Monday, November 5, 2012
Today would have been his birthday. He was born November 5, 1950. He died last December just before Christmas and even though I ended our eight year relationship in 2003, I have thought about him every year on this day since then and silently wished him the happiness and peace that so eluded him. Glenn had a dark and tragic secret from his childhood that scarred him emotionally and haunted him his whole life. It effected his personal relationships, how he dealt with challenge and how he viewed life in general. He never spoke of it to anyone in life except me...not even to his parents. I suppose that's why I hung on for so long trying to make the relationship work and to help him deal with the demons that so often sent him into bouts of deep depression or terrible panic attacks. I understood why it was happening. He was a very intelligent man and when he was feeling good he was wickedly funny, kind and giving to his friends, and so much fun to be with. He was a professional musician and a talented bass player. Everybody loved that Glenn. But when he was overwhelmed he would withdraw from the world, let the darkness overtake him and couldn't see his own potential. That was the curmudgeonly Glenn who so many people couldn't understand why I stayed with for so long. I tried for years to get him to see a doctor about an antidepressant, to seek counseling, and to deal openly with his pain and anger. But he just wouldn't. His emotional pain manifested itself physically and he became addicted to vicodin and morphine. Although he absolutely needed the pain killers to control the physical pain that he lived with every day, he took more and more of them trying to ease the emotional and psychological pain that hung over his life like a dark ever-present shadow. In his pain he grew to depend on me, both physically and emotionally in ways that were not healthy for either of us. But it is impossible to help someone who won't help themselves and, in the end, I finally realized that I had to let go for my own well-being. I also knew that by ending our relationship I was leaving Glenn alone in this world. I felt like I was setting him adrift in the sea without a paddle or a sail. Taking away the one thing he held onto in life...me. He had no one else. That's not an easy thing to do to someone you love and someone who loves you so much in return. But I knew it was the only option I had for my own sake. It was a painful breakup for both of us. I kept track of Glenn, through mutual friends, in the years that followed. His health got worse, he suffered a couple of heart attacks, he he had trouble finding steady work (music was all he knew) and eventually became homeless for a while. My heart ached for him whenever I got word of how he was doing. He just seemed to be spiraling ever downward. But I had known that would happen. Glenn died alone in the days just before Christmas last year. He was found in the house by his landlord. His death was ruled natural causes (another heart attack) but an exact day of death could not be determined. When I heard a few weeks later that he had died I was filled with such mixed emotions. I was so sad for a life that had gone so wrong, so sad that he had died alone. I revisited my decision to leave him all those years ago and the difference in the directions that each of our lives had taken since then. I can't regret, for my own sake, that I did what was best for myself at the time. I don't think it was wrong to be unwilling to sacrifice my own happiness in an attempt to help someone who wouldn't help himself. But his death brought back all the memories of the years we spent together and the man I had known so well...his love for his dogs, my cats, and any animal that was hurt or helpless (I lost count of how many times he nursed an injured wild bird back to health)...the time he babysat three very young children because a dear friend needed him to (he was so out of his element!)...his dedication to his music (I saw him go to work some nights when he was in so much pain that he could barely lift the guitar). But most of all I remembered how much he had loved me. Through all of our years together Glenn was unfailingly faithful and even wore a wedding ring, though we were never married, to show the world that his heart was taken. At his mother's memorial service he had one arm around his high school sweetheart and one arm around me. He said, "My first girlfriend and my last." He made me feel more loved than any man before or since. Although his death filled me with immense sadness - sadness for his inability to cope with what life had thrown at him, sadness for how our years together had ended and sadness that he had never found that inner peace he so badly needed - there was a part of me that was glad for him...glad that his pain was finally over. As I said before, each year on his birthday, I have thought of him and wished good things for his life. Today, on the first birthday since his death, he is especially on my mind. I don't regret my decision to end our relationship but neither do I regret the years that we spent together. There are many good memories intertwined with the bad and I can separate them out and be thankful for the good ones. No one knew Glenn or loved him like I did and when the whole world has forgotten, I will remember him. I will keep his memory tucked safely into a corner of my heart where I can protect it the way I couldn't protect him in life.