When old friends die.

One by one they go

When old friends die.

I sure miss Baxter. He was an old curmudgeon like me, but a huge cut above me in that he was a retired English professor and a published poet as opposed to me being a retired bum with a transient string of forgettable newspaper stories to my name. Like me he lived alone in an old house in the country after the death of his wife ten years ago. I went to his house the day after she died. I put my arms around him and this tough old guy cried in my arms. 

He lived up in Niagara County and I had moved downstate and we communicated on a regular basis, three or four times a week. We talked about books and literature and poetry, stuff I’ve never found anyone else to talk to about in my isolated world in Hicksville. He gave me incentive and courage to keep on living when I told him I couldn’t go on without my wife and the intolerable burden of sorrow and guilt over the times I didn’t treat her with the respect and the gratitude she deserved.

My wife and I had many great times together, in several cities and countries around the world, but the lasting words that torment me came near the end of her long illness when she said I treated her “like shit.” I cannot remember what I did specifically for her to say that, perhaps it was the illness that was talking, but it has haunted me and taunted me for four years and seven months.

In reply to all that, Baxter said he sometimes felt the same way about his wife. Apparently it’s a male fuck-up thing. I told him I made a dry run at suicide, putting the barrel of the gun in my mouth — in the mouth because if you hold it to your head when you pull the trigger the recoil can move the barrel slightly so that the bullet may not go directly into your brain and cause instant death but be deflected just enough to cause you to become brain-dead and end up the veritable vegetable for the rest of your life instead of in the black oblivion you were hoping for.

When I told Baxter about the dry run he said, “Don’t do that to me, William, I love you and that would kill me.” Those words went deep. So I put the gun away and Baxter and I kept on emailing and talking in our late-night conversations — and then the second worst blow after the death of my wife came down.

As with many old folks, Baxter took a bad fall alone in his house and he lay there for a couple of days and the next thing I hear is that he’s in hospice and I call him up and say, “What the hell’s going on, Bob?” And he says, “You tell me.”

And two days later he was dead.

A huge piece of me died when my wife died. And now another piece. Pretty soon there won’t be much left of me to blast into oblivion.

8 thoughts on “One by one they go

  1. Sorry mich. It’s tough losing old friends. We all have to go, but damn, it’s hard on the ones left behind. Peace and grace to you.

  2. Sad to read about your losses and hoping you’ll find new friends who make your life less lonely. You shouldn’t worry about your wife’s words, I’m sure that was the illness speaking and if she was around she’d regret saying them. It’s all part of the give and take, only it came to an end without everything being neatly resolved. I feel that about almost everyone I have lost – and they are many – all the unsaid things..