Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SURVIVAL Part F: The Death of My Best Friend

  Kevin and I met a restaurant in August 1983 where he was already employed as a waiter and I had just been hired, we were coworkers.
 He and I hit it off right away. The restaurant had previous to Kevin, only hired waitresses, Kevin was the first waiter, I was the second.
  Thus began a wonderful friendship, we were young, he was twenty four and I was twenty six. We laughed a lot, he had a great sense of humor, acting silly and making jokes. Being his friend was easy.
  We became each others confidants quickly. I remember one time I planned a surprise birthday party for him at a restaurant called "Ed Debevic's." It was a fifties type burger joint. It was a birthday luncheon surprise and all of the guests, primarily co-waiters and waitresses, had to work that evening. Kevin was so drunk by the time we started work, that at one point he stood in the middle of his section and asked loudly, "Is everybody doing alright?" We all roared with laughter.
  Kevin was quite a character, I loved him. As time went on we became even closer.I eventually met all five of his brothers and sisters, both of his parents and even his grandmother.
  We used to console and advise each other on  our various love life foibles. I valued his opinion greatly as he did mine.We talked on the phone nearly every day.
 As sometimes happens, when you become involved in a love type relationship, some people put their friends on the back burner for a while. We both did this to each other on at least one occasion.  Fortunately, our bond was very strong and our friendship never floundered.
 Kevin became involved with a guy named Cliff, they had many happy years together until Cliff developed HIV and eventually AIDS. Kevin was a great caregiver to Cliff until his inevitable death. I admired him
 for that. I remember near Cliff's passing, Kevin told me that Cliff had changed his beneficiary from his mother to Kevin. Even though he had filled out the necessary paperwork, he had never given it to The City Colleges of Chicago, where he was employed. I knew Cliff's death was imminent, so I told Kevin you must get those papers to Cliff's employer before he passes away. Fortunately he took my advice.
 The day before Cliff's demise Kevin and I sneaked in their dog KC (K stood for Kevin and C for Cliff) into the hospital where Cliff was a patient. Apparently Cliff had been asking about their dog and Kevin felt he was "hanging on " until he saw their dog. We obliged. We were in cahoots with a couple of the nurses. Within forty eight hours of seeing their dog, Cliff succumbed.
  I was so priviledged and honored to be with Kevin and be his support through this tough period in his life.
 A few years later he and I went on vacation to Key West. We had a blast. This was our second trip to Florida together. Kevin was great company, never any pressure, no jealousy, we could really just be ourselves together--enjoy each other and we did.
  He ended up having another relationship, bought a condo and was happy for a while. After a few years that union went south. I was there for him. It was after that failed relationship that he and I decided to get a place together. All went well until that dreadful fire which I have written about in an earlier blog.
  As I look back on how I handled that occurence, I feel regret. A year and a half after the fire, Kevin had been living in Florida with his oldest sister. Given the circumstances surrounding his departure, he and I never spoke. I was at a street fair here in Chicago and ran into a mutual friend of Kevin and mine. She asked me if I had heard about what had happened to Kevin. I told her no. She informed me that he was very ill and in the hospital. She went on to say he had liver cancer. I was shocked and very concerned. I immediately started trying to get more information.
 I called his friend (someone I thought was my friend also). His friend screamed and yelled at me over the phone. He was upset with me over how Kevin and I had parted ways. He said if I were really friends I would already know what was going on with Kevin. He would not give me any phone numbers either of the family or of the hospital.
  I did manage to locate the hospital. I was financially unable to fly to Florida. My boyfriend told me to send a card, and quick. I followed his advice and immediately sent a card  telling him how sorry I was for what had happened between us. In the card I told him how much  I loved him and I had never stopped loving him, in spite of my actions and words to the contrary. I went on to say I didn't care what had happened in our past. I wanted him to focus on getting better, know how much I loved and cared for him. I mailed it right away.
 A week later I had heard from his niece he was doing better, that feeling of relief didn't last long. I asked her if he received and read my card. She did not know. I was crestfallen. A few days later on a Saturday morning his niece called me. I was expecting to hear he was much better. She through her tears, told me he had died the night before. Kevin was only forty five years old.Why hadn't I been there? Why hadn't I found out earlier? Why did this happen at all? Endless forever unanswered questions. The biggest question to me was, did he get my card before he passed away?
  About six weeks later there was a memorial service for Kevin here in  Chicago. He wanted his ashes spread over Lake Michigan. His entire family attended. When I arrived on that beautiful, sunny warm August day, I was apprehensive about how I would be received by his family, given what had happened between us. His oldest sister welcomed me with open arms, I was loved and honored to be there. The service was beautiful.
 The entire episode of what happened between Kevin and I is a prime example of actions and their consequences. It was quite an expensive lesson to learn, one I may pay for the rest of my life. Losing a friend you were so close to for so long, is a difficult thing to go through to say the least. He taught me about mending fences. I try to resolve disputes as quickly as possible now. I try to be careful not to let petty disagreements fester into unresolvable rifts whenever possible.
 On a final note, Kevin's oldest sister said the card I sent had indeed been read to Kevin before he left this life. I take some solace in that fact. I know now, whereever he is, Kevin knows I think about him and carry our memories as best friends in my heart , always.
  I love and miss you Kevin.....

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