Losing Andy

8084550131_22af3aeb7b_z“Andy Boy killed himself yesterday.”  My husband’s words felt like a punch to my chest.  Whooosh.  All the air is gone and instantly the world feels a little lonelier.

Andy and his wife, Andy Girl, were my husband’s landlords in Denver when we were dating and then engaged, 26 years ago.  In reality, they were his family, along with Ed, another wayward young lawyer living in their third floor.  Whenever I came to town to visit, they welcomed me into their family as well.  We were all young and establishing ourselves in the chaos of professional careers.  Andy was a small but mighty Jewish complement to Andy Girl’s beautiful Italian-ness.

Life happened.  They had children, we had our son.  We all worked really hard at living. We moved.  They moved.  Time went.  We kept track over the years.  Andy brought his kids to our condo in Copper years ago after a day on the ski hill, and we remarked at how wonderfully our children were growing up.  In my mind, he is still the man in his mid-20’s with the sideways, quiet smile – always up for a meat-centered boys’ night out that often included my husband.  My memories are of youth and hope and a deep love for the people in his life.

At the memorial service, hundreds filled the synagogue.  We heard his family share heartbreaking stories of Andy and his passions that verged on obsessions.  We heard of his love for his children and Andy Girl.  We learned that he had been tortured for years by dark depression and he had lost the strength to fend off the insidious, suffocating thoughts.  We felt the shattered hearts all around us, only just beginning to grasp that he was gone from this life.

The next evening we were invited to join Andy’s family and friends at his brother’s home.  The night was all about ribs, beer and stories of Andy told around a camp fire.  His family spoke of their love openly, tears streaming even as we laughed about his uniquely Andy Boy ways.  Friends came to remember him, from his high school days, his fraternity, his law school and the neighborhood bike shop.  We learned that he was the same man we knew in our youth.  His heart loved deeply, he would talk to anyone, he would take any poor soul mountain biking.  We also learned that he had an enduring love of IPA, worshiped the band Wide Spread Panic and felt an almost manic need to pull people into his life. Hearing this was both reassuring and troubling.  This cross-section of his life was consistent throughout, yet he lived with deep darkness.  This man who was loved and cherished by so many, who brought laughter and fun to such a broad group of people couldn’t see a place for himself in this world any longer.

We are heart-sick.  We liked knowing the world had Andy in it, even if we hadn’t seen him for a while.  We would have moved the earth to keep Andy in it. We spoke with our friends from that era, who have also been living these parallel lives, about honoring Andy by refreshing our friendships.  Ed’s son, sitting on the cusp of adulthood, heard his dad explain that the bonds he will make in the coming few years are unique and to be cherished.  They are pure, without the tarnish of grown-up weightiness and responsibility.

Losing Andy this week makes us aware of what we were too limited to realize when we were younger:  a true connection with another is precious.  We are privileged to have had such a connection with Andy.  Cheers, dear friend.

 

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BIcycle! BIIIcycle!!!

Every time I pedal up a steep incline, the only thing in my head is Freddy Mercury:  I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!  I can’t make it stop.  It’s been this way for a few years now, and the more I ride my bicycle the more I hear Freddy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Queen.  Mr. Mercury was a musical genius.  It’s okay that he is hanging out in my head.  Once in a while, though, do you think maybe he could sing We Are The Champions? Just once? As an acknowledgement that I’ve paid my dues and had dirt kicked in my face, no bed of roses and yet I’m still here pushing this frickin’ bike up the mountain???

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Good luck to my friends taking on the Triple Bypass this weekend — you’re already champions of the world!

Some Old Friends Stay in the Past, I Guess

I attended a reunion of women who had worked at my old law firm this week.  Going in, I really didn’t know what to expect.  It was a bit like going through the looking glass.  Here were people I used to spend entirely too many hours in a day with, but with whom I had lost touch after moving on to new and different experiences.  Many of them are truly lovely people, especially outside of the work place.  It was fun catching up on who was still with the firm, who had left and then gone back, how many children they had collected and what stage of life they were in.  Some were retired, some were seeing their youngest (who had been young children when we worked together) out of college.  Some had moved on to new and interesting roles as judges and activists.

I found myself a little nostalgic.  What if . . . I hadn’t left.  What if . . . I had done a better job staying in touch.  What if . . .  and then I bumped into a woman who had been such a good friend when we worked together.  She looked terrific.  She was the same but better.  She showed me pictures of her beautiful daughter.  She told me snarky stories as no one else could.  I realized I had missed her terribly.  As she ran out for a client call, we hugged and promised to get lunch soon.

And then, I saw another old friend across the room.  I made my way over and said hello, giving her a hug.  And the room chilled by several degrees.  Well then.  She and I had been very close.  We had been part of a group of friends that disbanded over time, I thought, because of spouses and kids and commitments and jobs that took us in different directions. But usually when that’s the case, we smile broadly and say how much we miss those days and look forward to getting back to it again.  Not this time.  I wondered what had happened.  Had I slighted her so many years ago?  I couldn’t think of anything.  What?

My heart a little mixed up, I made may way to my car and on home.  I was so happy to have reconnected, on some level, with so many wonderful people.  And I was sad that one friend was no longer that.

I remind myself that life does get in the way sometimes, and people have stories we know nothing about.  I’ll keep her in my heart with the memories from our past.  Safe and happy travels ahead, my dear old friend.