I FIBBED, A LITTLE
When I wrote last week that I thought long and hard about whether or not I should write that column, about the death of my son (48). I did, but it was really never much in question that I would write it.
The biggest fear was that I would finish it and think, that’s not good enough, not nearly good enough. It’s kind of the last thing I can do for Chris. He wouldn’t let us do anything for him the last few years, mostly pushing us away and remaining distant, for whatever reasons we’ll never know, though certainly his long battle with depression and perhaps other brain dysfunctions had something to do with it. (He had several books at home on the subject.) But now he can’t stop us, for these last few tributes and remembrances, and I feel like that would be just fine with him. I see the big, gap-toothed grin, I hear the uninhibited laugh.
He deserves the best. He deserves to be depicted in a way that those who knew him would nod knowingly, and those who didn’t would feel like they had. It’s a broad, deep, troubled, joyous, tragic, spiritual, light and dark portrait to paint. Impossible, to tell the truth.
I can’t say that I gave him the perfect eulogy, in that column and in leading the memorial gathering of friends in his hometown of Albuquerque less than two weeks ago, but I feel like I did a good job. And lots of people, who knew him well, a little, or not at all, told
me I did. It’s hard to express what that means to me. I’ve thanked some of you who
wrote, others I haven’t gotten to yet, but even the shortest few words of genuine sentiment mean the world.
WHAT I KNEW
From the first moment of considering the column tribute, was that there might be benefit to others as well as to me and my family, and for that reason I had to do it. When people who have a forum muster the courage and move through deep misgivings to lay their soul on the line and write or speak openly and honestly of very difficult times in their life, almost invariably people come out of the woodwork, in undreamed of numbers, to say, I’ve gone through the same thing but I thought I was the only one. Your story has given me hope, or inspiration, or comfort, or even the will to go on. I was inspired in great part by the three people who came to me, separately, at Chris’s friends gathering in Albuquerque and told me — Christopher saved my life. By offering friendship, understanding and love in their darkest moments, when it was hard to feel it for himself.
It’s a beautiful and loving but also a tough and cruel world sometimes, and we all need to lean on each other to make it to the end. What I have certainly learned is that so many people are very willing to offer that support, to say I’m sorry for what happened to you, what can I do, you can lean on me. And in offering those heartfelt words, which seem so inadequate, they have done all that can be done.
(Pollyanna alert: I believe every one of us at our core are good people. It’s just that some have forgotten or never understood that we are all the same, all with the same needs and wants. We knew it as children but some have allowed a frightening false sense of separation to rule their lives, bringing sometimes dark, irrational thoughts. We all forget that from time to time — like maybe 50 times a day, when we curse that “stupid” driver or
City Council member or social activist. When we feel separate and “alone,” not “all one,”
we are capable of doing some pretty bad things to those we perceive as an enemy, not a reflection.)
AMAZING GRACE, AMAZING WORDS
I heard from City Council members I wouldn’t vote for even if they offered to take that hot poker out of my eye. (Points scored, humanity affirmed.) From those who strongly took the other side on art projects dear to my heart. From a man in his 70s who had never before written to a newspaper columnist. From a gentleman in his 90s still grieving for a “wild child” daughter he lost decades ago, and others who lost adult children. From those I deem working hard and dirty to ruin the low-rise beach city so many of us love. (Smart development, please.) From a local activist I run away from as fast as I can. (NOT Jerry Rubin — he’s a good friend.) From people who voted for Komrade Combover. From two people with sons named Christopher who have suffered from depression and been out of contact with their families for many years. From a minister and a famous doctor I know and a couple docs I’ve never met, and a hospital volunteer who took care of me nearly four years ago after open heart surgery at St. John’s. From a woman who ruined her car that morning then read my column and realized, it’s only a bumper. (We all need to keep that one handy.) From one of my daughter’s Samohi counselors. (Nicole wrote the most beautiful, profound, touching words of all, about her brother. Chris was quite the writer too. Thank you, Sam Clemens.)
Now it’s my turn to feel my words are inadequate. Thank you all, including those who sent thoughts of light but didn’t actually write. I swear I felt it all.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Will I ever find local and national politics worth fighting
for again? Probably. But for now, I’m counting on my fellow travellers to take up my
staff and whup the bad guys into submission.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only
slipped away into the next room. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.” — Henry Scott-Holland (“Death Is Nothing At All”) — thank you, good friend Mike Myers
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org