Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trying to Remember

Today is the first day of September. I knew it somehow in my heart before I knew it in my head this morning, for I found myself humming these lyrics in the shower as I got ready for work:

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow, follow, follow, follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow...

I stopped to wonder why I was humming that song, and of course half-singing the words all out of order. I love the song but it's not in my regular rotation of songs to sing obnoxiously off-key around the house. Then I realized it was indeed September 1.

I love the first of every month. New start. Fresh beginning. Clean slate. Fewer strokes of the pen when writing a check. My goodintentionsometer goes through the roof and everything seems much more possible. September 1 is especially good, though. I know that the equinox isn't for another few weeks and that I can still wear my white cotton pants until Monday without scandalizing most of society, and that our city's schools already started last week, but for me September 1st signals the end of summer and the beginning of my favorite season.

This summer has been a particularly hard one, and I'm not sad to see it go. Work has been inordinately stressful and my core belief in what I do was shaken and challenged in unexpected ways. Money's been tight everywhere I turn, the summer's heat wave seemed to go on forever and every time I turn on the news I feel I recognize my world a little less. I think I'm emerging more or less intact now, and there were many good times had as well, but today I'm not sorry to bid this summer adieu.

I'd made a much-delayed trip to the grocery store last night and so when I got up I also remembered I had a fridge-full of new food. Ten minutes later Ben was thrilled beyond words to discover a lovely pot roast buried under a ton of vegetables in a 6-qt. slow cooker. I wasn't cooking much over the summer so this was terribly exciting.

The day turned out to be good in many different ways. Around lunch it started to rain, cooling the day off and completely matching my mood. Then I found a spare wad of cash sequestered away in a pocket of my purse, so I treated myself to a late lunch by myself downtown. I don't know if I can adequately describe how great it was. I started with an almond steamer (frothy steamed almond-flavored milk, perfectly comforting and wonderful in every way) then had a big bowl of the soup of the day, a rich chicken and potato gnocchi soup. It was just exactly what I needed, and perhaps the most flavorful chicken brothed-based soup I've ever tasted. I couldn't finish it but I enjoyed every bit.

Lovely spot for a quiet late-afternoon sit on a rainy September day.

Really Great Soup. I took a picture.

Work was fun today. I started off this job not knowing the first thing in the world about graphic design, but now that's one of the more satisfying hats I get to wear. I like the combination of creativity and structure, the concreteness of the finished product. It's gratifying to make ads and materials that my colleagues appreciate and that I know are an improvement on what we'd used before.

Then when I got home, the house smelled of my childhood. All those Sunday lunches of pot roast Dad had made for the family Saturday night while we slept, all of those were waiting for me. I gave the dog a longer walk, enjoyed the post-rain September neighborhood, then settled in for pot roast and a quiet evening at home. Now I'm sitting here blogging for the first time in more than 15 months and listening to classical music on NPR and Ben's frittering around the house doing Ben things. It's nice.

Thinking back over my day, I knew it was one I wanted to remember. One where life was slow and oh so mellow. I knew it this morning before I even got started, and I knew once I knew that that it was time for a blog post, for myself if for no one else.

It's the first of the month and I'm full of good intentions, but I really would like to start writing here more often. No promises. But for now it feels good and I want to remember that feeling.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


My parents always made a big deal about my birthdays. I think most of the credit for this goes to Mom, but Dad was awfully jolly about my day, too. We'd have a great party and a day full of special Jennifer Things. I grew up thinking they were inherently magical, special days. 

I remember when I turned 18 and had just moved out of the house to Little Rock for a couple of weeks before my parents would move down to join us. I was living at my grandparents' for that time. It was in the middle of the week, everyone was busy with their own lives, and I was working at Shoney's all day. Somehow, for the first time ever, I went most of the day without anyone wishing me happy birthday. Eventually, they did, and I think I got some presents trickling in here and there over the next couple of weeks from various people, but it was a real wake-up call to me. My first adult birthday, what I'd thought would be a huge one, just because, and it turned out to be devoid of almost any overt birthdayness. I really was an adult.

It was then that I realized that the magic of birthdays is made up mostly of what people who love you make of them. I knew on that 18th birthday that my family and friends didn't suddenly love me any less, they just hadn't had time or ability to make a fuss about it. I realized I'd been sort of spoiled all those years, and vowed to be grateful for any birthday attentions I got, and to always make a point of remembering and celebrating others' in some way.

Of course I don't. I forget people's all the time, or remember, but don't find time to call or write or send a gift. I wish I were better at that. Maybe someday I will be. 

But it's okay, because every day is a good reason to celebrate someone you love, and everyone is human and forgets these things sometimes.

That said. 

It's my birthday, and I'm excited. I'm 36. This is an important year for several reasons. Namely, because it's what I long ago decided would be my magic year. 

I was born on June 6. So, 6/6. Six has thus, always been my favorite number--followed closely by four and nine, though it's harder to explain the why of those. Birthday numbers that contain sixes are automatically good. But 36 is 6 x 6. It's the best possible number, and has the added mathematical beauty of being the mash-up of a 3 and a 6. I don't know how to explain it, but it's lyrical and beautiful in a number sort of way in my head. Also, my other two favorite numbers , four and nine, when multiplied? 36. 

It's destiny. 

When I started writing this post, another reason occurred to me. That 18th birthday is now officially half a lifetime ago. That was a turning point. This will be another.

Apparently, it already has been, since I'm writing a blog post for the first time in months. 

A lot has transpired in the meantime, and I'm sorry not to have written more updates in between. 

The best new development is that I have a new job, and I love it. I'll have to write more about it in another post, but it's a great fit for me and my particular skill set at this point in my life. I'm looking forward to see how I grow in my career this coming year, as well as in every other area. 

Thanks to everyone for the many, many birthday wishes I've received already, and for the years of love and support and friendship and laughter we've shared. 

Happy you-day to you. And ma-ny mooooooooooooore....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jennifer Joy, She Made a Toy

I have the best parents in the world. Seriously. They are A-MAZ-ING people, both of them, and they have always put a lot of effort into parenting me and my sister and brother.

Like many kids of the 70s, I had a record of Free to Be You and Me, the children's music and spoken word recording by Marlo Thomas and a passel of other celebrities. I listened to that record I don't know how many thousand times. There were stories, songs, skits, poems performed by voices I would decades later realize were famous. People like Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross, Alan Alda, Mel Brooks and many others. I know in the case of Alan Alda, for instance, I knew him on MASH but always felt like I knew him from somewhere before. I only just figured this out.

Mom (Mommy back then) would hold me or sit by me and listen to the whole thing. She'd take time to explain what different lyrics meant and what the philosophy was behind them, actually talk to me like an equal about it.

One of my favorite lyrics, because it contained my name, was from the Helping song:

"Zachary Zugg took out the rug/
And Jennifer Joy helped shake it/
And Jennifer Joy, she made a toy--/
And Zachary Zugg helped break it!/
And some kinds of help/
Are the kind of help that helpings all about/
And some kinds of help are the kind of help/
We all could do without.

Mom and I always sang the Jennifer Joy line as loudly and happily as we could.

That's the thing about Free to Be You and Me--the songs were pretty great, the writing was funny, but it was really all about the messaging. These were songs, poems and sketches that were written in direct retaliation to the predominant gender biases in society. I learned it was OK for boys to play with dolls, or show their feelings, that women could grow up to be strong and independent and just as fast and smart as boys, that brothers and sisters rule, and that helping was fun and that I could grow up to be a construction worker or a doctor or a policeman or a mom, anything I wanted.

I was free, you see, to be me.

Today, a lot of people would call that cheesy idealism, but I loved it then and I love it now. It shaped my worldview. There's something so pure and joyous about these songs, an innocence beyond irony. As a friend of mine likes to say, I dig it.

I've never forgotten those songs. I've gone for long periods without thinking of them, sure, but they are a part of me now. I happened across the record in my parents' garage last summer. Not the best place for it to spend the past three decades, as it was warped in all kinds of twisty ways. I was a little sad, but it's OK. I've probably gotten warped in a lot of twisty ways since then, too.

Today, I was mentioning that album to a friend and he said I could probably find it all over YouTube. I didn't think about it at the time, but I thought later, why would a record be all over YouTube? So I went to visit. Wow. Turns out, that the 1972 album was made into a 1974 television special with even more celebrities. I had no idea. It was a complete trip seeing how people chose to animate or choreograph all the soundtrack to my childhood. It's so odd that I know these songs so well, yet never saw these 35-year old images until a few hours ago.

Here, are some of the recreations I found from that special. I literally think of the "It's Alright to Cry" song every time I'm fighting off serious tears. I think the fact that it's sung by Rosey Grier, the former NFL player and bodyguard, is fantastic.

Intro--Free to Be You and Me. Notice how they ripped off Mary Poppins, another favorite of mine, at the end.

Helping (by Shel Silverstein)--I like the album version better, but still.

It's Alright to Cry, sung by Rosey Grier

And, because my sister Laura and her husband Kyle are this week both at work for the first time since becoming parents in December, I thought I'd post this one in their honor. Play it for Abby, someday, sis. Even better if you dress up in some of these get-ups. :)

Parents Are People

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don (But Not Forgotten)

My apologies. I had to put something of a pun in the heading to this post, because Don would have. 

Don is my uncle, and he died a year ago today. He was a big part of my life and I have thought of him every day since he died, and a great percentage of my days before that. I miss him very much, but usually it's not exactly sad to miss him. I still feel connected to him, and he still makes me laugh. He is someone that when I think of him, the overriding emotion has always been joy. It's more muted now, but it's still joy that he's my uncle. 

Everything that an uncle is supposed to be, he was. Fun-loving. Goofy. Supportive. Wise. Silly. Smart. Animated. Curious. Loving. There.

He played guitar, sang, preached, acted, laughed, had an inordinate fondness for bad jokes and for making his nieces and nephews giggle and squeal with glee. He and the aunt he picked out just for me, Yvonne, usually seemed to be enjoying the heck out of each other's company and grateful for each other, even through the rough times. They were true partners in life and love and in many ways excellent role models for my own marriage. Because they did not have children of their own, they showered us with attention at every opportunity. Don knew how to love a person wholly, and dedicated his life to spreading love, compassion and his faith in God to the world he encountered. 

He was a Methodist minister like his two brothers, and now, his sister, and served many small congregations throughout rural Arkansas. As a preacher's kid, I can tell you, that while rewarding in many ways, this is a greatly undervalued and misunderstood career, and too often a thankless one. When Don finally felt the need for a career change, it was not for an easier job, or even a more lucrative job. Instead, after many years in the ministry, he went back and got a Master's in Social Work and became a caseworker and advocate for the indigent mentally ill. It sounds like I'm idealizing him when I say that day after day he worked long hours well above the scope of his job to get his clients, forgotten by society, the care they needed, but I'm really not. He'd take them shopping, drive them to appointments, think of all sorts of creative ways to boost their lives and prospects, or at least their day, by showing them someone cared about them. I lived with him and Y for a few months one year during this time, and witnessed his dedication to these people every day. He did this while still caring for a small, rural congregation part time and while battling the many hardships and complications of his diabetes.

He'd had diabetes from the time he was a kid, six or seven, I think. When I was young, I thought this was so cool (on up there with the fact that he drove a canary yellow Karmann Ghia and carried a chihuahua around in his shirt half the time). As a kid I thought it was neat and exotic that he drank Tab cola (before such a thing as Diet Coke existed), couldn't have sugar and gave himself shots. I can remember bragging about him on the playground to someone:

Other kid: "My uncle let me ride in his firetruck."
Me: "Yeah, well MY uncle is DIABETIC and is so tough he gives himself SHOTS every day!"

Diabetes, though, is an ugly, insidious disease. For all those years I naively thought it was just a thing to manage, it was silently hurting his body, eventually going after system after system. Don's health, never great, began to deteriorate pretty rapidly a few years ago. He got through a kidney transplant and seemed better for a while, but soon began to be in and out of the hospital for this and that procedure, test, fever, complication. Within a short time, we found out the diabetes had compromised his circulatory system and he needed major bypass surgery. 

I was, as usual, wrapped up in my own self-absorption around that time, often hearing only after an incident that Don's health had taken a downturn, but on my way to work the morning of his big surgery, I suddenly thought to call him and wish him well. I only spoke to him for a couple of minutes, but I remember he sounded uncharacteristically anxious, and very happy that I had called. He spent much of the short phone call winding me up for his latest bad joke. Since I was driving in traffic (bad habit) I was distracted, and missed some of the narrative. Now, I just remember there was something about a cow and a helicopter in the punchline, I think. I wish I could remember it, but I do remember him laughing at it. I told him I loved him, that all would go swimmingly and I'd see him this evening, then hung up. After work, I would join my family in the waiting room for many hours waiting for word of the surgery, and later, for him to wake up.

He did wake up from the surgery, but everything had changed. I don't know that I ever fully understood it, but the oxygen had left his brain in the aphasia mode for too long and his body was so weak. It was weeks, maybe months, before we could communicate with him with any semblance of normalcy, and then, only touch and go. Complicating everything, the medical center during his recovery had been negligent, resulting in an incident that deprived his brain of oxygen for several minutes and permanently set back his recovery. We all did our best to sit with him or visit, but I think only Yvonne fully understood him and his needs. He was still Don but was trapped in this frail, diminished shell that could barely sit up, walk, or stay free of infection, much less hold sustained, coherent conversations with the rest of us.

The morning I had spoken to him was the last day Don was at home. The next few years were a seemingly endless series of medical emergencies, breakthroughs, setbacks, infections, hospitalizations, rehabilitation plans, legal and billing crises, and transfers between the hospital, the rehab facility, and the long-term care home. Through everything, Yvonne, brokenhearted and ever-hopeful, remained steadfastly by his side, caring for him and fighting with administrators or lax nursing staff on his behalf the way he had once advocated for his clients. Some days were great days, and he seemed so much of himself, able to go out for short trips to join us for a family holiday gathering or just to be with us, out of the clinical healthcare setting for a few joyous hours. Other days were just painful to even think about.

His death was horrible and beautiful at the same time. 

It was beautiful because our family, always close, was able to go to his bedside and say our goodbyes the day before. It was horrible because we had to.

It was beautiful because once we all got there, we gathered around his bedside and together sang his favorite hymns and songs, said some prayers, while he looked around at us each in turn. It was horrible because his eyes looked so teary, grateful and bewildered all at once in those moments before they began the sedative, palliative care from which he would not wake. 

It was beautiful because Yvonne, my aunt Anne, uncle Robert and I spent that final night in his uncomfortable hospital room with him, mostly silently, so he would not have to die alone, and so Yvonne would not be alone when that happened. It was horrible because his destroyed body writhed and wheezed a wretched death rattle all night and we never knew if each breath would be the last one as his vital signs stubbornly refused to give any ground and we didn't know what to feel. 

It was beautiful because the nursing staff was so caring and attentive, and understood in the morning, when he needed more meds. It was horrible because he still needed them. 

It was beautiful because Yvonne realized that a final bath, that ancient cleansing ritual, might be just what his body and spirit needed to let go. It was beautiful because the nurse gave our family time to gather at the hospital again before that happened. 

It was beautiful and horrible because when we finally came back in the room afterwards, his vitals that we had been watching all that awful night finally began to slip and then fall steadily towards death. 

It was beautiful that he died finally peaceful after so many years of physical and emotional pain, silently encircled by the people he loved best, and who best loved him, all of us holding onto each other, to Yvonne, to him. 

It was horrible because then he was gone and his body was just his body, flesh shaped like Don but not Don. 

It was beautiful because as he had died, that Friday at noon on the dot, the cold and bleak rain of the past few days at that moment turned into the most beautiful falling snow that I watched in the window beyond his bed as his vitals silently flatlined. 

It was beautiful because we were here all together in this time of profound grief. It was horrible because Don, who was so good at grief counseling, was not.

It was horrible because we loved him so much. It was beautiful for this reason, too.

So now, it's been a year since that day, which seems impossible. It's stayed with me, and probably always will. Luckily, so far, so have my many wonderful memories of my uncle and all he brought into my life. Today I looked out the window and saw a flurry of white again. For a split second I thought it was snow. Then I realized it was blossoms from a pear tree dancing past in a warm Spring breeze. Somehow, that feels appropriate.

Tonight, in his honor, I'll light a candle. And then I'm going to find a knee-slapper of a joke, and some poor victim on which to inflict it. 

I love and miss you, Don. Hope you're having a blast on this next journey and keeping some angels in giggles. 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Southern Comfort

Sometimes it still startles me that I live in the South--and by that I mean the true, cliche-heavy South. That's quite silly, of course, since I have lived here my entire life. (Living three and a half years in Kansas City as a tot doesn't exempt me from being a lifelong Southerner, no matter what they tell you.)

I long ago realized that certain aspects of my environment I'd always taken for granted are not universal--for example, the slower pace of life, the simple country fashions, the propensity to deep-fry anything, the potluck culture, the always entertaining array of things on front porches. I could go on and on. Heck, there's probably a whole slew of things I never even think of being different, I'm so used to them. 

Sometimes, though, I'm still taken aback. 

The other day, driving home in my Scion XB from picking up Marlowe at doggie daycare, a pickup--one of the little ones, old and low to the ground--moseyed along the road in front of the intersection where I was stopped, made a slow right turn, and rolled onto the gravel and weeds that made up the front yard directly in front of me. This gave me plenty of time to silently gape at the traveling cliche I was witnessing. 

First, the tiny cab held two skinny passengers--men who looked like they might know their way around a meth lab--and one droopy eared hound dog. This in itself is not unusual, of course. What made me pause was the bed of the truck, which contained not only a crushed velvet, duct-tape-patched gold recliner, but reclining all his mass in said recliner was a huge, tall, heavy man in denim overalls and a flannel shirt, picking at his teeth with a length of straw. Yes, actual straw. He had long, gray scraggly hair, mud on his overalls, and not a care in the world. That man was as content atop his Chevy chariot as any man I have ever seen.

Having reached their destination, he hauled himself out of the recliner, kind of reluctantly, lunged out of the truck over the side with a  big humph. I drove--slowly--past and he gave me a kindly nod of his head as he made his way after the other fellas to have a set on the hardscrabble front porch. I didn't dally to see if they pulled out a fiddle and the 'baccy or just started chewing on some corn on the cob and talking about the ol' fishing hole, but they all looked to be in splendid spirits. 

It really looked comfortable, and at the speeds they were going, about as safe as a parade float. I gotta say, I was a little envious.

For all the times I gripe about what we don't have here, scenes like that make me appreciate all we do. I have to believe that there is a higher-than-average percentage of our population that is almost completely un-self-conscious. They are who they are, and Jesus loves them for it, so why wouldn't everyone else? I love living somewhere so colorful and rich with its own slow-ripened culture. It challenges me and sustains me in ways I don't often notice. For all its problems, this is a good, beautiful place.

Yep, I'm happily a Southerner, through and through. Even without owning overalls. 

Friday, February 13, 2009


I haven't written anything in a bit because I have been a complete and utter slug. Look at the state of my housekeeping the past couple of weeks, and it really doesn't seem that outrageous to think I could be leaving a trail of slime in my wake. 

Ben commented the other night that I'm the only person he knows who really does use her laptop on top of her lap most of the time. I disputed this, reminding him of my sister and probably the countless other people we know who use laptops as God intended them, but I didn't miss his larger point. Lately, it's not just that most of the time that I use my laptop it's in my lap, but that I have the laptop in my lap most of the time. 

I've developed what is probably a very bad habit. Every day, I build a sort of nest for myself on the couch. In the morning before Ben leaves for work, I scuttle over to the couch and put my feet up under me in some way (I have a very hard time sitting straightforward on a couch, or anywhere). I have my three or four throw pillows that I position around myself in various configurations. Then there are the two comfy afghans I use--part of the time for warmth as I am perpetually cold, and the other part to build up a sort of ledge on which to balance the computer, or my lunch, or my notes I'm transcribing--generally sort of a giant U of afghan curled around me. 

Then there's the ever-handy wooden TV tray table that I've pulled up next to the couch. It at the moment has scraps of junk mail and bills to be paid, two half-empty soda cans, three used paper plates with remembrances of lunches past on them, two bowls, a disposable Gladware container with the rinds of two clementines, two spoons, my favorite brush, a bag of cat treats and a box of Kleenex. I make sure in the morning that I have my cell phone and cordless phone and pen and paper within reach, and thus--except to get food or go to the bathroom--I don't really have to get dressed or leave my perch all day. 

From here, I can check e-mail, edit photos, make calls, interview physicians, write articles, pay bills, apply for jobs, check in with the blogs I frequent, comment on Facebook, work on my own writing, surf the Web, learn new things, read interesting articles, check the news and analysis sites, pretty much anything a gal could want. 

If I want a change of pace, move the afghans and pillows and --voila--there's the other side of the couch! Today, I'm working on the left side; this is new and exciting and adds variety to my day. 

Then, around 4 or 5 o'clock, I take the dog for a 20- to 30-minute walk, pick up groceries maybe, and make dinner. Once dinner is done, back to my MacNest I go. Whether I'm reading, watching TV or a movie, or just chatting with Ben, my trusty laptop is almost always less than a laptop away. Again, I am here most of the evening. I think Ben's growing jealous of my time.

What I've not been doing lately is moving much. There's the walk with the dog, but it's not much of a workout. I have become even more of a giant sedentary blob than I thought possible. I remember back when I was taking taekwondo, I would revel at the fact that I had once gone whole days without really moving my body much. Now, I revel that I ever did so many workouts. The taekwondo workouts are gone, and those inert days are back. 

The other thing I've not done much of lately is interact with live, breathing, fully flesh-and-blood people sharing the same air as me. I don't feel socially deprived at all because I keep up with so many friends online, but I think I'm probably missing something important. 

I'm a little bit crippled because of a chronically sore heel I have to get fixed, but still. I want to find more opportunities to get out of my nest, enjoy the world. Maybe even unplug for a while. 

Yet, I just love my computer world so much. Maybe I can take it with me on walks, introduce it to new people? 

Somehow, I think I'm going to have to think bigger than that. It's going to take more than the other side of the couch to find that balance. 

Saturday, January 31, 2009

George, Lost

I was cooking dinner tonight, humming something or other and stirring the lamb masala, when Ben called me. He had just left to walk the dog a few minutes before, so I was surprised he was calling. He must have forgotten something.

“That was Brian,” he said. I could hear him walking, breathing a little heavier, hear cars driving by. “He called to let us know George died.”

That’s one of those phone calls you never want to get, always want to rewind and take the words away. Whenever I hear someone I know has died, the finality of it is what gets me first. There’s no do over, no more chances to do something better, say something you’d held back. It’s done. Eventually, the grief and missing that person sets in with its own horrors, but the finality of it is what first hits me. Death has come. The world is now forever different. Someone I’ve known, maybe loved, is permanently gone, eternally quiet. It’s hard to wrap my brain around that, that my story continues and theirs does not.

George was Brian’s best friend. Brian has been one of Ben’s best friends for the past 18 years, and now also one of my close friends. Ben had known George all that time, though not nearly as well as Brian. Since George lived in Harrison, several hours away, I had only met George on I think two occasions, but I liked him immediately, and heard reports about him from Brian often.

George was in his early 40s, a tall, heavyset gay man with a giant smile and sad eyes. Everything about him was somehow oversized—he’d startle our border collie Marlowe into fits of barking whenever he’d stand up, we think just because he was suddenly so tall. He bore a strong resemblance to Christopher Hitchens, but inflated.

George’s health was poor—high blood pressure, diabetes, several other things. He often walked with a cane because of a problem with his foot. He lived right by his parents, who very much relied on him. The past year had been rough on George and his family in many ways, including losing his older brother, who also died much too young.

George’s parents came home today and found him dead. We don’t know what killed him. I hope they find out conclusively what happened to their son. This was the youngest of their two children, both now deceased. I can’t imagine.

I feel a deep sadness for George. I met him so late in his story, I at most rate a footnote. But I always sensed his deep capacity for joy, capriciousness, silliness. I know Brian enjoyed his company probably more than anyone else’s he knows.

I could tell George struggled with loneliness and depression. I seem to have radar for such things, and an affinity for the lonely souls and misfits of the world. But I had hope that something would change for George. Maybe he’d move closer to us and we could be closer friends, or maybe he’d meet someone wonderful who appreciated him and would fall head over heels for him, or get back on track with his career. He was so smart and funny, wickedly clever and unremorsefully catty sometimes, and yet also unfailingly polite. He was devoted to Brian, and though they were both largish gay men of the same approximate age, they both insist they were never once attracted to each other; they were from the start just the very best of friends.

I am sad for George, that he will never get to turn that next corner in his life, never find joy on earth amongst his friends again. And I absolutely ache for Brian, who just lost his best friend of close to 20 years and is reeling from the shock.

There will be no funeral, but maybe we can find someway to send his spirit off as friends. I’d like to do that for Brian.

Rest in peace, George. You made a difference here, and are missed. I wish I’d known you better.