I lost a very dear friend to cancer yesterday. I knew it was coming, and I knew he was in a bad way, but in my heart I think I wanted him to beat this so badly that I convinced myself he could. He didn’t.
Harold was one of the first friends I ever remember making. Our last names always put us together in class, in line, where ever. In first grade, anytime we lined up for anything there was this little kid, knee high to a grasshopper, cracking himself up by calling me every “fart” name he could think of. I’d like to say that at a young age I was a lady and didn’t respond to such things, but I did. He cracked me up. I knew his home life was a bit rough, but I didn’t ask, and he didn’t offer anything up. I knew I missed him on the days he was gone.
Years passed and we remained friends. Always friends no matter what. Eventually he opened up about his family a little and we trusted each other more and more as the time passed. Harold developed a crush on me, and for some reason put me high on a pedestal that I never deserved to be on. We never dated, though he was sure persistent, but instead remained tight in our friendship. I never wanted to lose that friendship we had because I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it.
Harold was bullied, and I was always fiercely protective over him, no one dared say anything derogatory about him around me. I had a couple friends that would insinuate that he was inappropriate in the way he would play with my hair when he sat behind me in class, or how he was always around, but I shut them down. My loyalty was always to our friendship and there was nothing inappropriate ever. He was persistent, like I said, but never uncomfortable. When your friendship starts out over fart jokes, can you ever REALLY be appropriate?
Then he got sick.
I never believed in treating him different because he was sick, in fact, I think it was comforting to him that I never treated him like he was going to break. There were some jerks who bullied him even more so because of this, which just added to his rough life. I stood up to them when I knew about it, but Harold was proud and much like his rough home life, he never let on. He went into the hospital to get a colostomy bag, not a fun thing for anyone, let alone a teenage boy, but he never let on that anything bothered him.
I went to visit him in the hospital and he happened to be in the same hospital that my dad had died in and on the same floor. It took every ounce of courage to go see him up there, but I had to. I still missed him on the days he was gone.
Time went by and we lost touch for a few years. He got married, I got married, and as it turns out our paths nearly crossed many times in those lost years until one day I found him on face book. I searched, I stalked his old high school friends, and one day I found him. It was like nothing had changed except we were both married with kids.
Then he got even more sick. This time it was cancer and it was bad. Stage three at first and then stage four. We talked a lot, nearly every day, about everything. Well almost everything. There was one subject we never broached. He always had a good attitude and we joked about how our spouses should lemon law us both. He was so sick, yet always checked on me about my health, to see how I was feeling. We joked about how his friends who always posted uplifting comments and said how much they were praying for him must think I’m the unseemly one this time with my smart assed comments and crude jokes. We talked about his wife and daughter and how familiar their scenario was. I told him how I remember my mother taking care of my dad, my brother and I, and the company they started, but I always stopped short of how she had to pick up the pieces to carry on after he died.
I had hopes of seeing him this weekend. We were going to be passing through town, but I couldn’t get ahold of him. It had been a few days and I was worried. It was not like him to not respond to me. I knew something was up.
Right now my heart breaks for his family. You are not supposed to lose your husband while you’re still raising your children. You shouldn’t have to raise a young child alone, and your parents are supposed to be there to shape your formative years. I know better though. I know that as the little girl grows up, she will wonder what her dad thinks of not only her life choices, but the state of the world itself. I know the hole that will always be there and even though she will grow up and go on to have a happy life, in high school, college and eventually have a family of her own he will always be there. Her memories of her dad will fade, but hopefully she will remember who he was as a person, and what values he held dear. She will remember his humor and, like me, she will miss him on these days that he’s gone.