Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Life and Death

Don (in red), Al (in white) and me (in black) on the way to a Halloween party 2009

Al came home a few days ago.  He came home to die.

Al has stage 4 liver cancer.  The cancer has spread throughout his body. The radiation and chemotherapy Al has been receiving is no longer effective in controlling his cancer.  The cancer has spread throughout the rest of his body.  Now the only option left is to makeAl as comfortable and pain free as possible at this time, the end of his life.

I met Al and his partner Don a few months after Bill and I moved to Delaware in 2006.  I had heard that there was another gay couple who also built a house in this development and who were also having trouble selling their other house.  I wanted to meet them and share our situation, perhaps it would make us feel a little better about the dilemma were were in.

I watched their house for the next several weeks and one day when I saw their car parked out in front I knocked on their door and introduced myself.  Yes, they were also having trouble selling their home.  They lived in New Jersey.  We commiserated.

Soon the four of us developed a friendship.  Bill and I had Al and Don over to the house a few times for dinner and they had me over to their house.  I think Bill went once but Bill usually doesn't like to go to other people's houses for dinner.

In the next year I frequently accompanied Al and Don to local restaurants and a few shopping trips.  However, one summer two years ago we had a falling out.  I won't go into the details here, it's not important.  What I will say was that even though we are both gay (Al and Don and me and Bill), we really didn't have anything in common and were beginning to grate on each other's nerves.  We let the friendship (what there was of it) wither away on the vine.  Sometimes that happens with friendships, gay or straight.  It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

In the two years since that time Bill and I would see Al drive through the neighborhood.  Don was always working.  Al stayed at home all the time, he was on disability.  Al is only six months older than me.

Al with he Pekinese "Lucy" 2009

About two months ago, all activity ceased over at Don and Al's (we can see their garage door from our dining room).  We assumed that Al's health had gotten worse and he was in the hospital.  As it turned out, we were right.

Last week one of our neighbors informed us that she heard that Al had stage four liver cancer.  That is a terminal illness.  Then last week we saw several vehicles parked outside their garage.  There was a lot of activity.  It was obvious that Al had come home to die.  I assume one of the vehicles was the hospice care worker.

Bill made a suggestion that perhaps we should go over to see them.  I wasn't sure.  After all, we hadn't spoken for two years.  What would we say?  Wouldn't it be awkward?  Wouldn't be be interfering?  Would we be perceived as vultures?

We decided not to see Al.  I don't know what good it would do.  One friend of mine did suggest we see them just to "close the door."  I honestly don't know. I've never been in a situation like this before.

Every day Bill and I look out our dining room window over at Al and Don's to see the activity.  It is ironic that we're looking out our dining room window because Don got on my case once that I never use the dining room when they came over for dinner.  I still haven't served a meal in my dining room.

I feel bad for Al and Don.  A slow death is not something I would wish on anyone.  And it is certainly not the kind of death that I want to go through.  I've experienced too much of this already because it is the way my Mother went last September.  It is an ugly, demeaning, painful, and uncomfortable death.

We're on a Death Watch now.  I'll remember those good times we had in the past.  Sad times here.

Al at the Purple Parrot with Richard the Waiter (Al loved to flirt with the waiters at the Parrot) - 2009


  1. Maybe just send a note? If only to say thank you and acknowledge your undertanding and sympathy for the ugly road that they now face. For a short time they were a part of your life and perhaps you helped each other get through it and the adjustment to a new life.

    In my opinion indifference would be far worse, but you lived the experience and know all the details and I don't. Free advice (like this) is worth its price.

    Will J

  2. Will,

    Thank you. Your advice is excellent. That is what I will do. We are not indifferent to their situation now but I didn't want to complicate matters by appearing in person. I will send a note expressing our concern and caring. Thank you again. At first I was unsure whether or not to post about this situation. I am glad now that I posted this blog because it resulted in your suggestion.

  3. anne marie in philly8:31 PM

    I like will's suggestion.

    perhaps also make a casserole for don? just a suggestion.

  4. bob Chambers6:30 AM

    I think you should go over there. A note would make sense if you were in Philly bit you're 3 doors away.

  5. What a fun looking Halloween group!

    Oh, and that waiter looks worth flirting with.

  6. Anne Marie,

    Thanks for your suggestion but a casserole would be the LAST thing I would take to my former friends. His pickiness was one of the several reasons why we couldn't maintain a friendship. He complained about EVERYTHING from the size of the forks I set out at the dinner table to the location of the meal. Everytime we went to a restaurant he ALWAYS sent the food back. You HAVE TO BE KIDDING...a casserole?

  7. Ron,
    I don't know why many of our relationships in life have to get complicated. But they do. Given the circumstances of your relationship to this couple, I think the most you might do is send a short note, explain you have heard of the situation and offer to be available if they should have s need.

    I don't know, you obviously had a short-lived acquaintanceship, but a friendship that didn't really bloom, so I'm no sure anything is necessary. Perhaps just look at it as something you would do if you heard any of your neighbors was in a bad situation. Sad sometimes the way things work out.


  8. Anonymous9:46 AM

    I agree with Will. This will bring closure to all of you & is so much better than not aknowledging the pain former friends are going through. After all we will all be in their shoes someday, in one form or another.


  9. Rick,

    Richard, the Waiter, was very flirtatious. Oh yes, he was (is) a good waiter. :)

  10. Anonymous,

    I just mailed a note to my former friend. I appreciate Will's excellent advice. It the the right thing to do. I'm glad I have friends like Will.

  11. Good advice Larry. I did just send a note a short while ago. I would do the same for a neighbor. What broke up our friendship was that Bill and I could no longer tolerate the one guy's racism towards another one of our neighbors. We don't need friends like that. Having said that, I still feel sorry for both of them for what they're going through now.


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