So my friend Nick ended up in ER because his blood pressure spiked to crazy land. His Dr called me with those concerns as it was dangerous post stroke. Sadly, as usual, his medical POA’s, and life long friends said not a word. It’s gross. He had clear intentions of retiring closer to them and actually willed all of his meager belongings to their kids. All of them. Sort of some desperate outreach toward some ephemeral definition of an ideal, yet fictitious, family. And yet, that is not my domain I suppose.
My observations though are coinciding with others. Post-stroke, he’s become even more isolated than ever. I don’t even know what the damage is within his logical capacity. That’s the part of his brain that was damaged. It’s all been, well, something we’ve sort of been denying, learning & constructing around. “He’s doing great!”
There are times when being an extended family is exactly like real family. Part hate, part survival, & part shame. Nick’s friend Tom taught me that. Loud and clear when he suffered death from AIDS months after when he and I went to the same testing clinic in the early 90s together. I came back negative. I was terrified of blowjobs and the misinformation of the day that made sex-lethal just as I was coming of age. Tom and Nick spent the night together after our results came back. They told me to leave them alone as tears welled up in one another’s eyes. I still remember Nick’s overly cautious voice of encouragement for me to leave them that night even tonight. The term empathy does not do him justice. He was more like an oracle crossed with a wise man and fortune teller by nature given what he had experienced through his own life. He was my reason engine. I sorely miss that today.
I guess I’m struggling here. I get called “daddy” by a lot of younger gay guys these days. I guess that’s the zip code I’m in age wise. But… when I think about Nick. He was one of my own dad’s. It breaks my heart to see him sleep himself to death in a room flooded with fluorescent light with his drapes closed while news constantly blasts at him.
I’m good with stripping down, jumping into a lake at night, under the moonlight, with zero shame, buddies and beers. It’s part of the fulcrum I purposely ride these days toward burning away anxiety and fear making way for mystery and life these days. But damn… this slow death that rips away the very being of a person who molded you in many respects as an adult. Like a father. Fuck. It brings me to my knees more often than I care to remember.
I’m not any good at this family stuff. It’s not my wheelhouse. But yet, here I am. An unlikely advocate for a man who has suffered a stroke. Lost his ability to write beyond his eloquent and amazingly researched thoughts. Wit. Humor. Logic. History. It’s all seemingly gone. And yeah, of course, one of my therapists trapped me into an all-out cry session where she called me out for my own “daddy issues,” which pissed me off but made me realize that she was right. I am grieving a loss. I still am tonight after a recent “emergency.”
Sometimes I feel like there’s an explosion going on in my head these days though. An inflexibility as my aunt Lora would probably point out. I can’t accept that my Nick is gone. Forever. And that I am left with someone else. Especially after 30 years of relying on this man for his sharp, and keen, guidance that steered me through so many potentially dangerous spots in my life.
I would not be who I am today without him. I feel crushed by what I can only consider my own failures to him as I watch him hurt now. I don’t know how to deal with this. And yet, I take comfort, in some ways, that I am not alone here. Life is tough. Youth is an illusion. Survival takes balls of steel.