Monday, January 09, 2006

Resolutions

It's that time of year. I've never been much for resolutions -- and I'm definitely not one for making them public. I need to work on something; as long as I know it, why would I open up my weakness to outsiders?

But resolutions always make me think of Todd. I met Todd when I was in the Army. He was witty, sarcastic, brilliant, funny, challenging, frustrating, irreverent, disrespectful, arrogant, and my best friend.

We were almost inseparable. Except he was always gone one night a week. He would be gone, I would knock on his door in the barracks, and his roommate "Skippy" would tell me again he had no idea where the dude was. (Skippy was so named because he looked just like Skippy, the neighbor from the TV show "Family Ties." I have no idea to this day what his real name was.)

It was months before I discovered tht Todd disappeared to an AA meeting every week. I was hurt that he had kept it from me so long -- of course he knew I'd be supportive of that and keep his secret, didn't he? And I did -- I kept that secret the whole time we were in the Army.

He got out in 1990 and moved back to Southern California. I was supposed to move there, too, and we were going to move in together, go to school, and have a fabulous life. There was never any romantic interest, really -- a couple of moments we both remember vividly where that choice was in front of us both and we chose to walk away from it -- but there was a deep friendship. I had never met anyone who was my intellectual equal who challenged me the way he did. We argued about everything. We disagreed, we pouted, we sputtered and screamed, we debated, we plotted, schemed, and accused each other of having no scruples, morals, or values whatsoever.

We fought bitterly at times, but always seemed to work it out. He didn't speak to me for 6 months after I decided to stay in North Dakota instead of moving to LA. Again, we worked it out and made up. He confessed to having fallen off the sobriety wagon for a time, but was sober and okay in 1994.

Sometime in there, I became aware that he was most likely gay. It made perfect sense -- after all, he would go clothes shopping with me when I was in the Army and he would tell me what looked good, what made my butt look big, what thing I thought was too daring that actually looked HOT on me -- but my Gaydar was not well developed then.

In 2003 he flew me out to LA to meet his friends. To my dismay, he also had another female friend visiting. I liked her and it wouldn't have been a problem for me except I was not told in advance she would be there. Unfortunately, there was no time for us to really be alone and talk. He came out to me then, in the early morning, with coffee brewing and the LA sun just beginning to stream in through the blinds. I'm sure he was terrified, but I told him all I ever wanted was for him to be happy. I sincerely don't care who he is with as long as the relationship is healthy for both of them and it makes them happy. He was with a terrific guy whom I adore and I wish they were still together.

At the time Todd was sober again but it was clear it had been a struggle for quite some time. He was thin -- thinner than he was when we were both 20 and in the Army. I sounded like a mother hen fussing over him, telling him he needed to eat. His friends were marvelous -- and I found out they had all bailed him out more than once, dealing with his alcoholism and drug addiction for years. It was clear they were all done with that and that they expected him to keep it together.

I wish I had had more time to really talk with him that weekend. Had we been alone there were things that I could bring up that I would never have said in front of another person, especially one who did not have any knowledge of the addictions he had dealt with for over 10 years at that point. I could have asked questions and called him on the bullshitting I know he would have done. I always could read him so well. I knew things weren't right, but there was no opportunity to dig in and find the real problem. I think a lot of it is his own ambivalence about his sexual preference. He grew up in a pretty stereotypical home with a dad who hunted big game in his spare time. He had tried to be supportive of his son, but acknowledged that it was difficult for him. Add to the ambivalence a sharp mind, a perfectionistic personality, and a need to keep up appearances, and you have a recipe for chemical abuse. For a long time he kept it hidden and everything looked good on the surface. When I left LA I knew it was a critical time.

Things were not going well 6 months later when I found myself living in California. I had hoped to spend a few weekends in LA to get those things said, to have those conversations, but in the fall of 2004 I spent hours on the phone with him trying to talk him out of committing suicide, and I finally had to tell him that I really had to go and be a mom, that I loved him but he had to make changes and get honest with himself before anything positive would happen.

(As an aside, and a tremendous insight into his personality, at one point he was threatening to kill himself in the newly remodeled bathroom of the condo he shared with his partner. In desperation, I said, "You can't do that. He'll be the one to find you, there'll be blood everywhere. God, what if the cats came in and tracked it all over the house before he comes home from work? It would ruin furniture, rugs, everything -- and of course he won't want to live there after that. He'll have to sell, but the real estate value will be lowered dramatically because somebody committed suicide in the unit. You just can't DO that." In a sad and peculiarly amusing way, it worked.)

So it's been over a year since I spoke to him. I called him in November 2004 to let him know we were coming to LA for a long weekend and that I wanted to see him and introduce him to my kids. He was staying at a hotel in Anaheim or Buena Park and said he'd call me back. That was it. I saw his ex-boyfriend on that trip, but it gets really old when you just call the ex for news on your friend's health and well-being. So I don't hear from him anymore either.

Resolutions. Resolve to tell the people around you they are important to you ... NOW. Resolve to face your problems and emotional issues without using chemicals to dull the pain. Resolve to be the kind of friend you'd like to have. Resolve to say all the things you've wanted to say if you ever get the chance again.

And if you're the kind of person who prays, a prayer for Todd certainly wouldn't hurt.
Thanks.

3 comments:

  1. I remember you telling me about him. I hope he is okay.

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  2. My prayers go out to Todd. I know how much he means to you. He must be special if you care that much and hurt that much over him. I only hope he knows that.

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  3. Anonymous11:58 AM

    This was so painful for me to read, but I got through it. You are the best friend anyone could have, including me, your mother. Hang in there and try to ease the pain by knowing you have done all you can. Love, Mom

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