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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Letting Go of Anger to Let Pain Pass and Remembering Lost Friends

Those of you who have known me for a very long time know that October is, in general a shitty month for me. Of the things I keep personal, October is the biggest part of it. I try to block it out, but the two worst anniversaries of my life are in October. I very rarely talk about them, as its pretty hard to accept, but I also realize I never dealt with one of them, and I think I will today.

See during my formative years in high school and college, I had some great friends. Lots of great friends, but I had two best friends. Scott and Gregg. We did many things together, laughed a lot and generally enjoyed those times more than I knew at the moment. We were those annoying friends who had our own way of communicating, mostly with killer lines from comedy movies and albums that applied to the situation we were in. You may not have understood why we referenced spider monkeys (Richard Pryor) at that moment, but the three of us were laughing to the point of tears when the comment was delivered.

Scott and I moved to California at the end of July 88. That trip is a story unto itself, but suffice to say, loading a 27' UHaul with all of our belongings, my Suzuki Samurai, our two motorcycles and his car on a trailer behind us but the little rental truck slightly over its weight capacity. The move was hard as we both left our families behind, but also our friends--especially Gregg. Thankfully Gregg was a corporate pilot for an international company so we knew he would have some trips to CA as part of the deal. But the three of us never had a chance to hang out again as a drunk driver killed Scott while we were out on a motorcycle ride in early October of 88. The immediate days after that incident were the hardest I have ever experienced in my life. Not only was Scott dead, our friend Dayna, who was riding passenger on his bike was in the hospital fighting for her life. And I was alone in a new state across a big country with no one for support--except my phone calls to Gregg. I remember being alone in my Marina Del Rey apartment, picked because Scott loved boats, and trying to sort out my loss at 4 am. I couldn't. I was to deliver the eulogy at his funeral, but how could I? I had not cried yet.

The stress and arrangements of getting Scott back to Philly, getting a flight back, making arrangements to leave a new job for a while--I didn't know how long I would be back in Philly, it was a lot to take. Thankfully I did get some laughter with Gregg in those private jokes.
I decided to go back to California permanently after the funeral. I visited PA a lot in the beginning, friends weddings, reunions, those things. But It was a lot of work as I was building a new life. Gregg visited quite a bit, we talked about him moving out--he loved the weather and the ability to ride motorcycles all the time.

I had married while in CA, and on one of Gregg's visits we discussed my need to get divorced. It was a long, serious conversation and he was a good person top have it with. He understood my unhappiness and helped me move forward with confidence.

Then, Gregg, who had always dealt with a bit of depression in his life, took his own life in October of '97. I was devastated. My two best friends were dead and we were not even in our 40's yet. Somehow I felt I had failed him as a friend. But I realized how often I called him and asked him to move here with me. How much I checked in on him. And then I got mad, no furious, with him. And until this morning when I sat down to write this, I never let it all out. For 17 years I have faked sadness, because anger was all I felt. Rage when I should have grieved. I was being selfish about my loss and not recognizing my friends pain.

I know a lot more about personal struggles, depression and its effects at 52 than I did at 35 and I understand why Gregg did what he did. But back then I shut him off, and blocked his memory. Now, today I just miss him and wish I could talk with him again and quote stupid movie lines until we couldn't catch our breath from the laughter.

October still sucks for me, I miss my best friends. But I spent all morning recalling stupid things we did together. Remembering how we would steer a conversation so we could weave in a stupid movie line. Thinking about late nights in Philly diners talking about motorcycles, cars, girls and the future, with stupid lines mixed in. Never once thinking that this friendship, the closeness, trust and ability to count on each other wouldn't be there. It seemed eternal, we would always be there, growing up, but making the time to hang out.

Its been 26 years since that asshole took Scott and 17 years of me not forgiving Gregg. Today I think I will just listen to Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor and for the first time in a very long time laugh with my friends.