I always felt some collateral coolness because my birthday was the day after Doozel’s. I don’t regret never telling him that. He would have thought it was creepy and weird.
I’m sitting here on my back porch. I’ve got a bunch of candles lit. Abby is asleep next to me and I’m listening to the summer symphony of bugs and frogs and douchebags on motorcycles. On nights like this we used to sit on this tiny brick wall at the end of my street and talk. Of course, a few days after he died someone took the corner too close and knocked the whole god damn thing down. Because, you know, it’s not enough to be sad, you need some symbolism too. My phone died maybe a week or two after he passed and with it went our last conversations. My car had a cigarette burn from him on the passenger’s seat and his finger prints all over the windshield where he’d hold up my easy pass, but it was totaled in an accident earlier this year. For someone who has always been embarrassingly pack-ratty, I’m glad these things happened. I needed a new phone but I would have held on to that piece of shit forever just to keep his texts. I’d wanted to trade my car in for a while but I know I wouldn’t have been able to. We got covered in bug bites every time we sat on that wall, and as its destruction proves, it wasn’t in the safest of places. I have days when I feel like none of that shit matters because the most important thing he left us with was amazing memories and so much love, and we get to keep those no matter what. But, I also have those days when I want to search rob’s house and my old drum corps bags to see if maybe he left a tshirt or a sweater so just wrap myself up in the sad and smell it like a psychopath.
So here we are again, I guess now it’s going to be “that time of year.” He continues on in our hearts and is never far from our thoughts, but this time of year is going to bring back memories of how we lost, as opposed to the usual perpetual memories of what we lost.
On the anniversary of his death I lost my composure immediately after reading the first Doozel post of the day on facebook. I called a friend and cried and struggled to repeat the same things I’ve been saying over and over since it happened. My friend encouraged me to stay away from facebook for a while since any mention of him was obviously going to catch me off guard and put me down for a while. Naturally, I ignored this sweet friend and his good sense. Armed with tissues and speed dial (remember when that was a thing?), I was ready to just face the reality and embrace the pain.
But it was quiet. Over the next few days I only saw two or three mentions of him. I feel like I should say something like that was way worse, but the pain is what it is. This kind of loss is like love. You don’t kind of love someone, or extra super love someone. It’s there or it isn’t. The pain is present and absolutely real and nothing is going to make it better or worse. It’s just there.
So I sat. I cried. I called. I looked at pictures. I considered texting him like I did for the first few weeks after it happened, but once reality kicks back in there’s no going backwards. I realized either someone has his phone and the “hey this is _____ I have his phone” text would surely give me a stroke, or someone else has his number now. Regardless, what worked then won’t work now.
I haven’t wanted to talk about him because he was such a private person. What we had was just ours and I liked that. He got it and I got it and that’s it. Heartbreaking now that he’s gone, but bittersweet that I get to keep something about him that I’ll never have to share. I think these things and I try to articulate them in a way that doesn’t make me sound crazy, but fuck it, we’ve all earned a little bit of looking insane.
At the end of the day I was more upset at the silence than I probably would have been with the random mentions of him that may have caught me off guard. This whole thing makes you feel gutted and useless. I thought about the times when he reached out to me because he knew I was upset. After break ups, deaths, changes, fights, all kinds of heartache… He was always there for me to help however he could, which so often meant letting me talk, then telling me his story of why he could relate. Nothing was different by the end of it, but I always felt better and happier.
So here we are. This time of year. For whoever else is feeling this pain and wishing someone else would tell a story they could relate to, here are my words. The fact that a year has gone by without him is preposterous. I feel like I’m still waiting for my heart to start beating again. How can an entire year have passed? The world should have the decency to stop, or at least slow down, to acknowledge what its lost.
And yet we’re back at July.
When you lose such a unique person, it’s hard to think about anything but the pain of what you’ve lost. For this time of the year, I’m going to do my best to focus on why we loved him… what we lost instead of the fact that we lost him. Writing that brought my first tears of the evening, but it’s ok. I’ll think about how he saw me cry way harder at way stupider shit. He cared about so many of the people who loved him and he’d hate to see us devastated because of him. So for this whole god damn stretch, from the end of june until the middle of july, I encourage anyone else who misses him to let this be the time of year when you focus on the happiest memories. For me it’s talking about “our birthday” even though they were on separate days. The way his eyes would get huge and he’d shrug when someone was acting like a psycho around him. How one night on Rob’s porch, no one could get a word in edgewise (mike and kevin included) because god damn it, doozel had shit to say. How Rob and I looked at each other with the “is this really happening?” face. I remember one night at Jamie’s house a bunch of percussion people brought us two tastykakes with birthday candles in them and sung happy birthday to us.
Something I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life whenever it’s this time of year is the support and the love I found. I’ve always known how fortunate I am to have such great people in my life, but after Doozel died “great people” became a gross understatement. For the second time tonight I can’t see through my tears, but this time it’s out of the deepest gratitude for the love I have in my life. My wonderful sister who can see past her own pain and to this day will always stay up late to let me talk about him and tell me what it was like for her when she went through this. All of the people who were connected to each other because of their closeness to him. My bushwacker family, from people I’d marched with 12 years ago to the people who were there with us every weekend that year, his newest friends who were just as devastated to have lost him. Bob Kidd, Stacey Boyer, Peter Priatka, Mendel Lee, Kevin, Mike, Sean… everyone found their own way to juggle their own pain, their job, and found ways to support each other. Most of all Rob Thatcher. From calls in the middle of the night to pulling me aside and letting me cry to sharing his own stories and reopening his own wounds, it’s such a long list of things that he did that kept my head above water and I’ll never be able to find the right words to thank him for that.
We lost a lot, but you can’t lose something you never had. Mike was telling me one night that he had wondered if he would have just been better off never knowing him. How painful it was to get to know this amazing person and feel like you gained such an incredible friend just to lose him in less than a year. But he was so thankful that he got a part of that limited time. The heartbreak of losing him never eclipsed the joy of having him in his life. I think we all can relate to mike on that one. Doozel was so many great things. If he were here right now I’d ask him to be my thesaurus and tell me a better word for “cool” because that’s always the default word when I think of him but I feel like such an uneducated ass saying “Doozel was a cool guy.” But fuck it, he was cool as hell. I’m going to spend these next few days trying to remember every random ass story, every great one liner, everything, all the things that made me so happy to have him in my life. Beyond that I’m going to remember how lucky I am to still have all the other people who loved him too.
Despite the fact that he would never be on facebook for any reason, there’s only one thing I can think to say to wrap this up…
I love you Doozel.