2.11. YTT

December 9, 2010.

4 missed calls. And then there was an answer. And her voice was shaky. The tears came. And I knew.

My best friend. My confidant. My puzzle piece.

He woke up and told the people in the room that he couldn’t open his eyes. And they knew he was close to the end. Because his eyes were open. He had gone blind through the night. His religious aunts called for the priest and they gave him his last rights…something I know he would find funny since he was an atheist. He spoke, his thick Italian accent flowing in his home language. He showed gratitude for his sister, forgiveness for his brother, and a message for two people so close to his heart.

A message that is mine to savor.

I can’t explain to small minds how a friendship can be so genuine, so pure, so beautiful, so intense, and so everlasting. How love can become synonymous with friend and the heart can care so deeply.

I was lucky enough to know someone who understood me, didn’t want to change me, listened, was proud of me, encouraged me, pushed me, inspired me, and taught me to never settle. I was lucky to know this person and hear words of wisdom, humor, and truth. My truth. Our truth.

It’s been two long years since that magical man left this earth. And the pessimist in me would say, “well, it’s just my luck that someone who knew me so well would be forced to leave me behind.” But the optimist in me will say that I will see him again. When it is my time to leave this earth, I will join him amongst the stars.

Because this earth wasn’t strong enough to support the bond that we had. The friendship, laughter, and love only we knew.

I miss you, Nico. I thank you for the lessons you have taught me. Someday, I will find you again. Until then, you are always in my heart.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

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1.129 – A Million Petals

“Someone gave you flowers”

When I was in middle school, I had a really grouchy music teacher named Ms. Diaz. This woman scared the ever living piss out of me and everyone else I knew. But she loved what she did. And that was making us sing and dance like friggen smiley puppets. For our first performance, we had to sing some god awful song that I can’t even remember. But that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that my parents didn’t show up. Yeah, that sucked.

The second performance of the year was the holiday set, which I was unbelievably excited for. My father was a self-proclaimed JewBan (Jewish and Cuban) and I was thrilled to have learned “This is Hanukkah.” The curtain went up and I was ready. We sang several holiday songs and I could see my mother and my father sitting toward the back. We’d just finished a set and the Hanukkah song was next. And that’s when my mother stood up, whacked my father on the shoulder and made her way out of the auditorium. Trying not to cry, I watched my father follow my mother out of the crowded venue. “It’s not really my thing,” she’d explained later. My father apologized when she was out of earshot. Yeah, that sucked too.

My mother and I fought the morning of my senior graduation. She’d called my father some awful names and I came to his defense. She slipped into the typical martyr act and hooped and hollered about how I showed her no love or respect…how I only regarded my father as if he were a saint. We went to my graduation and I left my parents in the car. The music played and I made my way to my seat. I got in line to receive my diploma and noticed that my father sat alone. My mothers seat was empty. When I got onstage, I looked around the gymnasium…only to notice my mother standing by the back entrance for a second. And then she walked away. Right before my name was called. Yeah, that sucked.

When I was in college, I was elated to get the role of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. I invited my mother. Why, I still don’t know. She called with 20 minutes to showtime saying she couldn’t make it because she was in the hospital after suffering a stroke. “Well, you sound fine,” I’d said. “Well, I don’t feel fine.” The show must go on. And it did. After the show, I called my mothers friend…to check in on her progress. “What do you mean hospital? I just got off the phone with her…um…she’s been at her boyfriends.” By the way, opening night was my birthday. Yeah, that blowed.

What the hell does any of this have to do with flowers?

Nothing.

And everything.

Before he passed away, my best friend used to listen to me talk…allowed me the chance to vent and babble on about these types of moments in my life. He listened until there was nothing left to say. And then, he’d say the same thing: “Here’s a flower.” It was an imaginary flower…a figurative flower.

The first time, I asked what the hell was I supposed to do with a pretend flower and I am trying to tell you why I am upset and you are not being a very good friend right now you butthead.

I’m giving you a flower, he said, because you cannot see the beauty in the world. You are too fixated on picking apart everything until all you see if something of uselessness…of ugliness. Even in the bad, there is good. I’m giving you this flower so you can pick at it to your hearts content…and then you can let it go.

He gave me a field of flowers.

But he was right. In every performance, I got to perform…despite seats being empty. In graduating, I reached a goal so many in my family did not. In theater, I got to play a part I respected and worked hard to get. I did not see the beauty and wonder of each moment because I allowed myself to tear it apart and fixate solely on the negative of it all.

Very shortly before he died, my BFF said something that sticks with me even now. “I hope there comes a time when I never have to give you a flower again. Not because I don’t want to but because you will have no reason to pick any petals away.”

A time when I can just admire the beauty and find no reason to dwell on the bad. Sadly, I think I live in that field…continuously dwelling, worrying that something terrible is just around the corner. Because things don’t go well…can’t go well for people like me.

Despite a lifetime of being a Nervous Nelly…I hope there comes a day when I can walk in my field of flowers…and just enjoy the view.

Prompt taken from A Creative Writers Kit by Judy Reeves

1.64 – R.I.P Don Gato

“There are people that have known me for a long time that don’t know me the way you do. That will never change.”

One year ago my best friend lost his battle with Devic’s Syndrome, a severe and fatal form of Multiple Sclerosis. It’s been 365 days and the loss still isn’t easy.

I wanted to write something profound. Something that would encompass what it means to lose your very best friend, a kindred spirit, your soul in another body. There are no smooth words.

I’m angry. I hate life right now. Because it isn’t fair. Such a good person…a good human being…someone who was flawed, someone who was a beautiful chaos…and he was stolen from this earth. I’m angry because it doesn’t make sense to me. He was a father, a husband, a brother, a fairy god-mother. He was laughter and smiles, snorts and giggles. He was a survivor, a soldier, a speaker of truth. He spoke through music, through art, through poetry.

He fought that disease, as it took his life so quickly, but he fought. He loved with his whole heart. He was forgiving. He was the best damned listener I have ever known. And I feel robbed.

I knew this holiday was going to be tough for me. Losing my best friend and my father just 7 months apart…it’s scary. And I think of these two men who changed my life, the very essence of my being and I cry for myself. Because I needed them here. But I am selfish. I should be happy for them. My friend and my father were both in pain. And they aren’t anymore. They are somewhere, free of the burdens of this life. They watch over me. They send down their love in teardrops, which hit my cheeks as purifying rain. They smile down on me and a star twinkles in the sky. They speak to me through music, through every moment of inspiration that finds its way into my life.

Nico taught me to be myself. To not be scared of my thoughts. To forgive. To love with my whole heart. To be passionate about the little things. To embrace my dorky sense of humor. To express myself even when I doubted if people would agree. To fight for the person who doesn’t have a voice. To never judge someone by their past. To never give up hope. To read all of the chapters of a book before judging the cover. To read between the lines. To embrace my feelings.

I wanted to write something that changed how I felt right now. But the pain is still there. Its raw. Its real. I want to break shit right now and I want to wipe away the tears. I want to scream and ask some god, any god…why him? Didnt he deserve a chance? I will never understand. And I guess…I dont have to.

My best friend, Nico, died on December 9, 2010 at 2pm in Messina, Italy. I am grateful that he was able to go home for his last days. I am grateful that I met this man. I am grateful that I was blessed to know someone so strong, so real, so good. I am grateful for four years of true friendship.

I will live this life for the both of us. And I’ll see you when I get there. Until then, may you laugh with my father.

(He sang this damned song all the time. I’m sure he’ll smile down at this).

“How do you know that you wont forget?

Because I’ll never forget.”