Denial really ain’t just a river in Egypt

I was reading Elle’s blog today and was finally forced to admit something true. Maybe writing about it will be cathartic.

Friday I got a call on my cell phone to tell me that a friend had died. Not just a friend. This man was my very first boyfriend after I got divorced. He was the man who freed me from my stupor and fear and made me realize that just because I was 37 and had 3 small kids my life was not over and I would still be able to have fun. And we did have fun. We skied and we hung out at his beach house and he teased my kids like some sort of crazy uncle and he was affectionate and attentive and he really cared about me. He was probably the first man I had ever been with who really appreciated me as much for what was between my ears as for anything else. He was a quirky, interesting and very engaged person. He was also 18 years my senior and at some point I started to feel a genuine generation gap so I changed the relationship from lovers to friends. He was predictably gracious about it and we stayed close over the last 13 years.

I found out about a year ago that he was battling leukemia. His prognosis was quite good, though. More recently I had spoken with him after having to track him down. I was worried about him and rightfully so – the disease was back and he wasn’t doing that well. His sister answered his cell phone and told me he was in the hospital and that she would let me know when he was out. I didn’t hear from her or from him so I called again and learned that he was going to be put on some aggressive chemo but that he didn’t have to stay in the hospital for it and of that he was thankful. Turns out the chemo gave him dementia and really took a toll so they changed his protocol. I checked on him once again and he said it was going better. I meant to go see him – I really did. I told myself every day that I needed to call Chuck and arrange to go see him. I knew he didn’t want visitors when he was feeling sick but still – I just didn’t call. And then his sister phoned me to give me the bad news. All of a sudden he took a turn for the worse and he was gone. And that’s it. No more Chuck – no more first boyfriend, no more crazy Uncle, no life long friend.

I’m still stunned and more than a little angry with myself for not getting up to see him. Granted, he really didn’t want visitors when he was not feeling well and he was upset about losing his hair. Still – I just didn’t make the time and I’m sort of sick about it.

Grief is weighty. Grief can suck you dry. Grief compounded with a self inflicted guilt trip is even worse. I know he wouldn’t want me to feel that way and I know I won’t feel this way forever. I’m going to try to muster up the energy to ride strong on Saturday. It’s the least I can do for him and for me.

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