With a Little Help….
“No man is a failure who has friends.”
If you are like me, and kind of stuck on the holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, you know that is what the angel Clarence writes to George Bailey after dramatically showing him he, George, had indeed lived a wonderful life.
I bring this up because a little less than a week ago, after receiving unexpected and pretty terrible news, I began a daily series of long walks on a sun-dried path between two rows of trees. Thinking. Daydreaming. Sobbing at times. Reflecting.
That’s a good word. Reflecting. Here I am 72, about to be homeless and pretty much without direction, and I’d called my friend Gavin in Oakland a couple of hours after I heard my life was less wonderful than I thought, and I called Gavin because he is my back and forth, give and take, laugh and cry, buddy and partner, one-time boss always asking for my guidance and all the while teaching me non-stop. Someone you call, someone who calls you. Let’s you in on cool music groups. An old fashioned best friend.
And on those walks I got to thinking that Gavin is the only friend, like that, I have now, at this time in my life, 600 miles away, and there are people I know and before Covid sometimes hung out with, coffee and stuff, here in Portland – one called me Tuesday – but it was not like that, not like with Gavin.
One friend. That’s what I thought. You’re 72 years old and you have one best friend. And I cried when I thought that and into my mind came the word “failure” – I swear it did, failure in the ‘human’ department – and Warren Zevon’s “I never thought I’d be so lonely this far down the line.” That was me, maybe last Friday, walking, and thinking……… reflecting.
Then I posted on Facebook my new reality and many, many people showed up to offer consolations and hang-ins and you’ll get through this’s, and a couple of Portland people offered direct help and I have taken them up on it in tangible ways and it has eased my burden, and especially regarding my son Spenser and safe passage and harbor for him.
Then yesterday, a latecomer to the comment gallery, a man named George, one of my old high school pals I remain in connection with after more than 50 years, maybe he’d just seen my post, whatever, he added a comment. This one: “Buddy, you’ve had many challenges in your life. But, you know, you have far more friends than most people I know, especially friends that you have kept all your life. It’s hard to get through times like this, but you will, and be stronger and better for it.”
I cried some when I saw it – thank you George – and this morning on yet another of these endless walks I remembered back to the fall of 2005 when I was leaving Medford, MA, and my job as a Program Director for a youth agency, heading off for a new life in San Francisco, off to live the dream, children, follow my bliss, I remembered back then two different people, one a therapist and one a friend who hung around with the don’t drink crowd, both women, they both in the course of a couple of weeks said the exact same thing to me. Verbatim.
“You have no idea what you mean to people.”
George says I have more friends than most people he knows. Far more. Dana and then Mary said I didn’t have a clue what I meant to people. I think, I guess, perhaps I’m not such a good judge of myself, my real deep down self, as I stroll and bounce along through life, something of a Gypsy and in fact in love with that image in my head, even if it means, like Kerouac, I see myself as a “Lonesome traveler.”
I did not see myself that way these last nearly 12 years, not one single day, and yet my very best friend in the world, my soulmate, is gone. But meantime Gavin has called me every day. Every day. And someone has offered me a place for the month of June, bartered for a couple of paintings, so I can spend another month with Spenser and support his transition to his new “traveling” life. Someone else has offered me storage space -ditto bartered for art – and maybe enough so I don’t have to pay a self-storage business, because the truth is every single dollar I’ve got or can get is a lot. Dana and Mary, back in ’05, were saying “Don’t go….people need you.” And so many people have phoned in, on-line, these long last few days and said Hang in Bro. We got you. We got you.
No man is a failure who has friends. That’s what Clarence wrote George. A week ago I had the thought maybe I was a failure. I do not have that thought today.
Thanks to my friends.