01 February 2011
Last night, I found out that my grandfather passed away. Since my somewhat flippant comment about it on Facebook, I received loads of support and condolences from friends and family all around the world. Without a doubt, I thank you all. However, I must admit, my feelings about this loss are complicated...and awkward at times. My relationship with my grandfather was estranged and difficult. And last night, I found myself confused with the news. I was confused about my reaction, confused about how the loss of my grandfather impacted me...and more directly, how it didn't impact me. These feelings are further complicated by the pain his death has caused for my family members. I recognize these and sympathize with how it must feel for them, but regardless of how many memories I flip through in my mind, I can not reconcile these feelings. So, it is with conflicted emotions that I say goodbye.
Perhaps one of the further complications is the fact that on February 1, 2001, I lost someone that I cared about very deeply. 10 years ago, I was forced to say goodbye to a good friend, lover, mentor, and comrade. His name was Joe, but we often called him Joe-b-won and the Z-man. He use to call Jennie Ann, Jabba. He was my Art History and Film professor. He was considerably older than me. He was the first man I lived with. He was jealous and controlling, but he was also the first partner I had to talk with about film and music and sociology. My brothers thought he was Bruce Wayne and Batman when they met him on Thanksgiving. He was an artist. We started dating on Valentine's Day, 1997. We broke up for the first time on Valentine's Day, 1998. He called me macaroon. Instead of telling him I loved him, I said, seven bucks a tube. He taught me to love the delightful joy of butter beans and Rodin. We lived in a farm house without running water, across the street from a pyramid house. We spent one night sitting on the hood of his Volvo, watching a meteor show in Bethel, North Carolina. He gave me his first piece of welded art, an evil-eye pendant, which still hangs from my rear view mirror. We started writing a screenplay together through letters.
The last time I saw him was on Halloween 2000. He was dressed as a ghost. And the last time we spoke was in late January 2001. He told me he hoped I was happy.
I found out about his death from one of my oldest friends. He called me at work. He hesitated and then he told me, knowing the inevitable reaction. Loss was not rare for me in those years. I made the trip to the funeral, which was awkward for reasons I won't go into here. But I officially said goodbye to him much later that night at a rock show of the Port Huron Statement, when the band dedicated their last song to him and I locked arms with those that knew him and we let our voices raise up above the trees (...in Jeff Mangum's words).
What stays with me the most are two lessons that Joe taught me...
One, when I was entangled in some family drama, I remember him telling me, "Always keep your eye on the exit. Always know how to leave when necessary."
And perhaps more importantly, secondly, I called Joe when I lost one of my closest friends to death. I called him, confused and scared. He told me that death is happenstance. He told me that essentially, we wander through our lives. We never know when time will be up. We don't choose that. And out in the universe are all these golden bb's-- circulating and flying through the air. We spend our days dodging them, and sometimes, it just happens, a golden bb gets you and that's it. Time up. Game over. While I cried into the phone, he said to me, "Fuck those golden bb's."
Shortly after the death of my friend, I visited Joe. He gave me a gift. It was an empty mini-wine bottle filled with bb's. He wrote on the side of the bottle, "Hey Sugarmac- At least I took some of them outta circulation. Love, Joe."
And while I sit here tonight missing him, I can't help but think to myself, fuck those golden bb's...because I've missed him these last ten years.
One of his favorites...