Men in their twenties don’t say I love you to male friends or at least we didn’t when I was in my twenties. It was a mistake but I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know it because when you are in your twenties you are invincible and you don’t worry about dying.
You don’t ever expect that one day you will stand under endless blue skies holding a shovel because you have to bury a friend who was more like a brother. It is not supposed to be like that and you never could have imagined that 14 years later you would remember it all so vividly.
It never occurs to you that you’ll wonder what happens after we die and ask yourself if he is watching over the six year-old boy who is buried near by. I didn’t know about that little boy until after ‘D’s funeral. I was lost that day and I didn’t pay attention to any of the graves, but I saw him later.
One day after my oldest was born I decided to go visit ‘D’ and tell him that I had become a father. I walked by the little guy’s grave and had to sit down. It was always tragic to me but I hadn’t ever thought about it as a father. This time it was different. This time I remembered the looks of horror on the faces of ‘D’s parent and the magnitude of it all hit me in a different way because I understood the responsibility parents feel regarding their children’s welfare.
Those Three Words
I don’t have many regrets but I wish that I had told ‘D’ that I loved him. I wish that he hadn’t hid the severity of his illness and that he would have let me help carry some of the load. I would have done it. He would have done it for me.
All these years later I don’t doubt that he knew it but there is something different about saying the words. I have thought about it quite a bit and I haven’t ever figured out why I didn’t say it other than I don’t share my feelings easily.
That might sound shocking to you, but if you are an old friend you’ll know that I am close lipped about many things.
My Uncle Jimmy died in ’94. Technically he died from pneumonia but it was AIDS that got him. I didn’t find out he was gay until I was a senior in high school. Funny thing is that it never was a secret, I was just oblivious. It didn’t change my feelings about him. He was my uncle and I loved him, but I didn’t say it to him either.
Hell, my father almost died eight years ago and we didn’t exchange those three words. We did when I was little but somewhere along the way it stopped and I am not sure why.
But if I have learned anything from these experiences it is that you shouldn’t wait to tell the people you love that you care about them. I have gotten better about it but I need to do more.
Eight years later I am carrying around some guilt because I don’t think dad is taking care of himself the way he should because he is worried about my sisters and I. I wasn’t going to say anything to him about it because I didn’t think he would change.
But I can’t do this any longer. I can’t not say anything. I am in a transitional phase but I am not worried about coming through it. I always get through and I will this time. I am concerned about my kids, but that is because it is what parents do. They will get through this time too and they will probably do better than all of us.
This time I am going to say something. I am going to pull out those three words. I should have told ‘D’ and I should have said it to Uncle Jimmy but I won’t miss the opportunity to say I love you to my father.