When we first started, I didn’t now how to text. Mind you, this was sixteen years ago and I had a Blackberry. Even before we started I could hardly be away from my phone for a minute in anticipation of hearing from you. You were just a friend then. A sweet older man who listened intently to me and wanted to get to know me; and vice versa. For two years we became a witness to each others intimate stories of our lives. It was nothing more than a gentle way of diving into someone very deeply with only the intention of honoring their story. We would look for each others cars in the parking lot of the gym every weekday morning at 5am. When it became very unsettling when your car was not around, I asked you to tell me when you were out of town, so I didn’t worry. You felt the same way, and we started to share with each other our schedules. This lead to an extra weekend day at the gym followed by coffee. This lead to a holiday dinner, carefully (and very transparently) planned with two fellow gym rats. This lead to me going home after work to put on an “outfit” that I knew would blow you away. This lead to me asking myself on the way over, “why did I just do this?” Which lead to us locking into our world and basically ignoring the other two during dinner. Then came the hug, which should have happened in the parking lot after dinner, but we both avoided it. Now THAT was strange as we would always end our mornings with a one armed hug for a buddy. Something had changed. This lead to my four weeks vacation and the deep longing to be with you. Not my husband. You. When I returned from the trip, without planning it between us, I walked into the gym on a Saturday afternoon and you were there. Without words, just looking at each other while you were on the elliptical machine, we could have stared forever. We found each other so strangely interesting. You broke our silence and said, “I have something I really need to tell you”. It felt a little scary so I said “sure after you are finished, come find me”, but my stomach started to flutter. You jumped off the machine and said “I have to tell you, I love you. I really love who you are and I really missed you.” I was totally weirded out. I condescendingly replied, “Aw, that’s so sweet. I love you too”. I didn’t know what to think, act, so I went distant and aloof. I thought it was strange, but I did love you so much as friend. An older, sweet guy.
I left our town the next day for a brief trip…and that is when it really started. We could not stop emailing each other. It was crazy, all day stuff. I would wait until you could steal a moment from work to call me, just to hear your sweet voice that would literally take my breath away for the first few seconds of our conversation. I had never experienced anything like this in my life and chalked it up to really strong, protective, loving feelings for my old friend. The day before I came home, we decided we would run a half marathon together in a different town. We told our spouses, and they seemed perfectly fine. Who would ever have thought anything else but a friendship between us? Your wife and you had been living separate lives. You had decided to stay together, at least in your mind, because of the finical impact of divorce. You had agreed to separate twice before, but the money situation prevented you from going through with it. You worked so hard to get to where you were and she was not going to get any of the business. I, made everyone that was in our circle of friends believe my marriage was epitome of perfection. On the inside, we didn’t have intimacy. We bothered each other, really it was the beginning of resentment. I was not looking for a way out, in fact it never crossed my mind, which is part of the reason I didn’t see what was happening with us. The next morning home we decided to start our training for the half marathon. We set out in the darkness right before dawn, along the road paralleling the ocean and you stopped and pulled me towards you. I have never, ever had a kiss that made me weak in my knees, incredibly alive and totally confused at the same time. I knew I would not be able to go back to my old life. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but it was never going to be the same.
For the next 9 months, before we both could have our freedom, every single word you spoke was like gold. Believe or not, that sentiment carried on for both of us years in our relationship. We wanted more contact during the work day and we discovered texting. It probably was not the smartest thing to do in the throws of an affair, but caution was not a high priority. We felt the most alive in years of shutting our hearts down. Our words for each other had always been the foundation of our friendship, but now that it flipped, it was building our tapestry in other ways. My cell was an extension of our affair and I was attached. We made alias for each other. I was Ellen Murphy that morphed into just “Murph”. You were Kather after initially trying to type another name and being caught in the act by an unknowing person. We remained our alter egos in our contact information until the day you died.
Throughout the years together, we shared what other couples do on text. Simple “I love you” in the middle of the day, or how much we missed each other when apart. We sometimes fought over text, or discussed our family issues. I would get annoyed when you didn’t get back to me right away, and you would get annoyed with me when I purposely would not respond to yank your chain. I loved when you let me know you were on your way home and if you could pick something up from the store. I became so used to all of this exchange and I naturally took it for granted. I did not even think about the possibility of it ending. Why?
When you were diagnosed, we were together so often that we didn’t have to text because we were with each other. Sometimes during the early part of treatment you would send me love and your gratefulness for going through this with you. You would also send encouraging and brave messages about how we were going to make it and beat this thing. I, was not so positive. I sent countless messages begging you to stay with me, fight harder, questioning what I would do without you. All of it was met, until the last months, with your pollyanna bright outlook. What else could you do?
During the last months the texts became primarily about your health and involving our outside resources and health providers. The “I love you’s” were replaced by logistical questions of how we were going to get you down the stairs and to the car with your oxygen. The countless times the ambulance had to bring you to the hospital texts were filled with what to bring you for your hospital stay and doctor updates. I didn’t want to look at my cell because nothing on it was good. All of it was a barrage of updates that had become my life.
We used to relish our coffee with each other in the morning and our long, meandering talks about life. That was replaced with texts asking if the care giver had arrived and how you were feeling that morning because you could no longer make it up the stairs to our bed. You would text me what to bring down to you from your office or from the “pharmacy” drawer you had acquired over the last two years.
Towards the end, your text could sometimes have a hint of uncharacteristic intolerance for not getting things fast enough to you. You would always apologize when I would call you on it, but it started to happen with more frequency. I thought it was the oxycodone/oxycontin combination, never guessed it was the process of death. All of the love we shared throughout the years using this means of communication was gone. I had become the employee/caregiver/wound care specialist/cleaning person, and your wife ceased to exist because you were in survival mode. Our couple hood was dying together.
The last couple of days, when Ella and I went to Spain and you decided to die in front of your family, I would get texts nonstop about how to manage you and your schedule. I had a bit of satisfaction knowing that everyone now had a dose of how I was living and what I had been hiding/shielding for the last two years. I thought by going away I would get some sleep and come back refreshed to start the fight for life again. I realized I was now awake almost 20 hours a day because of the time change and supporting your care givers. Your texts slowly did not make sense. Words were misspelled. Words were rearranged in unusual ways. You became paranoid and accusatory of everyone. I called you to figure out what was going on with your sister text you were yelling at people, and for the first time in our relationship, you hung up on me. I used my text to tell you to apologize to everyone and said you had become a different person on the drugs. You momentarily snapped back into old self and text me back one of the saddest things I will ever read in my life…”You don’t deserve to live a life like this. I am sorry.” I was mad, terrified, and devastated all at the same time. I called you and asked what the hell I was fighting for if you were thinking about throwing in the towel. You apologized over and over. You called everyone at the house in the small room you were confined to and apologized profusely to all of them. Looking back, you were making your amends. You died the next morning.
After you died, your phone became my lifeline to you and my nemesis. In the beginning, every day, I would text you messages asking what happened to us, to you. What am I going to do, how to live without you. All the same stuff I would ask you in the middle of the night, but now I had no one to reassure me I would get through this. I would wake up and look for your response every morning. Sob when I would read my own message. I marveled at the day you stopped getting texts from people who didn’t know about your death. It was July 21st. The last outside text. It was the reality that you finally ceased to exist.
I sent you a text every day, until it became every other day, then week, then month. Your work text if I could send the phone back to them and I freaked out. They were so apologetic in responding, and I felt so embarrassed I had shown them my madness. I stopped powering your phone at some point that I don’t remember. Every once in a while I will text, but I only look for the possible response on my phone. Last month, I went through all of our texts as far back as I possibly could, and felt a barrage of emotions, mainly my friend Grief. It hurt to look at all the mundane daily stuff that I so yearned for, or the I Love You’s for no reason except we were together then and life was taken for granted.
I trained in voice for twelve years from 6 years old. Much to my parents chagrin, I did not go into classical vocals, I sang in a folk grunge band for for a few years in the 1990s. I used to smoke cigarettes until I got pulmonary thrombosis (blood clot in my lung) at 24, and had to be in the hospital for 10 days. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I have run 53 Half Marathons, 2 Marathons including Boston (through the Liver Foundation). I stopped running at 49 because my relationship was over with running and I started an affair with cycling. I love, no, I am obsessed with my furbaby, Ziggy Stardust. The greatest love of my life is my daughter. I am a Dave Matthews devotee and try to catch as many gigs around the states as possible. And finally…I love the Broulet Brothers, Trixie and Katya, and all things Tim Burton.