Well, in this life, I guess you just never know what might happen which in and of itself, is worth sticking around for as long as there is some quality to your days. In May of this year, I was thinking about my life’s great loves, Michael, of course, and my treasured friend Fern who was family to me. In the paragraph below, I bemoaned the fact that I’d never see a new photo of either one of them. But not two weeks ago, I unearthed decades-old VHS videos which I got digitized. Now I have multiple photos of Michael that I’d never seen – my buried treasure.
Today I received a message from an old and dear college friend, one who knew me and Fern together in that time and Fern later, in a more collegial way as she worked on her master’s degree at the same university where he was ensconced. He informed me that he was coming into possession of some of Fern’s writings and that as soon as he had them, he’d get them into my hands. When Fern committed suicide in October, 1988, she called me the night before she ended her life. She was in a dark place. I was trying to convince her that in only 2 weeks, we would be attending our 20th high school reunion together and after that, she could come stay with me and Michael so we could help her. After her death, I communicated with everyone I could find in Utah, plus her sister-in-law, trying to get her written work to protect her memory. I can’t believe I’ll finally receive it, after all these years. I’m so moved by these unexpected gifts. Aren’t I the lucky one to still be alive to receive them?
May 14th, 2022
I first published this post a few years ago. At the time, I was still adapting to Michael’s death, now impossibly, almost five years ago. For me, it’s not dated, though. I can never have a new experience or a new photo of either Fern or Michael. They live on in my memory, although Michael remains a mysterious daily presence in my life. When I think of unconditional love, I think of them first. Until I am no longer me or until I’m gone, I expect that I’ll be revisiting them every year. So here is my annual homage to Fern.
Dear Fern(or Phil if we’re using inside jokes)
May 14th. Another one of your birthdays. I start thinking about it in April, girding myself for the slog through all the challenging events that are emotional triggers for me from early May into early June. Now I have to contend not only with the hole where you belong, but with Michael’s absence too. I’m glad I never had the gift of vision to see the future, to know in advance that my biggest loves would be gone, leaving me here with memories so vivid and palpable, that processing your absence is still a challenge. Today I realized this 71st birthday of yours, and the anniversary of your death in October, will officially mark the sum total of the entire length of our relationship and a bit more. We knew each other for 30 years and now it’s 34 years since you’ve been gone. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that fact. I’ve already spent more than half my life without you. The truth is, I still remember so much about what we meant to each other, what we shared, the good times and the awful times.
I can close my eyes and look straight into yours, seeing your expressions which I knew so well. Often they were highlighted with your favorite color eyeshadow, Daffodil, a ridiculous yellow color you chose to go with your brown v-necked sweater, which reminded you of one of your high school crushes. And those absurd glasses you wore, one pink pair and one blue, decorated with little rhinestones in the corners. I can feel you. Your angst and pain, your frustration and anger. I still mourn you, all of you and am angry that you were victimized to the point that death became a relief for you. I remember those harsh realities. But I also remember laughing. Lots of laughing.
I remember visiting your house at 8138 S. Jeffrey in Chicago. I lived in an apartment, so being in a house was pretty impressive. You had a piano in the living room and you played Clair de Lune for me. We went into your bedroom that was all yours, unlike me who always had to share with my two sisters. You had a double-sided chalkboard that flipped in circles and on it I wrote the “Personality Plus” program that I thought would help you be happy.
We bowled at the Pla-Mor bowling alley and ate greasy food at Carl’s Hot Dogs which was so close to where we lived.
I remember when we saw the Beatles at the Chicago Amphitheater. The joy and madness we shared, with Bobby Hebb of “Sunny” fame, and The Cyrkle who sang “Red Rubber Ball” as we waited impatiently for our idols. My loving Paul while you loved John was so convenient. We had no friction or jealousy and were happy to sing their parts in our endless harmonizing.
I remember sitting in the Woods Theater all day watching “Help” when they just re-spooled it for hours, instead of having to pay for each viewing. By the time we left we’d memorized most of the lines.I remember sharing the great adventure of our train ride and trip to Montreal for that magic summer world’s fair, Expo ‘67.