I don’t fall in love lightly. I loved my high school sweetheart really and well until we grew up and away to different sources of light. I loved the father of my children. I love my husband now and forever. And I loved one other man. It was during the fifteen years that I was a single parent. He was very, very tall and impossibly good of heart. For whatever reason he got a body that did not serve him well in life. He was frighteningly asthmatic. Although he had a degree from the University of Michigan and he was smarter than just about anyone, he was never gainfully employed except for a brief stint as the night clerk at the local Hilton Hotel; he was relieved of his duties there when it was discovered that he was whimsically assigning hotel guests luxury suites or dingy rooms according to his mood.
This man was ill equipped for day-to-day life. Incorrigibly late, chronically dissatisfied and overwhelmingly distracted by minutiae, he most closely resembled the main character in As Good As It Gets. He was the personification of dysfunctional. And yet.
Ed was funnier, smarter, and more decent than most. I was fortunate, I would say blessed, to love him and be loved by him. Although he never married, more good women fell hopelessly, truly in love with him than any other man I know. And when it became clear that to love him was to drown with him and you bailed because that was your only salvation, you continued to love him and care about him and want to help him. And you continued to be his friend. And even in those times when it became too difficult to actively be his friend you continued to hold him in your heart.
I spent a significant part of five years trying to get Ed organized around his health care and treatment for his asthma. He would miss or be two hours late for every doctor’s appointment, engage in battle with the front office clerk and be off in search of another physician. He only treated critical symptoms and never was there an ounce of prevention. Because he was so chronically late he was also chronically rushing and breathless. He actually missed most planes when he was scheduled to fly.
Four times I found him blue and wheezing, unable to breath and four times I had to call EMS to come take him to the hospital. After the third I told him that I could not care more about his health or love him more than he did himself and if I had to call again he was on his own. And so, when I found him again, eyes rolling back, lips blue and chest heaving, I called 911, followed the ambulance to the emergency room, cared for him for a week and left him.
That was six years ago. For a year it was too painful to talk and the best I could do was leave Christmas dinner and a stocking filled with quirky whirligigs and hand knit scarves on his porch. Then we passed phone messages for a few months and then we became friends. He started coming again to my son’s concerts and giving me advice on how to raise T.D. I would get him Ventolin inhalers in Central America, where they are both non-prescription and inexpensive and I would pass on perfectly good computer equipment that would, without fail, seize up and die within four minutes of moving to Ed’s house. He endured my ability to recover and fall in love again and my marriage. I endured his continuous predicaments and wheezing phone calls.
I want to be absolutely clear that I did not love Ed because he was in need of repair. He was not one of my injured birds. I loved him because of the person he was even though that was doomed to failure. I loved Ed because he refused to pay for his mother’s funeral expenses when the funeral director refused to reprint her mass cards with the correct date of birth and spelling of her name, even though that failure to pay was doomed to failure. I loved Ed because he cared, hands on, for his brother in the year before he finally died of AIDS, another mission doomed. Although he was executor for both estates, he didn’t have the stamina to execute them and both fell into bureaucratic chaos, which lingers to this day.
In a tightly woven Hungarian family, Ed lost his brother, his father a month later and his mother soon after,two choosing to die on Ed’s birthday. Ed celebrated the “death season.”
In the midst of a life of quicksand and loss, Ed laughed and loved and mocked life’s ironies with gentle good humor. His passion for music superseded any I have known. He would do, quite literally, anything to help a friend.
This morning the police called after finding my name on Ed’s speed dial. They wanted to know if I knew the name of his dentist because his body was found in his bed so badly decomposed it will take dental records to identify him. I said, for lack of anything else, “he was 6’6”.“ The kind detective said, “That helps.”
Here is my hope and prayer: Ed is reunited with his brother and parents and they are whole again, where he no longer gasps for earthly air. He will be remembered by his friends and lovers as one of life’s finer and more remarkable characters.
I’ll only be here intermittently over the next days.