Tag Archives: Grief

East Coast Smile

Did he make it? I think he did, I rejoice in him when I see him. There is a look of caring about him. His eyes are brighter, clearer. The color of his skin is healthy. His teeth are new and white and even. They accent the big smile of triumph and happiness on his lips! There is a twinkle in his eye and a lilt of excitement in his voice. There is complete joy and gratefulness in his heart. There is a sense of freedom that surrounds him. It is fresh and catching, that feeling of freedom and newness that oozes from him.

It was the hardest thing he ever had to do, this gaining freedom. He had been captured. Yes, captured and wrapped up tight. So very tight. He and his loved ones had thought the knots would never be able to be loosed. They had given up. He had even given up all hope of a cure as he knew there was none. Or a reprieve from it and the road to hell it had led him and his down.

He began as a child. He folks’ were of a notorious biker group. They were the rough and ready type, not just recreational bikers. The bikers of the 60’s. He was raised around the partying and drugs and became addicted to heroin as a pre-teen. They allowed it. They allowed him access to it and did not care. They were in their own little world then and did not look to the future. Someone shot him up, I don’t know who as he never said. He learned to do it himself. He smoked it. It was the number 1 most important thing in his life. He fought at different times to come “clean” and stay that way. It never seemed to work, for long anyway.

When I first met him, my impression was that of a rough guy with an East Coast accent. Nice looking guy, except his teeth. I was introduced to him at one of my husband’s rehab meetings. They became friends. They connected. They were both clean and sober.

Over the next few years, my husband relapsed. But his friend did not. The East Coast guy went to every meeting and even started going to church and praising God in every way for his freedom and new life. His wife and family life were happier, he was happy too. His work was coming along well. He had more money. He got a beautiful new set of teeth. His smile was even prettier!

He had made it. It gave me hope that somehow my husband would again, “make it.” I was happy that he called him a few weeks back, thinking good, he is a good influence. My husband looked up to him. I was happier still when he phoned again, thinking maybe he is getting through to my husband. I was doubtful when the next time he called, my husband left the house. A week later, when he called our home 3 times in a row, I was skeptical.

An hour later the phone rang. As he spoke with my husband, I looked out the window. Rain was coming down hard and I saw East Coast leaning up against our front fence talking on his cell phone. Then my husband went outside in the pouring rain, wearing my pink rubber shoes on his feet to meet his friend underneath a tree that shaded them like an umbrella.

It really struck me! When my husband came back inside, the anger poured out from my heart and mouth. “What are you doing?” and “Don’t you be a part of his relapse!” and “Oh, my God!” The grief that followed surprised me.

East Coast with his beautiful new smile and freedom had relapsed. I thought he wouldn’t. Somehow his sobriety had become a symbol of hope to me. Now that was crushed. Did he make it? I thought that he had, but not this time. I sincerely hope and pray that he does again. I hope he makes it for good next time. I hope there is a next time.

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Sasquatch Man

Written and contributed by Girlswithoutshoes

 ©Sheila Smart

©Sheila Smart

I saw him today walking down the street. I now think of him as Sasquatch Man. It made me catch my breath and clutch my heart to see him like this. It made me cry to see the shadow of who he was. I cried for him and for myself, as I miss my old friend.

He is a very large man a little over 6 ft tall and probably weighs 350 lbs. He lumbers down the street, wearing his stocking hat that looks like it belongs to a lumberjack. He has taken to even wearing it with his shorts in the warmer weather. The Birkenstock sandals are always there, as they always have been, come rain or shine.

He walks everywhere now, as his license was taken away. I believe his motorcycle got sold for his and others’ safety. That alone is probably enough to make him want to die. He practically lived on it. You would see him weaving down the street, like a child does on their bicycle, just loving the feel of it.

Quite a unique individual he was. Strong and powerful in many ways. Extremely intelligent, with a very high I.Q., to the point of being almost a crazy genius. He had a very twisted sense of humor, and loved the shock effect it had on people. Folks would either be horrified at his bizarreness or laugh themselves silly. There were plenty who actually hated him, and more who loved him. He could drive you practically insane if he wanted to, by pestering you to death for attention or for drugs when he was out. That was what he always referred to as “The Malaise”. After a 40 year meth addiction, I would imagine it felt like malaise to him.

He is a product of the 60’s. There are many who spent their teens and early twenties dabbling with all kinds of drugs during the 60’s. Not just pot, but L.S.D. (acid) was popular then. It was the Hippie Years and he was no exception, but almost the rule. He lived the bizarre life then in the city. He later moved to the mountains to escape that which he ended up bringing with him.  He desired a better place to raise his family and found it.

He changed from City Hippie, to Organic Hippie, to Hippie Journalist and  Editor.  Later he became a professional in the field of Law. A brilliant, self-taught professional. He was at first scoffed at, then held in high esteem by some, and disdain by others. He was called a maverick and a lunatic. Many reasons were behind all of this. He was a “horse of a different color”. He had heart. He stood up for what he believed to be right and just.

He was right much of the time, but pushed things more than to the limit. He would push them way over the edge. His creativity knew absolutely no bounds. All of this was due not only to his nature, but to the cranked up beast raging inside of him. He was husband, father, friend, philospher, professional, and a drug addict. An amazing man in so many ways.  A doomed man in others.

Years went by, with the same behavior continuing. His family felt the ill effects of the drugs raging. His friends felt the effects. His employees felt the effects. His career felt the effect.  His mind felt the effects as did his health.

His family life became more and more strained.  Love gave way to stress and hopelessness and embarrassment.  His relationships at work became more and more strained. Trust and respect gave way to disrespect and embarrassment. His career ended in a hugely scandalous way, devastating his family, his employees and co-workers, his friends and himself.

He was never the same after that, but steadily went downhill. At first his nervousness and devastation were calmed some by tranquilizers. His mind had already been slipping for the past few years. What one would have thought was just early aging and forgetfulness turned out to be dementia. I believe that at least some of the dementia was caused from the holes that the meth had put in his brain over the years.

His drug use and the consequences were not only felt by him, but by his wife, children, grandchildren, friends, and co-workers. The consequences were huge and life changing to all concerned.

Eventually each one dealt with the stress and strain and devastation in his or her own way. We all moved on and left him behind. We left him behind trapped in a body that did not operate in the same way that it had before. The body that now walked similar to “the thorazine shuffle”, as it is known in mental wards. The eyes that did not have the same intelligent light in them as before but looked blankly into the beyond.

Confusion is written on his face. The sadness in those eyes haunts me to this day. The sadness, I believe is a little glimmer of awareness in him that is left. The awareness of all that he has lost. The huge strength and power that he had once exuded is now gone.

Yes, I saw Sasquatch Man today. He used to have another name, but now I cannot make the name fit him anymore as he is a different person. It made me catch my breath again. It made me clutch my heart again, to see him like this.  It made me cry once again to see the shadow of who he was. I cried again for him and again for myself, as I will always miss my dear old friend who is no more.

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Into Oblivion

Written and contributed by  oracleofthepearl 

 

She died last week. I think she was just a few years older than myself.

The word on the street is she’s been doing it with them. The same “them” your husband’s hanging around with.

Now a few of them have given you confirmation of what they’ve all been doing.

As you yourself told me, you knew it all along. But you’d hoped. You can always hope it’s not that bad.

Well, how else could you live with it?

I remember once long ago, looking at her—her pallid face, the sometimes almost-allure of her mysterious darkness…what was it?

Her odd hours and sleep patterns. The way she was there, yet not there.

So white, she was.

I remember I thought, “She looks like a junkie”.

She had Diabetes. She bore damage from that—neuropathy in her legs, for starters. She said she lived with pain, everyday. And everyday, she ate painkillers. The serious kind.

She openly said she was addicted, and what are you going to do? / the pain was just a fact of life / she couldn’t live with it without the drugs.

She had three children, not quite grown.

Isn’t this the story I heard from my other friend all those years ago?

Another one with permanent pain and the knowledge that IT made it ALL go away, easy.

Well, I never thought he hated it or anything. Of course he didn’t. Of course he wasn’t even using it for the pain. Yet….he was one with pain, for sure.

I remember once walking together on the beach, me clipping along at a moderately brisk pace, and him stopping long before I was winded.

“Please. You have got to slow down for me” he said.

I didn’t get it at first…I thought I was just in better shape than he, which seemed funny as I seemed always to be laboring to keep up with my male friends.

He mentioned the twenty-two tumors he’d once had in his legs. Told me there was damage. Pain. Walking hard set it off.

I had given him grief for being in such poor shape that I was leaving him behind….

I cringed then, remembering that I’d known the extent of the cancer he’d beaten. He looked healthy. It was startling, looking at him as somehow fragile.

That’s when he told me about the Heroin. Just once in a while, when the pain was really bad, and always only under the skin.

I accepted it, well, what would you do? I wasn’t living with his beasts.

This, from my friend. The one I admired. The one I spoke secrets to. The first ever to read my words. The first to encourage me, to teach me.

The one I’d laid with, who like a brother, never touched me. The first, that way also.

He was the one to see me, to hear me, to know something in me no one else did.

My friend, my brother for a little while, a soul brother, and brother to the one I wanted. The only connection I could keep to one who wanted something I was no part of. His connection to this one so strong as to be almost tangible to me, in his presence.

What was in it for him? Although we had a bond, I now understand he wasn’t in it to be my “brother”. He had to have hated me sometimes for my lack of grace where he was concerned. I never once meant to be that way, but I’m sure he heard an earful and bit his own tongue until it bled.

My friend, who was brilliant. Poet, music maker, artist, Father, friend, seeker. son.

I got a call from him after a long absence, asking me for help. Asking me to take him somewhere.

I tried, I really did. He asked me to give him some guidance. What would you do? I was too close, I was too timid. I knew this. I was younger than now, less tough, more worried about offending with the truth.

I also knew he had no other connection than me at this point, for his tenuous reaching to some way out.

So, I tried.

I had to admit then, that I was not the one for the job….

How do you tell one you look up to that they don’t know what’s best for them?

Because he didn’t.

Much later I got a call from him once again. About to complete his second tour of rehab, he was afraid to go home. He wanted one thing—for someone clean to come stay with him for two weeks. He said that he was sure that if he could just get through those first two weeks home, he could make it. If he could only just know there would be another there.

Living in another state, with a whole new life, and a man who would never have understood, I declined.

I will never forget this moment. I will never not wonder, at all the things I tried to say, but failed at, and the time, this last time, that he asked for something and I refused.

Because the truth is that I was afraid. I could not speak all my truths, to him, or anyone else, after all. I knew if I had gone, I would have failed at any purpose for being there.

I honestly can’t say now how much later it was that his brother called me. It could have been a year, two, or three.

His voice sounded strangled, wrecked, half there. Very quietly anguished. “J died” he told me.

The rest is so blurry; I don’t even know what he said, although I remember some of the information. I must have called him again to understand better what had happened, because from the moment he said it I felt underwater.

It felt the death of so much.

My friend, who I knew not any longer, and now never would again.

My mentor, soul brother. My liason to another–how strange, and even embarrassing that that should be part of the hurt. And here was that other with the news like a hard rain. I could hear it in his voice. He was slapped down hard, flat.

I felt strangled myself, for this one felt things I couldn’t possibly. I wanted, needed, to comfort, the only thing I could offer, and yet I could not. I could do nothing for that but leave him to hang up and be with his grief, his life, his loss, and his wife. She/he did not need the kind of comfort I would offer.

I was outside.

Another person I would hold my truth from. Another that nearly slipped away to Oblivion himself.

This was the end. There was nothing to come in the way of closure. There was to be no service at all. And for me, no commiserating with others, no wake, no recalling the things he’d said and done, no montage of pictures for people to look at together. Someone was kind enough to send me two pictures to remember him by and I still have them. All contact stopped there.

It was as though he had never been, nor anything connected with him.

Could anything I could have done have ever made a difference? If I had been brave enough, strong enough, to try harder to reach him, would it have mattered?

Probably not. How do you know when you have done all you can? It’s not as though I never tried at all.

What I do also know is this—

I did not want to alienate him. How could I be of any help if I drove him away?

But perhaps more important to me at the time was just that I didn’t want to lose him.

Well, I lost him. We all did.

What burned in me to speak to him, went largely unsaid. That I loved him and knew that he would die if he continued. That his two small children would grow up with no Father. That I wanted him to stop, whatever it took, and anything less was unacceptable and suicidal. That I would be right there, anyway I could, if he needed me. My convictions wavered when I tried. Maybe I didn’t know a thing about what he needed, after all? Maybe I just didn’t think I had the right. Maybe I was afraid of his rejection and retreat from me. I retreated myself instead.

Then he was gone.

I realize that I had little control over where he chose to go with his particular demon. He knew the demons name. And he didn’t or couldn’t banish it.

Always I’ve known, that I will just never know. I only know I didn’t say what I needed to, for fear. And I can’t do that over.

I think of him often now, and I practice telling my truth, lest I lose the chance again.

Girl, what will you regret not saying? Doing? You hope, you pray, you worry, you imagine. But now you know.

I’ve been watching. Here I am wondering what I should say/not say. Again.

What will you choose?

For two that I loved–

She Comes For You

She comes for you, your open arms

Promising dreams for your sleep

Never to tell you the price of her love

Rocking you endlessly

Away, away

You were gliding away

From me on a beautiful horse

Sublime the grace

Of painlessness

Riding so effortlessly

She came to you again and again

With solace like no one else

Ever so sweet the song she sings

Making all into a dream

Did you see me waving as you rode on her back

Did you see me on the hill

I waited a long time for you to come down

And now you never will

Away, away

Riding away

From me on a beautiful horse

Hold on tight

No pain tonight

Flying so easily

Away, away

She runs in the dark

Away she will take you and all that you love

Away she flies with all that you’ve known

Never to bring you home.

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