A Eulogy for Me

As a blogger, it’s my job to write about my emotions. Strike that, blogging isn’t a job, I don’t get paid… anything. It’s my responsibility, an expectation that I tell you how I feel. What would be the point of a blog of introspection if it didn’t capture the rawness, agitation and truth that accompanies self-exploration? Few topics leave me splayed open, vulnerable and exposed like death. Some of my past posts on death are among my best:

On Death and Living and Running (Written after a terrible week)
Death and the Blogger (Death of my first contemporary)
Pornography (Surprisingly, about my mother’s death)
About Death (More on my mother—Part II, if you will—but it’s better than that)

A couple others, not my best, but they’re OK:

Whitey and the Riff Raff (College friend who died)
Another one Bites the Dust (High school friend, also died)

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post called Pray for Mike. Synopsis: College buddy, best friend, we grew up and grew apart, lost touch, Mike’s hospitalized, me left analyzing my feelings. Pretty standard stuff. Today, Mike died. Or he’s dying, I’m not sure. They were taking him off life support this morning. This didn’t surprise me; he seemed unbelievably ill. I’ve checked Facebook twenty times a day for the past two weeks expecting this news.

I’ve also spent the past two weeks days in my head, thinking about my past and thinking about my future. There’s nothing like a dying friend to put your life in focus. My friendships have been failing for a long time. Once, I was quite popular. I had a huge group of friends. We rented a large house at the beach every summer; we took over bars; we fielded soccer teams; we were in constant contact (even without cell phones). In the days before email, the receptionist at work funneled a steady stream of calls to my office on Friday afternoons as my friends and I planned our night.

This changed. Now my only friends are Susan and my kids. I’m sure there are plenty of people who still consider me their friend, but they’re simply carrying over memories from the past. We don’t communicate except for random and intermittent comments on Facebook. We don’t get together or even make plans to get together. I’m isolated from social interaction.

Mike is a good example. I saw him less and less. The last time I spoke or wrote to him was eight years ago. The other day I messaged his wife, asked if Mike could have visitors. She said I was too late. I missed my chance. She didn’t actually say that, she said he’s unconscious and weak, but what I heard was “you’re too late, you missed your chance.”

So, why did my friendships tank so dramatically when I used to be so popular? I have multiple theories:

  • I left town for a four-month solo cross-country bike trip. I came back a different person. I became a loner.
  • I was hit by a car, sustained a massive traumatic brain injury. It changed my personality.
  • My Tourette Syndrome symptoms came back. I did this weird rolling/darting thing with my eyes. It’s hard for people to look at.
  • I went from a lush to a moderate drinker. Alcohol fueled my social comfort.

For years I watched my friendships strain and fall apart. I talked to therapists about it, I talked with Susan. I made vows to do better. I set up strategies to rebuild relationships, to keep in touch. Nothing stuck. The death knell was when I quit drinking altogether. It’s not that people didn’t want to be around me anymore; I didn’t want to be around them. So, it’s Susan and my kids.

Remembering my friendship with Mike brought this into focus. I saw Facebook posts with names I haven’t considered in years. Last week Brian called out of the blue. He went to college with Mike and me. He must have seen my name of some of those Facebook posts. Brian used to work hard to sustain our friendship—calling periodically to catch up, suggesting times to get together. Something I don’t understand caused me to pull away. I was curt during our phone calls. I never made plans to see him, or when I did I cancelled. Eventually Brian gave up. At the end of our last phone call he said “I don’t know what to do with our friendship. His absence left a hole.

Brian and I made plans to meet for dinner next week. Losing my opportunity to reconnect with Mike makes me want to connect with others. I’m sure Brian suspects that I’ll cancel at the last minute like I have so many times before. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Something feels different in me. Today at work I found myself chatting with my coworkers. I don’t chat. I sit in my office. If I need a break from working, I read a blog.

I don’t want to read too much into this because I’ve made and broken so many resolutions before, but at least I’m hopeful. On Halloween, my coworker Vicki gave me a “spooky scratch off lottery ticket.” It was called Mummy Money, or something like that. I had a chance to win five thousand bucks. I held the card for a while, not scratching. I was soaking in some hope.

P.S. Read those posts on death.

32 thoughts on “A Eulogy for Me

  1. You’re right, those old posts are good. I also believe in the Bardo.

    I started withdrawing from friends when my work comp injury took over my life. When I was no longer able to work and my personal life spiraled out of control because my husband couldn’t handle it. His relapses with the bottle and the person he was when under the influence ended our family.

    Now it’s just my two adult daughters and my autistic grandson and me. It’s enough. Sometimes too much.

    I’ve never had a Facebook account. I dont know the statis of anyone from my past. It doesn’t really matter to me. (seems kinda brutal writing it out but it’s the truth) My present and hopefully my future has the people I care most about.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes, the size of the right social circle is unique to everyone. I think part of my fear is that my kids are preparing to become adults, and I worry that as young adults they’ll have too much going on in their lives for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure they’ll be busy but neither of my daughters were ever too busy for me. We’re close, like it sounds like your family is.
        I still have a daughter at home & probably always will have. Ben needs two people and he’s better off without his biological father, who isn’t trying to be in his life anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a human post. There are many stories like this – I was like this especially once I gave up drinking but I got hauled into a local footy club volunteering and one thing led to another 6 years later I am surrounded by a large group of people who would drop and come running if I needed them. Volunteering is one of the best ways to meet new people and become re engaged socially. I had pretty much forgotten how to have a conversation that wasn’t with my kids or husband – now I’m full of life and energy and shutting me up is the problem (you may be having this problem) cheer up – it’s great if it works out with Brian but there are people all around you and also in your future – I’m very sorry about Mike. And again – this was a very human post – I was that person for years – we all get busy and don’t realise how isolated we have become – if I can change so can you 😊

    Liked by 3 people

      • You’ll get there – little steps and remember on some level – we are all the same – Brian is probably feeling a bit isolated and nervous too. If you’re really nervous read the Desiderata – I find it is really calming – and helps to be gentle with yourself. You’ll be fine Jeff.

        Like

  3. Sorry about Mike. I guess it was just a matter of time – what day would the news of his death be there, but still the finality of it all. This hit home to me. I came to the sad realization that I left college and high school without any friends. The people that I felt closest to actually visited the Philly area this past year. One visited all the friends around me and didn’t reach out at all. The other stayed in the city and made it known, but again, didn’t reach out. I could have reached out to them when I saw them here, but I didn’t. I took their radio silence personally. I used it to give me permission to kind of shut off from everyone. I haven’t done a social thing in forever – canceling or denying any social contact this year. Until last night. There’s another Ragnar coming in April and I agreed to join a group of runners I know. So last night was the first “meeting” at a restaurant. I had the WORST day yesterday. Perseverating. Cursing. Dreading. I wore clothes to cover my skin if I were to start splotching. I felt meaner to the kids. I agreed to go telling the group I could only stay for 45 minutes because of another obligation. I didn’t order anything and got through my 45 minutes. I think I came across okay. I don’t know. It’s tough. I wish you the best in following through with your outing. I know it’s hard.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I echo Rebecca Wallick – you are a gifted writer. I’ve just read all the posts. We just lost my partner’s mum last month, so these thoughts are timely to me as well.

    Like

    • Thank you CJ. It makes me happy that people are reading those posts. I think they give a good explanation of who I am. Sorry about your mum-in-law. I fear that time is coming soon for us too.

      Like

  5. My condolences on the death of your friend, Jeff. You have a way of expressing vulnerability in your posts that I cannot even begin to approach. This makes me hopeful for you and your friendships. Openness and vulnerability are important in building deep relationships, much more than alcohol. It sounds like you are on your way. My husband is not as social as I am. He has few close friends other than me. I can tell you from experience that being his only close friend puts a fair amount of pressure on me. I want to be his best friend, but not his only friend. Relationships are so tricky!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Relationships *are* tricky. Next week, I’m going to have a unique opportunity to see all of those college friends again. I have plans to try to rekindle a couple of those friendships with face to face conversations.

      Like

  6. Great reflection. If I liked introspection I could write a whole post myself! I look at FB posts of acquaintances who still have yearly girls night out with friends of thirty or forty years. Not me. I can’t tell you what any of my old high school or college friends are doing. I, unlike you, was not ever popular. I was the nerdy one, the one everyone made fun of in middle school. Friends from high school, I think, reminded me of my social struggles, so I let those friends go. Fifty years later I still am occasionally aware of that nerdy girl baggage hanging around my neck. I’ve learned however, to be happy with the nerdy woman I’ve become and have developed new friendships that I treasure. These are people who like me for who I am now, warts and all. At this stage in my life I am more interested in developing new friendships that occur naturally through common interests. We schedule our next event before we leave from the current event and that keeps us from letting time and our friendship slip by. It’s good. Thanks for your post.

    Like

    • SOme of the comments here have been of the ‘never too late to get started’ variety. For whatever reason, that’s what I’m feeling myself right now. I’m looking forward to making some new friendships with like-minded people. Thank you for your comment.

      Like

  7. I think many can relate to not having friends outside of family. Growing older, settling down seems to equal being a hermit, (I’ll speak for myself on that one). Work takes up so much of us time too, it’s so strange how we live.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sorry to hear that your friend Mike has passed. I also understand your trepidation about these older friendships. It’s never easy to recapture what once existed. But I hope you and Brian are able to reconnect in a way that is truly authentic and meaningful for you.

    Btw, I love the gutteral honesty in your writing, Jeff.

    Like

  9. Echo, condolences for Mike. And echo that your readers should check out the links to the death posts above — especially the Pornography one.

    Like

  10. awww man, I am sorry to hear about Mike. I think your reconnection with Brian will be a really good thing for you. I think human interaction takes practice sometimes. I can tell when I am on social media too much, my ability or desire to communicate face to face changes! There are very few people these days I like to hang out with. The older I get the more irritating I find certain personality types. My best friend and I just “broke up” after nearly 20 years. She is an awesome, funny person, but after a series of events, I just stopped enjoying being around her and her husband. Super Sad. But it’s also given the opportunity to spend time with others who I have neglected over the years. It was a healthy decision. Trying to pick and choose those who fill me up – its that time of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My wife and I went through a similar break up with our two best friends. It was really strange. We just didn’t want to be around them anymore. But that was also near the start of my friendless period, so it might have been because of that. I’m heading to this funeral looking forward to seeing many old friends. My positive attitude about talking with people is unusual and notable. Maybe I’m turning a corner.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Jeff Cann: someone I still consider a dear friend of 39 years.
    Yep, we both aren’t good at keeping in touch, but that is no indication of waning affection on my part. (I actually think social media makes us worse communicators. And I confess I don’t really know how to use Facebook.)

    I think i’m lucky to have known you not via party circles but via our parents and Cross Country…and Shakees.
    I’m so sorry about your loss of Mike (Did I ever meet Mike??). Losing contemporaries certainly makes me feel old.
    But I gotta point out, Jeff, that seeing all these responses, I can see that you do, indeed, have friends! And I sure hope you still consider me one.
    I will read the post on your mom when emotionally ready. I really liked your mom. I keep my earrings in a really pretty dish that she gave to my mom (and my mom gave to me, I didn’t swipe it). She probably got it at the Farmland Elementary craft sale. Its sits front and center on my dresser and makes me think of your mom and you often.
    Your blog page is one of the shortcuts on my Favorites Bar. Right there between weather, then google and the translation site. That’s some high standing!
    Tons of love old friend!

    Like

    • Hi Mary. Every now and then, someone comments on a post out of the blue and I think: oh,*that’s* who these people are who read my blog. I had no idea you were doing this. Comment every now and then, OK?

      I doubt you ever met Mike. Because of my drinking through that period, I wasn’t really in touch with high school people much. I remember meeting you and maybe Chris Huang once for a drink one evening. You suggested that we all go to the movies. I declined. I would miss out on a drinking night in the movie theater.

      There are some relationships that seem to outlast absence better than others. You’re definitely one of them. I agree, it probably helps that our connect wasn’t just forged through drinks. I can’t believe you have something like that from my mom (and you know it’s from my mom). I’m just not that aware.

      I’ll make it a point to contact you next time we’re in Maine (which happens every couple of years).

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s