Sunday, October 4, 2009

Remembering Gary

Twenty-one years ago today, one of the best friends I have ever had in my entire life died. Gary was 32. Thirty-two! With each year that passes, I'm struck anew by how young that is.

Gary was funny; he was smart; he was clever as all get out. We had a friendship whose depth was only equaled by its inanity. Even today, 21 years after he died, I still think of him when certain things (OK, or people too) strike me as amusing or absurd. I want to pick up the phone and call him, or write him a letter -- two forms of communication we relied on. I shudder to think (and am at the same time highly tickled) how little work Gary and I would have gotten done if he were alive in the email era.

After Gary died, I looked for him for a long time. Longer than I should have, really. I looked to find someone I could send silly post cards to; someone who would love the word "pumpkin;" someone whose insecurities surpassed even my own. Maybe that person would even associate gin and tonics with my parents.(They introduced Gary to that drink after he was mugged and, being new in town, could think of no one but my parents to call)

Somewhere in the middle of my search, though, I called it off. It could have been a dozen years ago; it could have been five, it could have been one. But one day I realized I will never find another Gary.

That isn't a bad thing; maybe it's a mature observation of sorts. I realized that what Gary and I had, and what anyone has with a friend or a lover or a family member, is a snowflake, a fingerprint -- any number of nouns singled out for being unique.

Maybe at some point, we accept that, as I did about Gary. We stop listening for an echo; we stop reaching for the ditto marks.

Instead, we take a deep breath, and exhale a thank you. Then we make a wish on that first star..and the second, and if need be, the third. We squeeze shut our eyes, and count to 100 by 2s. We roll the dice and we cross our fingers. We throw salt over our left shoulders, and we take a chance. Maybe we'll be lucky -- call it blessed if you will -- and our spirit & soul & sense of humor will meld again with someone else's. One more time. One more precious time.

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