Sunday, May 15, 2016
Okay, I am going to talk about it. My brilliant plan of not talking about it AT ALL in order to pretend that it didn't happen is a complete failure, and if nothing else, I feel like I have to explain why I am in general not okay or sane or any state of being approaching okay or sane for the foreseeable future.
To understand (or not. Whichever is okay), you should probably recall the best friend that I've mentioned off and on throughout the years. I met him at university, on the second floor balcony of the university library, the one that belongs to the special collections department, where we both had student jobs. The photocopier lived on that balcony, and I don't remember what I was copying, but I do remember that Mac was photocopying something from the Speaker Jim Wright Collection, which was his department, and before we left the balcony that day, our photocopies in hand, not only had we been chastised by one of our bosses for talking so loudly that the research librarian on the floor below had complained about us, but I had scored invitations to both come check out the Jim Wright gavel collection in the basement vault sometime, and to drive to Dallas together sometime to buy blue hair dye.
This was, obviously, a time when blue hair dye was SO cool that you could only get it in the coolest part of Dallas. You couldn't get it at all in Ft. Worth. Also, online shopping hadn't been invented yet.
That was also obviously the very moment that Mac and I began to fit each other into all the big and little spaces in our lives. He did take me to see the gavel collection (and you should go check it out, too, whenever you're in Ft. Worth--it's CRAZY). We did drive together to Dallas, and I did dye my hair. We studied together and read together and listened to a lot of music while smoking a lot of pot together. He taught me some Russian, primarily "please," "thank you," and "Get into the kitchen!", and gave me a cassette tape of probably the worst female punk band ever, and then was kind of appalled when I fell in love with it and insisted on playing it over and over again all. The. Time (I'm listening to them right now and I stand by my assertion--they're freaking amazing). I took him to visit my family, they fed him biscuits, and he liked it so much that from then on he continually threatened to go visit them without me. We thought each other's friends were okay, sure, and they all thought that we were okay, but for my friends, he was the weird guy that I was always hanging out with when I wasn't with them, and for his friends, I was the weird chick with whom he did the same. Our truest friends didn't even try to figure it out.
College is like that, though, you know? You meet people whom you never even knew existed before, and through them, you learn parts of yourself that you never knew existed before, either. Mac had probably never before seen a brilliant, literate redneck chick with zero social skills and more sense of adventure than sense before, and I sure as hell had never seen a brilliant, literate burnout Kentucky guy who knew exactly who he was, accepted everyone else exactly the way that they were, had that same sense of adventure, just about as little sense, and also a pretty big helping of troublemaking before, either. We were made to be friends.
Mac, though, was in a completely different category from everyone, even from Matt, for whom my love is as deep and boundless as the ocean and all that, but who has never known a time in our relationship in which there isn't a Mac on the couch of my college apartment every single second, or on the phone with me so that I'm not helping put the babies to bed, or coming by the house every few months and sweeping me off to eat Ethiopian food, or getting me and the kids press passes to the Creation Museum and we all think it's going to suck but instead it's AWESOME, or calling every few weeks and letting me tell him all my random gossip and calling all the right people really, really terrible names. Around the time of our wedding, I even had the suspicion that my Pappa, who was hard of hearing, and who would sometimes see me come to visit for the weekend with Matt, and sometimes with Mac, and who saw them both come for my wedding, and both put on tuxedos (Matt as my groom, and Mac as my Man of Honor), wasn't quite sure exactly which boy I'd be marrying until he saw which one I gave the ring to.
There's simply not a category for the way that I feel about Mac. Platonic life partner? Possibly, but we didn't exactly spend our lives together. Best friends? Definitely at times, but not always. It's easier just to say that, since the day that I met him, he's always been my favorite person. He gets me. He accepts me. He makes me tell him the stuff that I don't want to tell anyone, and then he tells me that stuff is okay.
He is THE truest friend, and he's always been that way with everyone, kind and thoughtful and generous to a fault, in the way that you can never fully reciprocate, because you just aren't that kind and thoughtful and generous. He NEVER misses a birthday, and always calls, even though everyone else in the world hates talking on the phone. He wrote letters for probably a decade after everyone else in the world started texting instead, and still sends postcards when he travels. When Willow was born--and she's named after him, by the way--his baby gift to her was a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. When he called me a year ago and I told him that I couldn't talk because I'd had my wisdom teeth out and I was in a lot of pain but the pain meds made me dizzy, four days later I received a mysterious package in the mail with a fake return address and chock-full of marijuana edibles.
The thing is, you know how life moves on and you lose touch with your dearest friends because you just don't make the time to call and write and think of them? So that happened to me, and I didn't call and write and make enough time for him. I didn't think about him enough, and appreciate him enough. That never happened to him, though. He calls and writes and makes time for everyone. He has hundreds of friends, all over the world, and they all love him as much as I do, because he's just that great.
So what I haven't told you is that he's been battling brain tumors off and on for the past twelve years--I can tell you exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing every single time he called me to tell me that he had a new one, or that one was growing again. And what I have to tell you is that he died this week. His latest brain tumor was bad, but he didn't tell me that it was going to kill him. Instead, he told me that he was "optimistic," which I know now I should have taken as the code word for bad, and I should have bought a fucking plane ticket as soon as I got off the phone with him, but I believed him, because Pappa JUST died on New Year's Eve, and nobody else that I love is going to die this year, because I'm already grieving and sad and insane and that would just be too much. So instead of going to fucking see my fucking favorite person on the planet like anyone else would have done, I instead called him every week and texted him every now and then, sent him a care package with cookies and pictures drawn by the kids and a Golden Girls activity book, didn't think anything of it when I called for a couple of weeks straight and only got his voicemail, because chemo and radiation are hard, yo, and he probably didn't feel like talking, and I left cheerful voicemails with all the good gossip, and then he died.
All the grief things? I'm doing all the grief things, in all the wrong order, and all messed up. I'm mad and I'm in denial and there are a million things that I think that I should have done differently and I'm so, so sad and I try to distract myself by holding a Girl Scout meeting, or having a campfire with friends, or going to a movie, or working in my garden, thinking that I can have a break from feeling all the terrible feelings but I literally cannot have a break from this. It's just so pointless, and so stupid, and so not fair. Why couldn't Donald Trump have the brain tumors? I hate Donald Trump, and it would be awesome if he'd died instead. Or that guy who shot Trayvon Martin, and now is trying to, like, ebay the murder weapon. He's the one who needs to die from a brain tumor, not Mac. There is just nothing stupider, more wrong, or more fucked up than Mac, who had just absolutely the best brain, dying from a brain tumor. That's what I keep surprising myself with, every single second. I have a second where I'm thinking about pizza or something, or petting the cat, and then all of a sudden I'm like, "Mac died," and even though I just thought that a second ago, it's still a painful surprise when I think it again, every single time.
So, yeah. That's what's been going on with me. I'm grieving. Again. Still. I'm functioning, managing to continue to take consecutive breaths most of the time, haven't thrown anything, almost cut all my hair off but didn't do it (I still might...). Trying to over-schedule my life to stay busy and distracted didn't work with Pappa, and in fact I'm pretty sure that's why I got the flu so bad, so next week I'm going to do my utmost to chill, do some stuff that I like. This, you should know, is practically antithetical to my nature, but it was something that Mac could always, always get me to do--why study when you could instead drive to Dallas for Ethiopian food and a gender-swapped production of Hair? Why go to that meeting when you could instead get high, eat iced animal cookies, and listen to the Pixies? Why go to work when you could instead bum around Europe for a month?
So I'll try it for Mac. I'll make a vegan peanut butter icebox pie, because he loved those. I'll take the kids to the Children's Museum one day, and I told them that while we were in Indy I'd buy them some dry ice, because why not? I'll watch some really bad movies, and some really good music videos. I'll take the kids to get ice cream as a good surprise, because Mac loved ice cream, too--well, I mean, who doesn't? And don't judge me if while I'm doing all of that, I'm secretly pretending that Mac is around, and it's just been a while since we've talked. Because while I'm hopefully going to be better at grieving this time around, I still haven't figured out how to be okay with the thought that my favorite person on the planet is no longer on this planet with me.