Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On Life, Death and Love

It's been a minute, since I wrote, which I hadn't intended. My goal was to write something every day here. It's been an interesting few days though.

I was ready to completely give up on the Sugarcube, but right is right and wrong is wrong, and feelings is feelings and the bottom line is I got feelings. Which is sort of dumb that I have them--there is so much time and space between he and I... and I'm not sure why I have feelings although I do notice that I haven't completely been consumed by them, like I usually am. Which is a good thing.

The deal was a noncommittal type thing... which I'm OK with in theory, as long as its just us being non-committed. I was clear on the fact that I was going to have problems if there got to be other people in the picture on a regular basis, particularly meaning "one" person. Well, of course, another person entered the picture and the other person is more his age than mine. Which on the surface I'm cool with. I personally think that the Sugarcube got jacked up in his previous relationship and roped into something that he shouldn't have been roped into by someone who knew better. Now that he's free, and a little older, I wholeheartedly think that it's only fair he get to play with children his own age. At least that's what I thought....

Till I got a look at her. It happened by accident. I was beastly annoyed cuz I think I should have been warned... a text message saying "Hey, I'm sorry but I have company" would have been sufficient. The way things are, a meeting would have been completely unavoidable, but I can handle most things when I'm warned. And I can be undercover. But I walked in, and there she was... and it wasn't so much that she was YOUNG... but she was SKANKY and young, and I was mad as hell to be placed in the same category. So I resolved to cut him off. That was Wednesday or so.

The resolve to cut him off lasted till Saturday... but what made me stop to think is that long before anything happened with us I liked him because I felt he was a good guy; and I do still feel that way. And I am of the jaded and exceedingly bitter opinion that nice guys are truly few and far between. My generation is a complete loss--as I've said elsewhere the good ones have long since been taken and the rest are gay. But Sugarcube's got a babymama. And right is right and wrong is wrong, and I haven't liked the bitch since I first met her.... LONG before there was anything at all between he and I. I didn't feel that she respected him, and she certainly wasn't supportive of what he was trying to build.

Let me say again that I am extremely jaded. Bitter. More bitter than even I let on. The thought of getting involved with anybody for any reason gives me serious heart palpitations. I have wondered if I ever *could* get involved with anybody; if I would be able to accept any man for himself, without projecting TF's bullshit on him--as well as all the other bullshit I've heard and seen through the years. Till Sugarcube. And amazingly, in this piece of babydrama, I'm on his side.

I had to stop to think about that yesterday. Babymama is playing phone games, and so Sugarcube hadn't spoken to his kid in a day or so. Now... I've been on the receiving end of COUNTLESS back-to-back calls "WHERE'S MY SON!" "Have MY SON call me". "You worthless piece of shit, you're not letting my talk to MY SON, {snarl snarl snarl}!" Etcetera. Mind you... we're talking about these calls in the space of say... a few hours. Maybe a day or so. When my grandfather died and we were in Chicago, an hour behind ourselves and running around like crazy trying to scrape up money to bury the man (I bought his urn off of eBay cuz it was $65 for something the funeral home was going to charge $600 for) I wasn't purposely keeping the Sun from calling his dad... and his father knew we were in Chicago and why. So I felt the seven nasty messages I got in two days was a little unreasonable on his part.

But according to him, Babymama had instructed Sugarcube not to call the house OR the cell. I asked him "according to her rules, just when exactly are you able to talk to the kid?" and there wasn't an allowance for that. He sounded so sad that I was THIS close to second-guessing myself about TF. I was THIS CLOSE to sending TF an email, apologizing for any distress he may have felt, and offering a truce and maybe peace. But I ain't that dumb and I've learned to check myself when I start feeling sympathetic to TF, so I emailed Lawyer. I asked her if she'd had any success about getting TF to agree on a visitation schedule.

Lawyer wrote back that while she thought it "very admirable" of me to try to break the ice, she cautioned strongly that I should be VERY careful in my outreach, because by trying to include him on daily problems I may be having with the Sun (like Homework!), I could be opening up a big can of worms. That I could be giving him something to latch on to and complain about. That made laugh because it's nice to be reminded NO, it wasn't all me. He's fucking crazy.

In the meantime, my friend Beautiful Hair turned 40. My friend is the kindest woman in America, devoid of any racist tendencies, and just overall calm. When I think of her I think of the word "Zen." We got to be friends when we both worked at a now long-defunct local talk radio station. She had a short dark hairdo back then, which was a very Hispanic '80's style, and she had a mild accent that I couldn't place and a very ordinary last name. I couldn't figure out what she was, so finally one day I asked her:"What the hell are you?" She laughed. "I'm white". But because this is America "white" means Italian-French-Canadian-Iriquois white. From Queens.

She's the youngest of 9 children, all born within 10 years of each other. I've often joked that her family is the like the UN ; there's about one of everything in her family; Filipino, African-American/West Indian American, Dominican, Puerto Rican. This is what contributes to her absolute racelessness--so much so that I found myself ranting to her one day about "white people"... and in her usual kind way, she merely laughed when I stopped myself.

If there's a homeless person anywhere in her vicinity, he can count on a dollar from her. As a matter of fact, the Professor and I, and Beautiful Hair's sister all went out Saturday night to celebrate, going down to what used to be the East Village (now some trendy shit that I wasn't totally comfortable in. The diversity and funk is all gone now...). We were walking down First Ave, and a group of children stopped us, asking us to buy candy. It was about 10PM. Both my sister and I were on the verge of asking what these kids were doing out on the street selling candy but before we could even whip around, Beautiful Hair was in the process of buying almost all of their stock. We bought most of the rest. The kids were delighted.

We had to fight her to pay the dinner tab, but in the end she managed to get the after-dinner-drink tab.

My friend. We've been friends for so long now, probably almost 20 years. We've supported each other through good and bad relationships, family emergencies, pregnancy. She was my choice for a birth partner when TF reneged on me. She was the person I called when my water broke. She's been a far better friend to me than I've been to her over the years... because like my sister, she puts up with my rants, narcissistic tendencies, and the fact that I regularly tell her what to do (though lately I've been much better about that, I think). Yet she's always my biggest cheerleader, the one to say "It'll be fine, hon. You can do it."

And talking to her on Saturday, I decided I wouldn't quite cut Sugarcube out of the picture, because of the friendship part. The other stuff... in the end it will be what it is, and while it probably won't be a repeat of the Ashton-Demi fairy tale, I've been through what he's about to go through, and it's a shitty road to travel alone. I've wondered elsewhere on this blog about why you let some people under your skin and not others, but the fact is he got under my skin so there he'll have to stay until he's not. Yeah, I know I waffle. I know I'm a sucker for a pretty face and some attention but at least I'm honest about it.

The thing is, life is so fleeting. On the one hand, there is that tendency in me to bring down those metal gates and I've done that for a long time. I'm really, frighteningly good at it. For awhile, at the height of my tumultuous relationship with TF there was so much locked down that I felt nothingness. But it's a weird sort of nothingness, because underneath the surface of that nothingness is all this feeling. Pain you know will swallow you up. Love you know will overtake you. Rage you know can make you blind. It can be so much safer to not feel anything, yet, feeling everything is sort of growing on me.

Because the last part of this post, the most important part, is that Mr. Kip died. He was Upstairs Neighbor Number 2, the husband of Upstairs Neighbor Number 1. He died in his sleep, at home in his bed, after UNN1 left for work yesterday morning.

Mr. Kip was a Broadway Dancer, a song-and-dance-man. He was never a "leading man" because his face was an untraditionally handsome one, full of character. He was 16 years older than UNN1, and had been friends with her brother who was also in the theater. Mr. Kip had gone to South Africa with a production and there he met UNN1, barely in her 20's. In two weeks or so, they married and he brought her to America.

It's the ultimate love story. How two worlds, literally worlds apart, would collide by chance and fall in love with each other, and stay in love for 38 years. Both of them had had difficult childhoods, and discovered with relief that neither of them wanted to bring children into the world, so they shared their home with various pets. They joined the Coast Guard together, and that's how they ended up on the Rock.

When the Sun and I met them, they sort of kept to themselves and although they were friendly enough, there wasn't a lot of contact. But then one day TF kicked in my door, backed me up against a wall and threatened to kill me, and I had to change the locks on the front door. I had to swallow my pride and explain to them what was happening, and supply them with the new key to the front door. And then a year later or so, I had to go to court. The strain was unbelievable, on both the Sun and myself, and one night the Sun had a coughing fit. He coughed, a dry hacking cough, for over 2 hours, and nothing--no syrup, no water no nothing, made it stop. I realized finally that it was nerves... and this so unnerved me that I felt I was going to crack. I needed to get us out of the house, and so I knocked on their door and asked UNN1 if she could just drive us somewhere. Anywhere. I just needed to get out of the house. She took one look at me, told her husband, grabbed her keys and drove us around Westchester until the Sun fell asleep. He stopped coughing. I relaxed a little.

After that, the two of them became our surrogate family, another set of grandparents for the Sun. Mr. Kip was old-fashioned, stern and firm, but he adored the Sun and the feeling was mutual. The Sun would sometimes go up by himself just to say "Hi", or share some treasure or joy. Mr. Kip told us stories about his life in the theater. He told funny jokes.

Like most creative/artistic men, he had his demons and his dark side, but it was familiar to me because of my father. So when he'd have a dark moment, I was able to share with UNN1 how much he reminded me of my father, and that based on that knowledge, he would come out of it. And he always did.

Towards the end of his life, he would fear for his faculties, and they told him he had the beginnings of Alzheimer's. I would often joke with him "If you have Alzheimer's, what the hell is wrong with me?" because he remembered far more than I could ever possibly learn. Sometimes he'd get frustrated with some computer equipment, and blame senility. I would tell him how I had been a techie and that I stopped being a techie because it was all getting too complicated. That *I* couldn't even read some of the manuals anymore. And that my solution was to never power down my equipment so that it had less chance of crashing. He would insist that he was in fact, going senile, but he would smile, and go on to figure out whatever it was.

Over the last two years he would tell us that he wasn't going to live long; that he wanted to go. Especially after Grandpa died, I would tell him he wasn't allowed to... he couldn't go until we said he could. At first he would laugh. But about three months ago, he didn't laugh; merely turned away and I thought "Uh oh. He's serious now." And he was. He began to get his paperwork in order. He decided on what would be done with his remains. He tracked down all his loose ends.

UNN1's mother lives with them also. She's only maybe 10 years older than Mr. Kip. One night, about a year ago she almost died. I heard UNN1 shriek my name, and I went flying upstairs. UpstairsMom was still, pale, and lifeless, mouth open. There was no pulse. Mr. Kip was on the phone with 911. He was flustered. "Is there a pulse?" the operator asked him, and he relayed the question to me. I felt for a pulse. There wasn't one. "No," I said. But wait... there it fluttered, and started up again.

Mom had lived with them for a long time. She and Mr. Kip had a love-hate, but as UNN1's brother had been unable to care for his mom, much less himself, for long time back home in South Africa, Mom came to America to live with them. Mr. Kip wasn't thrilled, but not accepting her was out of the question. With age, she became house bound. Towards the end of his life, Mr. Kip was, too.

After UpstairsMom came back to life, and back home from the hospital, Mr. Kip growled to me one day "That's it. I give up. She's going to outlive me, so I give up. I'm just going to go". "You can't do that" I said, "UNN1 needs you. We need you. Just hang on." "No, I can't, I don't want to be like this". He couldn't dance anymore, was tied by his "Umbilical cord" to the oxygen tank that helped him breathe. He rarely went out. And he didn't like that he couldn't stay awake all day. And he would say he'd be gone by next year. I would joke to UNN1 about it... that we would keep him here despite himself, but I have to tell you, I began to wonder. Because Mr. Kip was a man who kept his word.

And I knew that he didn't like for UNN1 to take care of him. He loved her, but he resented being cared for. He never said it, but I knew. A few weeks ago he fell and bruised his eye. I knew he HATED that, because when Grandpa fell one time while we were visiting him, Grandpa was mortified. Hated that we struggled to get him up again. And he died shortly after... and so when Mr. Kip fell I knew deep down in my heart that this was a grave indignity that he wasn't going to suffer.

All this weekend, wrapped up in my own shit, I noticed that their apartment door was open, which was our signal that they were OK for company. But I never got upstairs... Saturday the Sun and I went out for breakfast, and then to Karate, and then to Stew Leonard's. And then I went to get my "Beyonce" on, and hit the street with the Professor and Beautiful Hair and her sister. Sunday, a little hungover on Mojitos, with the the Sun at the Moon's house, I got up and cleaned and cooked a weeks worth of food, never showering or getting out of my pajamas. And I kept saying "I need to go upstairs" but I never got up there.

I had to work late last night, taking pictures of the "White Coat Ceremony" at the hospital, where 1st year Med students get their lab coats and new stethoscopes. It was very moving. You could see that some students had fought hard to be there. Their parents and families were so proud. On the way home, I missed the bus to the Rock, and stood there waiting for the next one. UNN1 called on the cell. Like my mother, I tend to run off at the mouth the second the phone is picked up, but something in her voice stopped me. "I just wanted to warn you, Kip died." I shrieked. I never expected him to be first to go... but at the same time the thought clicked in my head "He said he was ready".

When I finally got home, a pair of policeman were there. Our neighborhood friends Thumbelina and the Jolly Giant were there. UNN1 cried when she saw me, and I did too. She looked so sad. Her companion, her friend was gone.

As a kid, I saw several faces of death in a large array of pet cats and dogs. Sometimes roadkill. But I've never been close to a human who has just passed, except for the night when UpstairsMom died for a minute. I felt compelled to go upstairs and see Mr. Kip, though. I assumed there'd be a funeral, and I'm not to fond of what morticians do to people. So I wanted to see Mr. Kip before they got to him.

He was serene. He was as pale as he looked when I saw him briefly about two weeks ago. I'd gone up quickly to tell them something, and he was sitting on the couch very pale and in obvious respiratory distress. I left quickly then because I felt he didn't want me seeing him like that. But last night, other than being pale he was simply gone. And he had gone peaceably, willingly, with little effort. I talked to him, I told him I'd miss him and that I was sorry to see him go.

The Neptune Society came within two hours of being called, and took Mr. Kip away. They were very nice, quiet men. Mr. Kip will be cremated today, and his ashes scattered at a later time.

I went and got the Sun from the Moon's house, and told him on the way home that Kip was gone. He didn't cry, but his little body wilted. When he saw UNN1, he was so sad and they hugged. Neither one of us has cried... my sister asked how I felt and I told her that death doesn't hurt me. It makes me sad, very very sad to know I'll never see him again or hear his gravely voice or his laugh, but I know he went the way he wanted to. The suffering of the living--hearing my friend's sadness at not being able to talk to his son--that tore through me. But for Mr. Kip, I'm so overwhelmingly grateful to the Higher Power that He took Kip back with dignity that I'm more sad for UNN1 and her aloneness, than I am sad that he's gone.

But he will be missed. Another "unknown" in a world full of human beings. Just another old man. But he will be missed...

... and of course the freaking Cat decided this was the night to make a run for it, and once he was located it took an hour of fighting a snarling, hissing, spitting demon to get him back in the house. But Cat stories will remain for another day...

5 comments:

SewPaula said...

Hugs to you, Sun and UNN1. May he be long remembered, for then he will never die.

Ros said...

Feeling is better than not feeling, and life IS too damn short. I hope the fun outweighs the aggravation.

professor said...

life is short...that's why when sexychocolate professed his love for me, I said "hey what the fuck...and who cares if hes 13 years my junior and an ex-con"

Janet said...

((((HUGS)))) for you and the Sun and UNN1. Regardless of how long, life is too short.

The Bear Maiden said...

Thanks all :) The Sun and I are REALLY missing Kip. We went upstairs yesterday evening to see UNN1, and it was jolting to see his seat, on the left side of the sofa, empty. So the Sun and I sat in it and talked to UNN1 for a minute. I still haven't cried... but I feel it coming.