Bittersweet Grief

Copyright Laura Riggs, 2000

“There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.”
–Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic

I received news recently that a childhood friend had passed away.  We often told people that we’d been friends since the 2nd grade, although neither of us really remember how we met exactly, and most of my memories of him aren’t really clear until middle school.  Apart, we were fairly well behaved, but we were troublemakers together.  We loved to play pranks, mostly on each other, and we thought we were hilarious – although most of our teachers didn’t really find them so amusing.

In 7th Grade, we were part of a glee club of sorts and had a weekend group trip scheduled in Vail, so we were supposed to remain on our best behavior leading up to the trip.  That Thursday prior, we had Biology Class together and I think he had put a grasshopper in my hair.  I chased him around the room until the teacher came back into the classroom.  We were both sent to detention after school and the club leader told us that we would think it over, and decide by Saturday morning if we would be allowed to join the trip.  Afraid that the teacher would call our parents, we sat on the phone together most of the day, tying up the line – since that was before cell phones.  The next day, we checked in for the trip, and were amazingly allowed onto the bus.

By high school, our friendship changed when he was bullied when others perceived him as “different”.  I became his protector, his advocate, and his date to family functions and he was there when I got my first tattoo.  Although he hadn’t admitted it to himself yet, I knew he was gay, and it wasn’t until after we left high school that he finally came out to me.  All I said was, “I know, honey.”  “You did?” he asked.  “Oh, how could you not?” I replied, as I hugged him and whispered, “I love you.”  He squeezed me back and said, “I love you, too.”

Neither of us really knew what we wanted to do with our lives, after high school, but we both knew we didn’t want to go to college (yet, or maybe never), so we found odds and ends jobs, things to keep us busy, but mostly out of trouble.  I ended up going to Cosmetology School first, although he was the one who had a gift for doing hair and making people feel good about themselves.  It became his passion, and his career, for nearly two decades.  Making people feel good about themselves was also his way of hiding his own suffering from the rest of the world.

We went to so many parties together, including the night that I met my (now ex-) husband.  He did my hair for years, including the day of my wedding, but that was only a small facet of how he impacted my life.  We held the reception in my grandfather’s backyard, on a particularly warm September afternoon, and I remember ripping the petticoats off from underneath my wedding dress.  He immediately snatched them up, put them on, and drug me out to dance with him on the makeshift dance floor.  He loved to dance.

After my divorce, we did a lot of dancing and drinking and had more late nights out than I can remember (seriously, there is so much I don’t remember and I’m grateful it was long before the days of social media).  He rode life as hard as he could, and ended up in some legal trouble because of it.  It was sort of a wake up call for me.  I knew being the “life of the party” wasn’t a path that I could walk with him.  At the time, he reminded me that he wasn’t going to live past 40 (it something he said all through high school, too) so whatever he did he wanted to enjoy the hell out of it and consequences didn’t really matter for him.  I was at a point where I didn’t want to beat my body up anymore – I was into life for the long haul, so we started to drift apart.

Then, he had his first heart attack, around the time he was 31 or 32, I think.  I went to visit him in the hospital and asked him to slow it down a bit, to take care of his heart a little more.  He showed no sign of letting things slow him down, or prompt him to get sober, and I couldn’t watch him destroy himself, that and I had my own disaster of a relationship I was dealing with at the time, so I couldn’t focus on anything else.  By his mid-30s, he’d had a stroke, and we no longer kept in contact.  He was one of those people who was going to burn as brightly as he could, for the short time he was here.  It’s bitter sweet to know those kinds of people.  On one hand, you stand in awe of their zeal for life, and on the other it’s painful to watch their self-destruction.

Through the years, he would periodically send a short text, or a note to say “hi”.  It would take me some time to figure out how to reply, because I didn’t want to get sucked back into his sphere.  He had such a warm, loving personality that made it difficult to keep my distance.  There were so many times that I desperately wanted to talk to him, but I knew that he didn’t want to make changes, yet watching him harm  himself would only break my heart.  I had immense pride for the generous human being he was, but I made the choice to love him from afar.

On Saturday morning, a mutual friend of ours called to tell me our brilliant firecracker had fizzled out. He had undergone several heart surgeries recently, and was scheduled for another the following weekend. At 4pm on Friday afternoon, he laid down to take a nap, and passed peacefully in his sleep – his heart finally gave out.  He was 41.  I know this, not because it will be on his obituary, but because our birthdays are 5-days apart and because he had been a part of my life for nearly 30-years.

After I learned of his passing, the first memory that came to mind was the time when he tried to get Bun to smoke a joint.  I laughed aloud because that was quintessentially “him”.  She turned her tail up at him and walked away – smart girl.  He knew Bun, and Missy, and Ginnie…and he knew my family and my friends and my co-workers.  He knew how much anxiety I had when my mom was sick, and I was there when his beloved Grandmother passed away.  It’s a strange thing to go from sharing so much life between us, to hardly thinking of him in the past year, but now that he’s passed away, I am flooded with memories.

No matter how much I wished things could be different, or feel guilty that we hadn’t talked more in the last few years, none of it changes the fact that he’s gone.  The grief of his loss is still felt, and regardless of being at peace with my decision, the guilt of it still lurks at the bottom of my heart.  Until now, I hadn’t lost a friend in my age group and it’s unsettling to realize my own mortality through the grieving process as well.

Although I have made peace with my decision…it’s more that I am just sad….obviously that he is gone, but sad that his relationship with his family wasn’t better, sad that I didn’t really know him in the end, sad that we have been estranged, sad that he knew every facet of my life, yet we hadn’t spoke for years before he passed, sad that he didn’t feel he could reach out, sad…

In the end, though, I hope that he had been happy.  I hope that his partner was good to him.  I hope that he had made some peace with his demons.  And I hope that he was free from suffering.  I know that even if any of these weren’t true before his passing, they are true now.  For now, he is free from harm, free of pain, free from suffering and I bid his soul peaceful rest.

So, goodnight, sweet Jim, and thank you for 30-years of a beautiful, joy-filled friendship.


Celebrating Being An Obnoxious American!

It is amazing to me how fast time flies when you are wallowing in your own shit.  I am working on a post today about a recent trip to Denver – recent, as in SIX weeks ago.  I guess I got a little side tracked hunting down Pimp-Mobiles my bad……

I wanted to give a shout out to Heather and Travis for letting me stay at their cute little place and for allowing me the luxury of using their car while I was there, which gave me the freedom to visit all you fine m*ther f**kers out there.  I am grateful to have been able to celebrate not one, but two new marriages among friends – although my therapist did point out that I was nuts for doing so…exact words, “so you went back to the scene of the accident and watched people get hitched?!  You like to ask alot of yourself don’t you?”  I told her, “well, I love my friends, what are you gonna do?” And then she continued making my martini.

As I sat and sipped on the wonderful cucumber and lemon vodka sugary goodness she concocted, I reflected on my visit with appreciation of how many of you are near and dear to my heart and how much I miss the s**t out of you guys these days!

Good to know that if I ever get arrested in Denver, I can make a collect call to any one of your cell phones to come bail me out – so glad that our local Law Enforcement system has joined the 21st Century, now if we could go back to the good ol’ days of actually having to remember phone numbers, then I would be able to ring one of you up.  But, alas, I can only remember how to search for your NAME in my phone, thus you can exhale a big sigh of relief……(and no, I didn’t tag the damn bench)

Now that I am older, I have learned that if we have had one too many martinis together, I will just pass out on your front porch (like this douche trying to make his good first impression upon meeting me at Jazz in the Park, big thumbs up on that one, dude….) instead of getting a DUI – that would be no bueno (isn’t my Spanish coming along nicely?)

If, however, you see me out on the dance floor with this woman who was indeed going to celebrate the 4th whether any of the rest of you bastards want to join her or not – do take me home immediately, throw me in an ice cold shower, and put me to bed!

This reminds me why I rarely go to Elway’s and why I do not want to be of Cougar age, any more, ever…..

Post Office A-Holes!

The guy who bought my old place reported to one of my old neighbors in the building, he is still receiving mail for me. I know it is normal when you move that your crap-tas-tic catalogs will still be mailed to the old address for eternity – I remember receiving mail periodically for a person who had lived in my unit some 8 or 9 years prior to me. However, I was led to investigate further when I received a notification from the Elections Commission that my voter registration was no longer valid. Upon contacting the elections office they informed they had received documentation that I submitted online for my change of address, but when the confirmation card was sent to the new address, it was returned as undeliverable. So, they mailed me a post card, again to the new address, to update my information. That one arrived, however – hence my confusion…..

I dug back through my old emails (Thankfully, I rarely delete the important ones. I mean, you never know when you might need to blackmail someone someday, right?) I had submitted a change of address request back on May 4th and received a confirmation with a tracking number. I went online for an update and it showed they are still processing it – TWO months later….so I called the USPS. They suggested I call the local post office – yep, did that, they don’t answer their phone, and they don’t have a voicemail system to pick up so that you can leave a message – why??? Because THAT would make sense and we don’t believe in logic here at the Post Office – we believe in chaos, insanity, and all things mayhem.

Thus, I called Big Brother instead. They opened up a case to investigate why the Capitol Hill Station in Denver sucks ass – a case, I am sure will never be solved, but I have a little confirmation number so that I can now sleep better at night. Since I had an actual live person on the phone – and that took me months to track down – I asked her to look into my previous case of stolen mail. She said that they sent me a form to fill out to retrieve the lost mail – yep, did that. She asked had I sent it back in – yep did that too (was this question really necessary or do you think she was just effing with me?). She said, okay well then the case is closed. Um… it isn’t dear…..I haven’t receive any of the missing items. So, guess what they are going to do in order to alleviate my angst? Open up a case! I have another case # now to look into the old case #. Maybe I can take both of them to Vegas and double down to win a trip to sleep on a cot near a roadside in Bangladesh! Who’s with me?!

It gets better – the follow up letter on the case of stolen mail came from the post office in a plastic bag with an apology on it that it got chewed up. They are sorry, but they don’t follow up on missing mail cases…..lesson from the universe: I didn’t need the shit anyway.

I did call again today to get an update on the change of address, now almost three months later – and it is still being processed. I would like to reason that they are reforming their transportation methods from car to horseback, but honestly – even if they walked my mail from the old address to the new address – it would have been there two-and-a-half months ago! How hard it is to forward mail from Denver to Littleton for fuck’s sake?! Damn you, Post Office A-Holes, now you made me go and drop the F-Bomb!

F U Laura! Regards, the United States Postal Service, Denver, CO

Soooooo Denver, you finally got your revenge from my previous blog post, via the USPS…..

Backstory: I had sent a package, on April 25th, to my mom before I moved out of my condo.  It was full of odds and ends things for her to enjoy, like the silverware I received when I got married, salt and pepper shakers too, chargers for the china set (that matched the silverware) I had also shipped to her the week before, perfume, a few books, a meditation statue, CPY t-shirts to burn the crap out of, some cat toys, dog shampoo, and dog spray – everything a girl could ever need was to arrive by May 2nd, right?

Wrong!  After much deliberation, the USPS (Capital Hill Station, Denver, CO) decided that she didn’t really need 3/4 of these things, and sending a box that weighed slightly more than a small child was just asking too much.  Hey USPS it’s called weight lifting, try it some time, it will do wonders for your life expectancy as well as your ability to do your JOB!  

So, they broke my box open, and emptied out the contents.   All of the heavy items were replaced much lighter items, placed back in the box.

Finally on May 9th, the box arrived at my mom’s house.  Immediately, she knew that something was askew, when the box was wrapped in tape, plastic stripping, and a big fat sticker on the top that said something about the box being damaged on May 3rd.

I guess it takes a week to empty and repack a box…..again USPS I salute your efficiency….it took me two weeks to pack up my entire condo I had been living in for 7-1/2 years….I am currently unemployed, so if you need someone to train your people on how to pack boxes, I would be more than happy to have you hire me on a consulting basis!  Maybe then, the Audit Service for the Unemployment Office would get off my ass then, too.

The label requested we fill out Form 3760 and send it on down to Atlanta, Georgia to the Mail Recovery Center – where all the lost and lonely mail goes when no one claims it.  Then, once a month they put all of your lost items up for auction where you have the chance to repurchase the items that they misplaced of yours – isn’t that so thoughtful of them?  🙂  Instead, I got on the phone with the fine individuals at their help center, and said, “Help! The mail I sent to my mother has been stolen and someone else’s contents have been placed in my original packaging!”  I had to speak to three different people before I finally spoke to someone who understood the issue, and opened a case with the Postal Inspector.  Next, I called a different number to request Form 3760, because when you call 800-ASK-USPS they can’t send the form, the local management office has to mail it out to you.  They also don’t house the form on their website, to assist with creating ease during this cumbersome process.

I would say this is government working at its optimal level, but the USPS is now privately owned….and I really can’t find a company to hire me right now?!  Maybe I need to start acting like a dipshit, too, and I might secure some meaningful employment right quick.  

Fortunately, my mother has a friend who works in the Jacksonville Main Post Office, so she got on her handy dandy little Facebook page, and sent him a message (finally Facebook has proved itself useful!).  He suggested opening a case on the Postal Inspector’s website directly (which the USPS keeps hidden at the bottom right corner of their webpage), and also with the Inspector General – yes, they are different.  I submitted complaints on both websites, and received emails back summarizing “thanks, we’ll look into it, but don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Then, his assistant, Ms. Tammy, contacted me to discuss what items were missing from the package and what items they had been replaced with, so that she could call both the Denver Distribution Center, and the Jacksonville one, to see if any of these items were located in their lost and found (but….I thought all lost mail went to Atlanta).  She then emailed me a copy of Form 3760 (fancy that!), I filled it out and sent it back with as much information as I could.

In the meantime, Form 3760 arrived to both me at my new address in Littleton (Attn: Laura Briggs, but whatever), and to my mom in Jacksonville.  The request being to fill the form out (check), mail it to the recovery center in Atlanta (check), and include pictures of the missing items if possible.

Pray tell, who takes pictures of their mail?!

My mom then received a second envelope from Ms. Tammy with a label included to send the items that were not ours to the Mail Recovery Center (children’s clothes, little kids winter coat, Red Sox jersey, and a hockey jersey – all of which I am more than happy to get rid of), along with a handwritten note…..half of which was missing…..there seems to be a theme here.

Some kid is pissed right now, I am sure!