Most of my romantic blog postings have been about men but believe it or not folks, I have had lady friends. In fact, back in my prime, I had quite a following which did prove a problem because while I always had the eye for the guys, the ladies had the eye for me.
Two of my favorite women friends were Alice and Joanne. Both are in the photo at the top of this blog. In this posting I will tell the story of me and Alice. In a future posting I will tell the story of me and Joanne.
I met Alice when she came to pick me up from Personnel when I was hired as a remittance clerk in 1965 at Girard Bank in Philadelphia. Alice was my new boss's secretary. I liked her immediately. She was friendly, funny and, as you can see, very attractive.
As I got to know her I found that we had a lot in common except for the fact that she was straight and I was gay. Our personalities were very similar. She was honest and straight forward and had a wonderful, sense of humor and not at all conceited in spite of the fact that she was very beautiful and had a figure that most women envied and caught the eye of many of my straight male friends.
|Alice and I out on one of our many lunch dates|
Alice and I became best friends. I felt comfortable with her because she never pushed me for a more intimate relationship yet I felt that she eventually expected that to happen. To me Alice was more like the sister I never had. We did so much together. We bowled on the same bowling team and even won the championship in 1968 (see above photo). We both worked as campaign volunteers on the Bobby Kennedy campaign until he was assassinated. We went to lunch a couple times a week. We both rode the bus together to and from work from Roxborough, PA. Alice and I had many good times together, sans sex.
However there came a time when she saw our relationship was going no further and she met someone else. His name was Juergen. He was tall like me and had the same teasing sense of humor that I have. Alice and Juergen eventually got married. Alice left work and she and Juergen adopted a little Korean girl who she named Allison.
|Alice and her daughter Allison - 1972|
|Allison sitting at my desk while I was out to lunch|
We would exchange Christmas cards and birthday cards and occasionally she would call me to commiserate with me about her latest family issues and catch her up on the gossip about her former co-workers at the bank.
|Alice with her friend Diane 12-23-1968 at me and Bill's apartment in Roxborough, PA. - my favorite ship painting is in the background|
Then one day she called me on a Friday. This was when I was working at a different bank. I had been job eliminated at Girard/Mellon Bank and was working at Fidelity Bank, right across Broad Street in Philadelphia. It was Friday and I missed her call but she left me a voice message. I was so busy and concerned about catching my commuter train at the end of the day that I didn't return her call.
That Sunday I saw a message on my answering machine at home. I turned it on and it was from her husband Jeurgen. His message said that Alice had died. He said she went into her daughter's bedroom, and put a gun into her mouth and killed herself. I didn't believe him.
He said her viewing would take place the following Thursday in Roxborough. I didn't believe him.
I knew Jeurgen was a great practical joker but I thought this time he went too far. I told Bill "I'm going to go to that viewing just to show Jeurgen up." I really didn't believe that Alice had killed herself. She was one of the most gentle persons I've ever known. Another reason was she was Catholic and she was very religious. I just didn't believe it.
Comes the day of the viewing. It was a hot August day in Roxborough at a funeral home on Ridge Avenue where the viewing was being held. I walked in the front door still not believing that this was real then I saw Jeurgen. He was standing beside Alice's closed coffin. He was shaking people's hands who were standing a line to pay their respects to him and Alice. I got into line. When I got to Jeurgen, he took one look at me and I looked at him and we both lost it. He went one way and I went the other way, into a side room. I completely lost my composure as did he. In fact, I'm choking up now even writing about this.
That was when I discovered the purpose of all those side rooms where funeral viewings are held. A place to the bereaved to gather themselves together.
When I got myself together again I went over and talked to Jeurgen. He told me that Alice probably killed herself because she was very depressed. He said her Mother had just died, and that Alice was going through her change of life (she was 49 at the time as was I), she was under a lot of pressure because they were in the process of putting both of Jeurgen's parents into a nursing home, she was overwhelmed keeping up two houses one in Roxborough and their house in Ocean City, New Jersey and the problems of raising their two kids (Alice and Jeurgen later adopted a Korean boy they named "Charles.) He said he didn't know why Alice took such a violent way out and why she killed herself in her daughter's bedroom.
Then I lost it again. I saw both of Alice's children standing in the back, stunned, and dressed like they were going to Sunday school. Allison was 10 years old and Charles 8 years old. When Jeurgen introduced us the first thing Charles said was "Oh, you're the man with the dogs." Charles was referring to the fact that every year I sent out Christmas cards of me with our Pomeranian dogs. I don't know why but that combination of their Sunday school clothes, and not fully understanding what was going on with the viewing but they did know me as "the man with the dogs." I lost my composure again and had to return to the side room.
|"The Man With the Dogs"|
When I got home I got to thinking a little more then I started to feel guilty. Alice had called me and left a message on my voice mail to call her back. She did sound concerned but I dismissed that because lately she was always sounding that way. But now I wondered, "What would have happened if I did call her back?" You know folks, to this day that question has haunted me.
I was reminded of Alice's suicide because today I heard that Pastor Rick Warren's 27 year old son committed suicide. See here for the story.
Pastor Rick Warren is the author of "A Purpose Driven Life." I haven't read his book but I do subscribe to his theory that we must all have a purpose in life. I know what my purpose is, to live my life openly as a gay man and to dispel the hate and fear that is often directed towards gay men and women by showing people that I am just like they are, the only difference being that I am sexually attracted to men. My purpose in life is to make people happy. Love, simple as that.
There have been times when I have been depressed and even a few times when I wanted the pain of loneliness to end but whenever I felt myself slipping down that slope I would think of Alice and what she did. I could never do that to my family. One time I even came as close as getting into my car in a closed garage and turning on the engine but then the image of my Mother came into my mind and I pictured her at my funeral....I just could not do that to her.
These days as more and more of my friends and relatives are leaving me, I wonder how I would feel when I am alone again. Bill has often said that when I'm gone he has no reason to live. And to be quite frank about it, I think I would feel the same way if he was gone before me. Then I would be just one of those sad old gay men who lives by themselves. I would hope I wouldn't feel like that but the thought does cross my mind during our recent spate of medical situations.
Tomorrow I will tell the story of Joanne. That one has a happier ending.