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.


Laura said...

That is very, very sad. It's also a nicely written memorial.

Anonymous said...

Just through reading this fine tribute,I am holding him in my heart right now. Perhaps that is a tiny part of a memorial service. I feel sorry I didn't know him.


Melissa said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, guys.

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