I wonder how your smile tastes
And what your laughter feels like
As I hear your arms slide across my back
Smell your embrace
While seeing the feelings grow between us
I wonder how your smile tastes
And what your laughter feels like
As I hear your arms slide across my back
Smell your embrace
While seeing the feelings grow between us
There are little things even today that catch my breath in a paralysis of remembrance -sometimes sad, sometimes joyous – of the still palpable loss of Jaymz. There are the plates from a trip to Greece I never took on the kitchen wall, because they were from his trip, on his kitchen wall. There are shirts carefully packaged away, not to be worn. There’s the puppy on my lap who is a warm tangible tie to nine years ago.
One of the biggest little things was the iMac.
Jaymz was no computer aficionado. He was happy with his little laptop, being able to search fashion and hair with Google, and be able to play Bejewelled for hours at a time. As it happened his system crashed, whether from careless handling or spilled beer, around the same time that my lumbering desktop died spectacularly, succumbing to so many viruses a hazmat suit was needed before it could be taken away.
I being eternally cheap was slowly trying to figure out how I was going to get a new system. He was not going to wait around, and though in early stages of our relationship had already determined that he was keeping me, thus we would make our first big purchase together. He was also most eager for me to break in my brand new, first ever credit card.
He wanted an Apple. I did not object, thus off to the Apple store we ventured. I had a rough idea of what I wanted, and the money that I wanted to spend on it. He swept in the store, stalking the cutest sales rep he could find, with a casual “excuse me, darling, we need you.”
The rep began to speak specs, and I nodded in happy agreement. He began to speak specs at Jaymz, who merely stroked a finger along the top of the nearest unit and declared “shiny…” with eyes glazed open. The rep to his credit began speaking specs to me, and analogies to Jaymz, clearly an engineering student with a penchant for Star Trek.
Enchanted, Jaymz sought more. “Speakers, we need to make pretty music! Printers that copy and other stuff!” Cheerfully, the rep kept going with spiel after spiel. I was impressed. He was knowledgeable. And most certainly aware that he was being flirted with shamelessly.
Finally, I had had enough and made my decision. “That computer, those speakers, this printer. We’ll take them.”
Both Jaymz and the rep turned startled. “REALLY?” they both chorused.
I nodded, sweating profusely and pulled out the Visa, Jaymz beaming proudly. Seconds later the rep was over, letting me know that Visa was on the line about possible card fraud. Visa put me through several rounds of questions before accepting that the maiden voyage of the card was almost the card limit.
“Ooh, let’s keep shopping, you’re on a roll!” Jaymz cooed excitedly.
“No. Cigarette. Before I bring this back.”
Laughingly, he led the way, not pressing his luck. It was a cool day, which worked well at lowering my heightened anxiety. I had lost a job after all, and had no prospects lined up, and just dropped a bundle. We stood outside the Eaton centre, boxes carefully guarded between us, as he lit my cigarette; my hands were shaking so much trying not to think. He took a satisfied drag, and sighed as if with post coital bliss.
“Well THAT was fun!” he declared loudly.
We drew the attention of a mother trying to get her giggling infant daughter into her coat. One arm would be in a sleeve, but as the mother tried to juggle her daughter around to get her other arm into the little red jacket, the devilish cherub would pull the first arm out, a wide smile flashing only two teeth as she crowed in mischievous delight.
Little Oshkosh B’gosh overalls, pink shoes matching pink turtleneck, pink bobble hair twists held two pom-poms of hair were enough to set Jaymz off: “Oh my god, look at her she’s delicious! My ovaries are going to burst.”
The mother turned amused and exasperated. “You think she’s cute now, but she’s been up since 3 a.m., and has not slowed down all day.” Seeing our purchases she added “and you’d have to watch out with toys like that… what I wouldn’t give for one of those!”
“Trade you,” Jaymz said without hesitation.
“Done,” said the mother holding out the child.
“No, Jaymz,” I said flatly.
“But she said…”
“No. I need this for work.”
“But this one is available now and she is chocolatey-caramel goodness! Think what I could do with that hair! OH…my chi-chi bobos!” he wailed, pushing up imaginary breasts.
“He’s a hairdresser,” I explained calmly to the woman. “And your daughter is gorgeous – as are you. But he would take her in a heartbeat, so don’t let him have her or you’ll never see her again.”
The mother laughed. “You two are too much…but obviously she’d have a good life with you. Are you sure?” She wiggled the baby tantalizing.
The baby laughed more reaching out arms towards Jaymz. He looked at me with woe-filled eyes.
“Work now, money next, then child.”
He arched an eyebrow. “I’m holding that as a promise,” he said with a sniff.
Full circle to now. I’ve been reticent at getting a new system, as there never seems to be a good time to do so. But time is speaking to me more about the need to get a new job, and the computer speaks to me less, groaning as tries it’s best to do the simplest task I ask of it. I simply couldn’t make a decision, even having done my homework, and knowing what I wanted.
Then in the mail unexpectedly came a credit card replacement, as the old was about to expire. It was the sign I needed, so I took it out for it’s maiden flight.
This time there was an equally cute service rep, but I told him my specs and he got it from the back. My Visa went through no problem, as my limit is greatly expanded since then, and I’d already paid it off. I don’t smoke anymore, so there was no reason to pause outside. As I walked through the mall, I passed a group of eleven year olds and wondered if any of them had known they could have ended up with me as a father for an iMac.
I’d trade this new one to have Jaymz back again.
(I nominated my two IT colleagues at work for team of the year, and happily they won. However…HR forgot to mention I had to give a speech at our all-staff meeting about why I nominated them until the night before. Both being quiet men, praise is uncomfortable for them. This was the result. The colors reference is from the True Colors workshop, which we participated in.)
It is my great pleasure to say a few words about my nominees for the Team Parkinson Award: Danilo, System Analyst and Mehul, Network Administrator.
But first I want to tell you about my car.
When I bought my car, at the time I was doing community outreach with the needle exchange project and needed to carry quite a bit of materials with me. My friend sold used cars, I went to her because I trusted her, but she sent me elsewhere… never mess up a good friendship by buying a car.
Now I don’t speak car. I drive cars. I put gas in; get the thing serviced regularly, have an excellent driving record and that’s it. Start telling me you are concerned with a transmission issue, and I will have a frank conversation about safer sex and harm reduction, and get you condoms and bleach kits.
The used car sales dealers at other lots could smell the blood in the water. They talked car at me. I’m not a green, I’m not a gold. I didn’t know what to research. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I’m a blue, and I just knew that the deals weren’t good, and that I was being lied to.
So, back to my friend, and told her my budget, told her my needs, and asked her to pull a few vehicles for me to look at. Her colleagues were in tears laughing as I knocked cars off the list for the stupidest reasons: This car smelled funny. That one’s steering wheel felt weird. Another was the color of baby vomit.
The last one was a metallic forest-green coupe, sporty and sleek. I wanted to drive that car. If you’ve ever been to Mississauga there is a zone of car dealerships with a lot of cul de sacs and parking lots adjoining, which dealers will let VIP clients test drive off the street, thus outside of police notice. I had never drifted a car before but that thing turned on the proverbial dime. We got back to the dealership and the little boy in me wanted that car but the adult in me knew I had to have sufficient room for my outreach supplies.
“Honey,” my friend said “I got you covered.” At 6 feet and 300 lbs of self-described curvaceous lusciousness, my friend has heard every comment on her weight and size, but as she folded herself into the trunk and patted the space beside her coyly she not only sold me my car but another to a young couple with twins, and her colleagues stopped laughing as she filled in the paperwork for both of us that night.
Now just like I don’t know much about a cars, I am willing to bet that while a lot of y’all might know varying degrees about computers and telephones, not a lot of y’all know as much about networks, servers, phone systems, and all the other fun tools that we are using on a day to day basis, because there is never more a time that a gold, orange or green seems to want a hug from a blue in the office than when the phones or computers go down in the middle of a call, or eating that last board report you hadn’t saved properly.
That’s when you will hear the bleating cry of anguish arise.… “ARRGGGH BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH….MEHOOOOOOOOOL!”… “MY PHONE! DA NEEEEL OOOO”.
Servicing your immediate technological need is certainly not the primary focus of their job descriptions, yet both of these gentlemen not only do their best to drop everything else they are doing at that moment to help you, they both do it with kindness and gentle humour. They meet the needs of all you, their customers, much like my friend the salesperson, by meeting you at your level of understanding of technology, and never making you feel foolish about that…trust me, I have heard Mehul trying to explain technology to Sandie, and Sandie’s tech speak is limited to saying “I touched the hoogie on the whats it, and now the thingie is going eeeeeeeeeeee”.
I’m not even scratching the surface of what these two do on a day to day basis. What I will say, is while there is always a debate about the needs of Mission being the reason we are doing our job, and the needs of RD for us to be able to do that job, I nominated these two fine gentlemen, because it is a given that without their constant work both during and outside of regular business hours, none of us here would be able to fulfill the mission of serving the needs of our clients. They do their job efficiently, effectively, self-effacingly, yet effusively, with their cheerful “my friend, how can I help you” attitudes.
Gentlemen, thank you both.
-three-quarter view –
Studies seriously something off-camera
A kind face with a few curls struggling free of product and placement
– Three quarter paragraphs –
Speaks simply, stirring within:
Approachable, articulate, artistic
Three reads through I say hello
Uncaring of a crowd around him, they diverge around
some looking to where he is staring up
They cannot fathom what he is seeing then he is seeing
Me through a crowd clearing away
(Handshake or Hug? Hey or Hello? Over-dressed, under-dressed OMG I could get obsessed)
Hug and hello, I could listen to that voice on my pillow, I can smell his hair that my fingers twitchingly want to touch
This is someone I could follow down rabbit holes
To adventures, shenanigans, still silent moments of focus
I listen and listen as he responds to my questions, conversing as deftly and casually as old lovers slip into spaces still sacred but not secret
And hours have passed until we need to sit.
Are as warm as his laughter
Eases subtly as the sunlight on an overcast sky
Is a promise of memories
We pull back.
We continue on.
I listen and listen as he responds to my questions, conversing as deftly and casually as old lovers slip into spaces still sacred but not secret…
Tomorrow I will really be mid 40s, and you know what? I realize I’m good with that. It’s been overall a really good year, and a good decade of life thus far. Oh, there are things I would still change in my life, those ‘if I knew then, what I know now’ moments, but I didn’t know then and have made peace with the idea that most of the choices that I have made were good choices for me, and if not good choices, well, at least it was what I wanted at the time.
But, I don’t have any real regrets. Some of the hardest, most painful decisions that I’ve made in life – even those made in anger – have proven to be the very best things of very bad situations.
So what has the first 44 years brought me?
Life if for the living. The dead come around sometimes in different ways, whether a sudden memory, piece of music, a butterfly. Not just the obvious ones: there are erstwhile friends who I haven’t thought of in years, and all of a sudden their names and laughs are popping into my head. I might be forgotten one day, and I’m okay with that. We don’t all have to have our name on the wall of a pew or hospital or wherever. When its time for me to go, it’ll be because my purpose is done. Whether in a few days time tragically, or in 40 years time of old age; this journey is one of spirit riding flesh. I don’t know what comes next. I’m not in a hurry to find out, but I’m not scared.
I’ve lost a lot of people in life. It’s why I treasure the ones I have in it now, why I say “I love you” when they leave, and “call me when you get home”.
Tomorrow I’ll be 45 and that’s ok.
My dearest Squish;
Eight fucking years. Hell, baby, I thought I wasn’t going to get to 8 hours, 8 days, 8 weeks without you. I know you come around sometimes. Thanks. It does keep me going at times, when I need that little reminder that it wasn’t all in my head, and what we had was real.
There are days when people tell me stories that I have to shake myself and go “damn, I was there”. There are other days where every little detail comes flooding in, and if I’m not in a situation that calls for calm (and sometimes when I am) will burst into delighted laughter of a remembrance, or tears that you are not there to share things with.
There are the purely wild “Jaymerizms”:
There are lessons that you taught me that I do my best to have learned, some days better than others:
There are moments in these past 8 years I wished I could’ve shared with you; there are people I would have loved you to meet; there was music to play (even new Stevie and Fleetwood!) and times that I could’ve have used that ultra-confident FUUUCK that to cheer me up and boost my confidence.
See, the biggest thing that you taught me was that life can be enjoyed on your own terms quite happily. That’s the trick of not being a “sheeple”… march to your own drum, off-beat, singing quietly and off-tune or loudly and on; listen to people who need listening to; give love to people who need a little love, but if they don’t give it back, don’t let them suck you dry; go outside with flare, because in a world of caterpillars it takes balls to be a butterfly; if people think you’re just a moth and not a butterfly, fuck it, you still have wings.
And those of us in the know, well, we all have a little piece of you inside of us. When we are together, we laugh a little harder and love a little fiercer, because we know that every moment we have with each other could be the last, so at least for that moment we live out loud.
I miss you, babe. You had the stinkiest earlobes…
My heart aches this morning for a friend who’s life ended in a case of car versus pedestrian. I had seen the article in the paper of the unnamed victim, a brief ‘how sad’ moment before turning to the next story.
Fergus has – had – been a constant in my life for over twenty years. He showed compassion to a naive farm kid trying to navigate the perceived sophistication of gay culture, and would share a shot in commiseration when I learned a new truth, along with a kind word, laugh and look to the future. There was a short period of time then when he was more frustrated with life, as he struggled briefly to find a job, but it was always a “OK, I’ve got that out of my system” kind of conversation that friends have, those moments where the mundane is made meaningless and joy must be found in the now.
He was always genuinely pleased to hear of others’ good fortune, whether a new job, new pet, new relationship. He was also always genuinely concerned when the coin landed the other way, and would reach out with a compassionate word or a simple touch. When my husband passed and I ventured to the pub one afternoon, not wanting to be around people having fun, but not wanting to be alone, Ferg came over, clasped my shoulder and just sat quietly with me: no words needed, just a quiet steady presence with the occasional clink of the cups.
Flash forward almost a decade to now, and he was SO happy that I found someone new. He welcomed another new person with his usual warmth, carefully slowing his speech down for someone who is still learning the language, to ensure that there was inclusion in the conversation.
Ferg’s love of photography was one that I shared, and I was in awe of where his work was going, that ability to see the beauty in the everyday, and capture a perspective to share with those interested. We’d share comments on each others work, and little quips on Facebook.
He had gently mocked the St. Patrick’s day hats that the boyfriend and I appeared in on Facebook that Friday. Having not been out for a while, we were meeting with another group of friends that night, but had popped by Statler’s first. Ferg was leaving as we were arriving but we stopped to chat a bit with a promise to get together soon. Saturday a.m. we came up with a plan to go on a nature walk/photo shoot, and were trying to coordinate the details.
And now that constant source of kindness is abruptly gone.
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. ~ Robert Frost
They lie you know, when they say time heals all.
Time can make it a bit easier, but some wounds are always like an abscess of the soul that can never be properly drained and cleaned and healed. There are days where things are a blur I don’t bother to focus on. But the sounds of Sept 4, 2009 still echoes ugly at the strangest time.
I remember the call, only minutes after cousin Wanda’s morning report of “he slept well.” Jenn the nurse, briskly and efficiently taking the phone away from Wanda’s second call. “He’s going now. You don’t have to hurry, he’ll be gone before you get here and I’ll have him cleaned up for you.” Time of call 10:15. Time of death 10:20. A quiet exit stage left while no one was looking. So odd for someone who had tethered the spotlight to always follow him.
I remember leaving the office, flying down the subway stairs and looking at TTC driver’s face as he was closing the door to the train…and reopened them. I remember the train ride being the most silent ever, as people entering the train hushed in radiating waves.
Quiet murmurs of pity were seeing – yet pretending not to – slow tears and snot leaking across my face, lost as I was in the mantra in my mind “don’t die yet. Wait. Don’t die yet.”
I’m stalking towards the hospital, cigarette casually flicked at human obstacles and snarling at anything human or vehicular that dared clog my path. I hit the security door of the hospital as it was closing, with enough force to make it boom, making security jump. Two elevators, one on service and the other not descending. The cleaner on the elevator turns with a smile of apology that vanishes into realization. “Oh I’m so sorry.”
“Where are the stairs, please?” Don’t say you’re sorry. No.
“End of the hall,” says a voice behind me. Howard: palliative ward day nurse. “Unlock the door,” he orders security.
“Thank you, Howard.” I can hear myself saying. So damn polite. The end of the world ends so damn politely.
Security doors are buzzed open. My knees shriek protest as I rip up six floors’ worth stairs, two sets of stairs for each floor. I don’t care. I nearly crash into the single nurse on the floor who I despise, the homophobic bitch who made the mistake of yelling at me in front of my sedated mate three days prior. (He had raised his fist at her, profanity spewing uncontrolled, and her trying to argue she doesn’t have to put up with that. Another nurse had to take her aside and read her beads: “That’s his husband. Also his father and brother are watching. So you are a fucking idiot that you tell someone that they can’t disturb a sedated patient and try to argue with that sedated patient!”)
Definitely don’t care. She yells a protest of my running that is frozen by her colleagues’ collective stares and the duty nurse thundering down the hall to tell her to shut up, stay at that end of the hall, and if they weren’t short staffed already, she’d be sent home.
Only when I see my cousin’s face mirroring the ill emptiness within me can I acknowledge the presence of someone else in the world.
I can hear the other nurses whispering and weeping at the station behind me. In our 18 days of being there, they have witnessed something not often seen. There has always been someone here with him 24/7. I have been here every night after work with the puppies. I have climbed upon his hospital bed for a cuddle. I have taken him out for a drink whenever he liked, to make his life as normal as it can be when it isn’t normal. I let him hold me as tight as he could without touching him back hardly at all, for fear of disturbing the myriad of lumps in his back and ribs under thin flesh that send waves of pain throughout his body. There are many others here in that time who have died alone, not one person to visit. How could I not be here? This is my love.
Over Wanda’s shoulder, I see my love’s flesh-anchor to this world, so still, so frail and so devoid of the essence of him. I watch his chest under a crisp linen sheet, hold my breath and will to see him breathe once more until I am forced to take a breath myself, and then as I step forward, I know truth.
Love lies dead before me.
I give into my knees’ smug demand to go down, and braced on all fours against cold sterile linoleum, forehead just touching a hand that will no longer fluff my hair, pull my ear or touch my face, I give Voice to Grief.
The first sob is a roundhouse kick into my cousin’s gut as she is stopped mid-movement from trying to touch me, and to offer comfort. The second backs her out of the room, her own wail a keening counterpart. The third is a headwind that buffets the first nurse who enters the room, and then nurse Jenn comes to try and gently bully me to a quieter state for the sake of those others dying nearby, and their loved ones who are gathering for their own deathwatches.
“He wouldn’t want you to cry for him. He’s free of all that pain. He loved you so much.” Jenn says, tugging me up and into a chair, offering to get a ginger ale. But she doesn’t understand. I’m not crying for him. I’m crying for me.
I cry because love is dead; my soul is now split asunder; my world is shattered. I cry with the heaving sustained, bewildered grief of a toddler being away from his mommy for the first time ever, and not having the words to express this feeling of loss and abandonment.
The only person I know in my heart who loves me completely and unconditionally for no reason except he chooses to is gone, and suddenly realizing this is more painful than all the hate and hurt that I shielded him from this past year and 18 days.
I send that sound of loss after his spirit, because he might come back, and then and only then as that odd thought breaks through do I quell my selfishness and will myself to quiet because I do not want his beautiful spirit to come back into his tumor-laced shell that has tortured him for far too long.
And even when the volume subsides, as I bury my face against the mattress I shudder deeply, each breathe moving the wheeled hospital bed. Because God is cruel in giving me everything I ever prayed for, then taking it away so quickly, leaving only this cooling homunculus in its place
I cry because for the first time in over year I do not have to be strong for anyone else. I only had strength while he was here needing it and now I am nothing. Because now uncaring I can let loose all the terrible dark things crammed into me like Pandora’s box, except this time, hope takes flight first.
Hope lives only while there is life, and life is gone.
Thus emptied, I let logic take over; make calls and summon the others of The Family, the chosen kin. There is crying, and I don’t know my role: do I comfort? I have no comfort. Person after person surrounding me with their presence, their touch. I never have felt more alone than in that moment in a room full friends’ freely proffered love that cannot fill what had just fled this room. (It comforts now, but oh, in that moment…)
A nurse suggests that the dogs should be here to know and share the grief, and Wanda runs to the apartment to get Roxie.
Nurses are wanting to offer me platitudes that I very politely accepted. (Love lies dead.) Thanking them for their work. (Love lies.)
Signing the paperwork. (Lies dead.)
More paperwork. (Dead.)
A little blond powder-puff puppy arrives and is watched collectively by a room, as she slowly walks up the bed to sniff a cold face, and runs back down to jump into my arms (thus ending a question of ownership).
“Alright people, the dog knows he isn’t here, it’s time we move on too. Let’s get this room packed up, say our good byes, and let the nurses do what they need.” Stefan, voice of reason.
We leave a cold body behind, each of us trying to put a name to the collective void.
Oh, how I wish it was that easy to leave the grief behind as we did your body, but to do that would mean to forget you, my love. A voice to grief? No. Only the most primal howling hymn to love, which one does not know until loss.
Picture two people on a cliff,
one clinging to the other off the edge.
Now you say to me “just let it go”
I wonder if I am the one hanging,
Or the one holding?
But I’ve just let go so we will see
What will be the impact?
Have I saved or sacrificed myself?
The strain of the past on the present
Is no longer the option.
And the freedom of the decision
Perhaps a shadow of my former imagination
Flickering, fluttering in the corner of my (heart?) eye
Happiness is like the butterfly
Sinking to the bottom of the kill jar
Spread, sprayed, and pinned to velvet
Mounted for the world to see for ages
Is reality like the butterfly
Floating, flying through winds across the (mind?) land
It’s beauty to fool predators
Pollinating, fornicating, fodder in a web
Delicate, tenuous as dust
From damaged wings
Spiralling towards the false safety of glass
Experiments in faithful Christian formation
Living the best life, one fabulous thing at a time