This Monday past my brother called my office. I wasn't there and my
delightful assistant Cais took the call. I will excuse my brother for burdening
Cais with what he had to say. He doesn't know her very well because they've met
perhaps two or three times. Cais is an extremely sensitive human being;
capable of suffering as exquisitely as those who are close to her may suffer a
loss or a family tragedy.
My brother refused Cais's offer of my cell phone number. I was not on the
road as I usually am on Mondays; I was enjoying a delightful day off. When my
cell phone rang and I noticed it was Cais calling I murmured "damn this shit"
under my breath because I'd told her that I was not to be bothered unless, I
said, there occurs a catastrophe that is so grave "I mustn't wait to file
insurance papers tomorrow."
My beloved assistant asked if I was sitting down and if I was alright; both
answers were positive. My aunt Dorothy; my mother's sister and a favorite
relative of mine, had died the day before. I told Cais that I was alright and
got off the phone as soon as possible. Then, I wept.
Dorothy had just recently sent me
a Christmas card, emblazoned with her distinctive handwriting, as she always had
for as long as I can remember.
I believe in God, I worship in the Buddhist faith. I got on my
knees and beseeched Buddha for a sign, a reason, a lesson, why in the
last two years so many who were beloved by me had been taken.
September '06 my father died in my arms. To this day not a day goes by
without my thinking fondly of him, and talking to the photograph of him I have
at home, in my den. By the end of '07, just in time for Thanksgiving, my dear
friend Steve passed suddenly of a heart attack, leaving his beloved Ron in a complete and utter state of shock. In-between that the
brilliant Communications Professor Paul Mineo who was a fine man and a wonderful
acquaintance, finally succumbed to the brain cancer he'd bravely battled for so
long. His wife, Donna, and I are often in touch and she's handling the loss of
her soul-mate very well. They were the people who introduced me to the Wiccan
way of worship; and we'd often have long talks over a bottle of good wine,
remarking how similar our beliefs were.
Then, recently, my mother refused to euthanize the cat I'd given her years
before and the poor thing died a protracted, painful death due to renal failure.
I blame this not on my mother but on my refusal to sign the authorization
offered to me by the veterinarian who knew that mom was out of touch with
reality, hoping that Luscious would get better on her own.
Life has been, by any measure, rather easy for me. I thank God for that. That
lesson I have learned and embraced and am grateful for.
Not since my co-workers were dying and I was attending a funeral
at least once a month, back in the 1980s, have I been faced with this much
grief. Nowadays, it's becoming very hard to deal with. Add to that my psychological and physical disorders and that
just makes things more painful.
Tomorrow I will see my M.D. and my Psychiatrist and beg them for a pill to
ease what's going on in my mind. I don't know what their response will be; but I
do know that even if it takes time, they will make sure I'm alright.
After I leave that meeting I must go to New York to see my cousin, Timmy, who
has lived with his mom for his entire life. I just can't imagine what he's going
through right now. Ever since Timmy's father beat Dorothy when I was three and
Timmy was five, and we hustled them out of the house and into ours in the middle
of the day, it's been just the two of them. Their relationship was candid and
frankly, enviable in that they were two mature adults who'd decided that their
own companionship was enough; Timmy never married, Dorothy never re-married.
They often entertained my uncle Bob, mom and Dorothy's older brother, until his
death in 1975.
When we were young, I could walk down the block from our house to see Timmy
and my aunt, whom we affectionately called "Tootsie." Tootsie always made some
hot soup, usually Campbell's Chicken Noodle, which I gulped down with Timmy at
the kitchen table, alongside the washing machine. For some reason it tasted
better in her house. They lived three blocks away from us in Queens, New York. I
think that Tootsie always envied my mother (her sister) because while Tootsie
toiled away at her nine-to-five my mother stayed at home, and had help in the
house, as well.
Tootsie was a secretary in the New York State Power Authority's executive
offices. When I was allowed to go to the city by myself, Tootsie and I would
visit, have lunch together. She smoked cigarettes, but always had a lovely
leatherette holder for her cigarettes, with a swing-out ashtray that she could
use lest wherever she was there wasn't one handy. Our lunches were taken at an
upscale diner, where she enjoyed the pleasure of a Manhattan cocktail with her
I'll always remember the excitement when she was given an IBM Mag-Card IBM Selectric
typewriter (which certainly made the volumes of legal typing she was burdened
with much easier). I'd never seen a typewriter type all by itself (neither had
she). We both loved it; I felt quite privileged when Tootsie would allow me to
demonstrate my touch-typing skills on a machine with a ball instead of
individual type. I just couldn't figure out how the thing could twist, lean, and
tap each letter faster than my capability of 90 words per minute could drive it.
The last time I saw Tootsie was years ago. She'd become home-bound because
her health was failing and her weight had exceeded 400 pounds. Timmy waited on
her hand and foot. I did get to see Timmy at the various restaurants where he
worked. He rejected, however, my invitations to the fashionable night club and
restaurants owned by the corporation I'd earned a Vice Presidency of after years of hard work.
I don't know what's going to happen in the next few days. I'm prepared to
take over Timmy's care should his mother not have left him a policy of life
insurance (after all, he works in restaurants as a chef and I'd hazard a guess
he can't afford the rent on their Brooklyn apartment by himself). I must also
prepare myself to bear the burden of my own grief as well as that of another.
Poor Timmy has nobody so far as I know, so I'm scared and anxious about this
meeting after so many years.
Regarding loss; for years now, my good friend Paulie has been on oxygen and
medication for COPD. I thought I'd be attending his funeral long ago; but he
keeps hanging in there. My friend "Uncle" Buddy has survived two bouts with
virulent lung cancer; he's not long for this world. And my dear friend Roger,
the restaurateur down the street from my place, is now on oxygen thanks to COPD.
He's resolved himself to his mortality. I never thought he would, however, after
accompanying him at the burial of two of his brothers, each time he swore that
he'd "eat healthy" or "cut back on the drinking."
My heart is now so full of pain it sometimes seems unbearable. I've thought
about ending it all. However, after all of this loss and grief, who says it'll
go on. I think that God has a sense of humor and I'm waiting patiently for that
to show itself.