My godfather was my parent’s oldest friend, one of only a few things I know of that they have in common. I don’t remember meeting him for the first time, he has just always been in my life. He took his own life a few weeks ago. I grieve for the 20 or so years I expected to still have with him. I want him to be at my 10 year wedding anniversary party later this year, all dressed up and quick with a toast and a clap on the back. He always extolled the virtues of a retirement plan, urging me to put money aside for the future. This year I should finally be in a position to do it, and I couldn’t wait to tell him and seek more advice.

Something I learned from him – if you’re going to do it, do it right. Seems simple and obvious, but it’s probably the single most valuable lesson I’ve ever received, and it was all done by example.

Tailgating before a game? Bring a folding table, tablecloth, good wine, filet minion, and bacon-wrapped scallops. Dress up – 49ers shirt, jacket, hat, pins.

Throwing a party? Invite people into your home, cook for them, make exotic cocktails. Dress up – bowties and fedoras are never out of place.

Want to make friends? Talk to everyone, introduce people who don’t know each other with a short anecdote about each of them. Laugh. Tell stories.

Want to keep friends? Write thank you notes, call people on their birthday, send holiday cards. Make time for them. Be silly. Laugh. Tell stories.

I’m not sure I realized how much of who I am as “an adult” is modeled off of him. I realize it now. And now I don’t have a guide, don’t know the way forward. Perhaps there is some day 20 or so years from now when this will seem ok, like even under the best circumstances we would be saying goodbye by then. I would have had time, would have known it when it was the last time I saw him. For now, it’s not ok. I don’t know how to feel anything but complete despair when I think about him being gone. One thing I have learned though is to feel it, whatever “it” is. It’s hard to fully feel the joy, the contentment, the hope if you don’t also let yourself feel the pain, the confusion, the vulnerability. And for me it’s also important to share. To say things out loud, to put them on paper – for the reassurance that others have felt the same, that I am not an emotional trailblazer.


3 thoughts on “Grief”

  1. I knew Brendan when I was already an adult and would get invited to Groundhog day parties through your Dad. I remember feeling so very special when I got my own invite the first time….like I’d “arrived”. But, you are right, it is just who he was — make ‘ya feel special. You captured Brendan to a “T”. In the words of ol’ Mark, “Papa”, my dad, let Brendan henceforth be known as, “The Good Man Brendan”.

  2. One of the first times I met Brendan your mom had invited me on his Christmas cable car ride. San Francisco in holiday dress.
    We all ended up going back to his place. He gave me an ornament, a set of 3 penguins on a wire together, each wearing a different colored scarf.
    It’s still one of my favorites because for me it was about someone seeing me. Me. And as #5 of 9 kids with a few very squeaky wheels, I hadn’t had that happen very much yet.
    It’s too bad I never got to tell him that.
    He was one of the good guys, Melissa. And that was his Truth.
    Love, your aunt Colleen

  3. Melissa, I have never met you, but I feel as if I know you through your writing about our dear Brendan. My husband Ted and I were lucky enough to live for more than 10 years just down the block from Carolyn and Brendan. We have exchanged many a meal together, and Brendan’s ability to make any and everything a grand affair made him the perfect host or guest. From planting a rose bush to sharing a bottle of his Hetch Hetchy Blue (sparkling San Fracisco tap water), Brendan had a way of convincing all of us that everything was to be savored. I still look for him dressed nattily with his bowtie, turning the corner on his way home and the greetings between us, ” How was your day, Mr. Brendan? “Absolutely fine! And yours Miss Leah?” …….Simple greetings and the profoundly positive effects of living within Brendan’s universe.

    Melissa, we hear you as you speak loudly and clearly, wipe our tears away, and smile at our good fortune to have been in Brendan’s universe.
    Thoughtfully, Leah

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