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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10 Responses to Denial really ain’t just a river in Egypt

  1. susie says:

    I’m sorry. The combination of guilt and grief can be overwhelming. We should all learn from this–that sometimes there is no second chance. But don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there, and you are probably harder on yourself than he would ever be. Try to let the guilt go.

  2. jeanne says:

    I’m so sorry. I want you to re-read your very thoughtful post. You did keep in touch with him, and with those close to him. He knew how much you cared about him. I know how hard it is not to be there–especially when you think you should have been. Please remember all the good things you wrote about sharing with Chuck. I’m betting that’s what he remembers.

  3. m says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I agree totally with Jeanne. My mom died of cancer and near the end she didn’t want anyone to see her. It was bad. It’s better that you remember him the way he was. Defintely think of him on your ride on Saturday. I’m curious to see what time (PR) you get.Thanks for visiting. Love your blog!

  4. Susan says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Grief is a very powerful emotion. Take Care.

  5. Mother of Chaos says:

    What a rotten loss. I’m so sorry, for both of you.These things hit us so hard, don’t they? All the shoulda-coulda-wouldas just won’t shut up. Like it isn’t enough to be grieving, our minds keep reminding us of all the things we MEANT to do but DIDN’T and on and on and on…But you’re right. The grief and guilt aren’t forever. The fond memories are, though, right?

  6. Dori says:

    He sounds like a special man. Grief sucks. Years ago, when my nephew died suddenly, someone told me about the seven stages of grief. They are:(1) Shock or Disbelief (2)Denial (3)Bargaining(4)Guilt (marked by statements of “if only I had done/been…”) (5)Anger (6)Depression (7) Acceptance and HopeI found these suggestions for dealing with grief on a Google search:Give yourself permission to grieve, taking the time that is needed. Sort out the different problems associated with grief and handle those easily remedied first. Allow yourself to talk about the loss. This is particularly helpful is the loss is the death of a loved one. Draw on relationships with friends and family. Consider joining a support group. Develop ways or rituals to celebrate your loss (birthdays, anniversary, life celebrations, etc.) Turn to God or spirituality in any way you find meaningful. Be patient with yourself and others. Look for the gift that comes with every loss. Make an appointment for individual assistance. Continue to love and hope.I hope this helps.

  7. stefano says:

    I am sorry, try to remind all the best moments. He’d understand.

  8. Bex says:

    I think he would appreciate your writing about him so thoughtfully and lovingly. Thinking of him and talking about what he meant to you with others is paying tribute to your friend.

  9. David says:

    What you probably wanted to do was say thanks to him for making your life meaningful again. He probably already knew that, accepted the way things turned and was happy that you are happy. If you go to the service you can say thanks to him there. He’ll be listening.

  10. Elle says:

    I have no advice…not even a comforting word. All I can say is that for me it has been a little better day by day. Especially with whisky…whisky makes everything better…just so you know.There is no utility in feeling guilty. Your friend would most certainly not want you to feel guilty…and not everyone wants people around them in their last days…some people just want to be left alone. Your phone calls were probably enough. I am sorry you’re hurting.

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