I remember anniversaries of things, good, bad, or otherwise and they stick with me. Tony and I celebrate our dating anniversary, our wedding anniversary and other days of our firsts. Those are the good kinds of dates. 18 years together, 16 years married.
Then there are the anniversaries of bad things. My cancer diagnosis, the date a friendship ended, the day Michael took his life.
Today, December 16th is four years since Michael died.
To back track a bit, Michael was my best friend and my first love. He and I had a brief intense relationship in which we had a lot of good, then quickly tremendous amounts of bad things.
Our relationship, and friendship, originally ended on a bad note.
We avoided being in the same place for years as it was just intensely uncomfortable for either of us.
In August of 2010 we both ended up at a birthday party for a mutual friend’s son. His then girlfriend, Jenn, and I hit it off immediately and begin chattering at one another.
He stood behind us, scared of what I might say, while we talked.
A few days later we talked online. I had taken pictures of his stepdaughters, he saw them, asked if it was okay to share them.
Then, he apologized for all the bad things, for how poorly he handled the pregnancy loss, and everything surrounding it.
We discussed the past, told one another about everything that had gone on in our lives over the years. He told me all about his ex-wife, the girls, his Mother’s death, and caught me up on his family (whom I love, they are all wonderful people. After his funeral, at which I was hysterical, his sisters came to me and just hugged me. <3 you Kelly and Dawn.)
I told him all about Tony and our lives. How I had gotten hurt, my cancer, my life, how I was writing, and the nieces and nephews.
We fell back into a friendship again. A good one without the other baggage of a relationship.
On the day he died, it had snowed, a lot. He got home from work early.
I was housebound as I try not to take a chance in the bad weather with my leg (cold is not good for a limb with lymphedema in it.)
We talked on facebook, texted a bunch, he called me at one point. Just chattering.
He was drinking a lot. Bad rotgut tequila. Depressed due to being alone for Christmas, worried about money, drunk and with a handgun in the home were bad things.
Michael asked me to come over. He needed someone to talk to. I couldn’t. Not only was there snow on the ground, but I drove a very low car at the time, we lived 15 miles apart.
I didn’t want to upset Tony by going to his house.
So, I didn’t. He said he understood.
Then, the texts got more depressed.
He sent one last one, “love you, love Jenn, love my girls.”
I knew as soon as I saw it what was about to happen. My soul knew he was about to die.
I called, I texted him, I messaged on Facebook.
No answer. Nothing at all.
After a few minutes, I messaged Jenn on Facebook for her to try, or to call the police as I didn’t know the address of his house.
She and I messaged back and forth while she sent the police and we waited for word. As the time drug on and a friend of showed up at Michael’s and wasn’t let passed the police and ambulance, I knew.
Then, after what seemed like an eternity, she messaged me, “he’s dead, he shot himself.”
To this day, I am so incredibly grateful that Tony was home from work and of how amazing he was. The sound that came out of me as I read that Michael was gone was not a sound that comes out of a human mouth.
When I calmed down somewhat, or more correctly went into shock, I had to call our mutual friends and ended up having to repeat it to several of them. I can hear the words still, “Michael’s dead. He shot himself.” over and over I had to say that.
I had it easy though, I didn’t have to call his family like Jenn did. Nor did I have to tell the daughters that he had raised for most of their life.
His funeral was one of absolute worse days of my life. As was the day previous to it when the detective who was investigating his death questioned me.
I was out trying to finish my Christmas shopping when he called me. I answered his myriad of questions and then had to go in the final store.
Let me tell you, people avoid you if you are crying while shopping. They tend to run in the opposite direction.
All of this is to say, I miss my friend. I will never understand why he took his life. I will never understand why I was the last person he talked to that day.
I will never understand why he would renew a friendship only to take his life.
He will always be missed. I will always remember this date. Even as time marches on, I will keep his memory alive.
Michael and I, 1995 Colonial Beach Boardwalk