There are two times of the year when I really get a craving for cheesecake… once in February and once in November. Both times are related to a person I knew who made cheesecake. February was his birthday and November 26, 2010 is the day he passed away. He was only 40 at the time. I still wonder if there was something I could have/should have/ might have done differently in the months before he passed (it wasn’t a suicide, there were health issues, but I honestly think that he just stopped having the desire to fight anymore). I didn’t know he’d been sick until his mother called me and let me know that she and his sister would be flying in to sign the paperwork to have him taken off life support. I keep wondering if I’d kept in touch better, if I had reached out more often, if I had been more insistent that he find a way to talk even though the woman he was living with HATED for him to talk to his friends (especially female friends) if it would have made a difference.
I’ve heard people talk about someone who ‘died of a broken heart’… I think my friend actually died of a broken spirit. For the entire time I knew him (more than 15 years), he struggled. When we first met, when he moved across the hall from us with a bunch of friends, he was in a troubled relationship. Eventually, the relationship crumbled, the various roommates moved out and in time, he ended up being evicted from the apartment. He lived with us (The Wasband, The Girl and I) on and off over the next decade. My daughter called him “Uncle”. He tried going back to school several times, he had (and lost) several jobs, he had a few girlfriends and he introduced me to several people who I am still friends with today. (In fact, I officiated at the wedding of one of his ex-girlfriends)
Periodically, he’d go live elsewhere… with his father for a while (until his father passed away), with his mother for a bit, “up North” where he met the woman who would become his only child’s mother. His son has a passion for cooking, like he did and I hear he’s quite good at it. I wonder sometimes if his son will ever try to make cheesecake like his Dad.
Aside from friendship, one of the advantages to having him around was that he was a good cook. I already mentioned the cheesecake. On more than one Thanksgiving, he took over the kitchen and made the entire dinner. A couple of years he invited his friend, J. For the first two years, I think, she had planned on coming to dinner but for some reason it didn’t work out. We would joke with him that she was his “imaginary friend” because none of us had met her. Eventually she did make it to a Thanksgiving dinner. We are still in touch (not often, which is mostly my fault and the fact that “life happens”).
Yes, there were times I resented having him around. I would get frustrated. I would get get impatient. I would want my privacy. And there were times it made my life so much easier for him to be there. If I was working two jobs and The Wasband wanted to go off and do something with his friends, he was there to look after The Girl. Aside from her friend T (who is roughly the same age as she is), I think he was probably her best friend. She made the decision to be there at the end. That’s quite a jolt for a 16-year-old kid…. to watch someone you’ve known your whole life take their last breath. I wonder if I would have had the courage to be witness to it. In many ways, I regret not having been able to hop on a plane but I know it’s mostly selfishness for wanting to get in the last word. My being there would not have changed anything.
I miss his sense of humor. I miss our long talks about everything and anything. I miss his lofty ideals. I miss my friend.
And I would like some cheesecake.