me with love for 10 years, and as I look back on it, I don’t know how the hell I deserved that.  

There is that “’till death do us part” bit that usually comes at the end of the vows.  That’s the part I’m having trouble with now.  Some of you may have been through similar sorts of experiences and know what it feels like.  I guess that’s part of the human experience.  The word ‘addiction’ sometimes becomes relevant, and I spent ten years with the most powerful drug that’s ever existed.  Going cold turkey on John E is not a pleasant experience.  I would do anything to have more.. to have John back.  I try not to be consumed by guilt, but if I had him back, I would have been the rock for him that he was for me.   I would have fixed everything regardless of how much he resisted.  I tried, but I didn't understand how deep in health issues he’d gone. 

I hope, over time, I’ll be able to keep that love for him with me.  I can’t imagine that ever going away.  I feel just empty now.. gutted of will and a sense of identity.  Every part of me stripped and fallen to the floor, and I have to figure out a way to become a human being again.  Being with the love of your life, they become as much a part of you as you are.  I guess the challenge will be to just become Tom again, a different version, hopefully better, with whatever pieces of John I can keep for myself.

You all were John’s friends, and I became part of the package when you invited John to do things.  I need to be out of my comfort zone now, because my comfort zone is pretty isolated.  If you ever think you would invite John to do something, or just felt like being around him, call me or send me a message if you think I might make a decent substitute.  I’ll try to get past my social anxiety.  I’ll try not to be depressing.  I can’t ever be like John, though I wish I could take those most beautiful pieces of him and make them a part of me.  I want to try and honor his memory by being more of what he thought I could be… because he saw it there, and that’s what he loved in me even when nobody else could see it.

If you ever thought that John and I left a party too soon, or didn't stay long enough after dinner – that was all my fault.  It really is social anxiety.  We had a signal that I would use when I wanted to let him know that I needed to leave.   this.  Those are the little things you have with your mate.  John and I could start speaking in a different language that only we understood.

The way we came up with the ‘must leave now’ signal is kind of funny.  We went and saw Tom Petty at Madison Square Garden in New York.  Of course, John made sure we had great seats.  There was a guy in the row in front of us, built like John.  The guy was into the music and he was making that hand motion, and John leaned over and whispered to me, “that’s how fat guys dance”.  So, whenever I needed to get out of a social situation, I’d flash him that and he would make an excuse and we’d leave.  Just know that was always because of me, not John.

I hope you don’t mind (and I understand if you do, so sorry in advance).. but I read all the facebook messages that John had with his friends and family.  I’m trying to get to know as much as I can about John.  We had always respected each other’s privacy, our own space but I have a need to know everything I can. All I can say is that every one of the messages was beautiful… even the ones where he was just checking in on a friend to see how they were doing.  In reading everything, looking at all the pictures, it’s all so astonishing.  If John was a character in a fictional novel, the editor would send it back to the writer to re-do because it would seem ridiculously fake.  But, there was nothing at all fake about John.   If anything, he had to hold back his caring and empathy to keep from appearing a bit over the top.

Some of you might know about John’s affinity for numbers.  He was a Rain Man with numbers, and that’s not an over statement at all.  The other day, MaryBeth told me that John thought his magic number was 11.  I hadn't known that.  He never mentioned it to me.  She thought that it was appropriate to have this memorial on the 11th, but she didn't choose it.. the funeral director did.  

I played a lot of sports when I was younger.  My number for every sport, every year, was 11.  I don’t know why I picked that when I started playing Little League baseball at age 6.  I just did.  Maybe a coincidence.. maybe just cosmic.

We had a plan for our future.  It was quite beautiful.  I used to go with him on many of his real-estate related trips, and we’d sometimes take detours and go look at other houses.  The house in Richardson wasn’t very suitable for entertaining.  We were going to get ourselves healthy, get other issues straightened out, and then find a new house on one story with a big room connected to the kitchen for having guests, and a big back yard with lots of grass for the dogs.. so Riley could run.  We were going to have pop and mimi and MaryBeth and Steven and Kary over for Sunday dinners.  We were going to have friends over on Saturday nights to watch movies, or play poker or just sit and talk for a couple of hours.  The rest of the week, we’d have to ourselves.  That’s all I wanted.  It didn't have to be a mansion.. just some space, and a place for people to sit.  We could have done that for the next 30 years or so, and been very content.

I think at memorial services, you’re supposed to say goodbye, but that’s tough for me.  I still want to learn more about John, and figure out a way that I can keep the memories of him with me as I get older and past memories fade, as they inevitably do.  There are emails and pictures and all that.  I still have the first one he sent to me. I think I’ll start at the beginning and write the things I can remember down.  

So, I’m not going to say goodbye right now.  

I will tell you, easier than I could tell him. I love you John.  That will never leave me. Thank you for coming.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting that for me to read. You are a changed man forever and I can see it in your writing now. I read a quote Saturday that "love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning". Pay attention to your messages. You will get them when you need them to help you along. It is cosmic and is something that happens because you do love someone. I wish I could have met John. It is such a great thing to stay you loved Hang in there, one day at a time. Again, Love you my friend.