I'm about to head out to see some family for Hanukah today. For the second time in the last few years I am going without presents for my little cousins.
Just too broke this year to pull it off. It's a little challenging to be grateful today for that but I am focusing my mind on how I'm going to work things better in 2010 to be able to have a stress free Hanukah and Christmas shopping season.
Having said that....
I was at a couple of parties yesterday that were fun. One to someone's place I barely know but who lives not far from me in Brooklyn. One to an old friend and his partner's, Tom (and Greg).
It is safe to say that my 30s were somewhat disastrous, divorce, semi homelessness, dad's suicide...it was really one of those get back up my feet, life kicks my ass back down kind of decades that lasted just a bit longer than 10 years.
My semi homelessness, due to under earning and the like resulted in me couch hopping awhile was about 12 years ago. The longest of those stays was at my friend Tom's. It was only supposed to last a few months, if that, while I gathered funds and found a place to live. This was slow going but then Tom got a gig working a show out of state and got the architecture firm he was working for as an admin to hire me in his place.
They were a few blocks away, nice folks and they paid really well. I worked every day and started a project that reorganized their storage closet and supply closet. (I'm fantastic at organizing other people's lives and things...my own?..not so much)
It was a good couple of months and I earned enough to easily afford the expenses of moving. About 3 or so weeks before Tom's return I began apartment hunting. One day I took a longish lunch and as I was leaving the office to take a look at apartments in a part of Manhattan, not far, where we once lived as a family, I ran into my dad. He lived still in the small apartment building he had moved into after my parents had split up and where I lived with him when I was in High School, only a few blocks away as well.
He wasn looking old. A couple of months shy of his 60th birthday he looked a good bit older than that, and shaky. I tried to talk him into coming with me but he came up with some lame excuse about having to buy milk and then spoke obsessively about the things in his life he was worrying about. I'll save the details of this for some other blog, but I shrugged it off, gave him a hug and said I'd come by soon and we'd have dinner.
A week or so later my dad's body was found after he shot himself with his own .357 magnum. I got the call from the cops as I got into work that day after seeing my daughter, then 7 in her school play. I left quickly, running the block and a half and getting into the old place....
I called the office, told them what was going on. They told me to do whatever I had to do and not to worry about returning as obviously I would have priorities.
Two days later the accountant for the firm came over to give me my last paycheck which included the time I would have worked up until Tom's return with no expectation of actually working those remaining days.
It is a generosity I can never forget and am grateful for every time I think about it.
I spent the next few months going through dad's things, straightening out his affairs as best as possible and holding my ass together through a pretty awful period.
The money I'd saved ended up keeping me fed over that time rather than moving expenses and the time that all of this required kept me from finding work.
I ended up living on Tom's couch for another year. Tom charged a small amount of rent and I took up his living room for that time until I was able to move. I know it was hard for him. He enjoyed his privacy and was a single gay man at the time, trying to change that while his straight friend was taking up half his place.
It was hard for me too. Couches do not make great beds. But it was a lot less hard than any alternative would have been.
Last night as I was hanging out at his party he said "I don't know how you got through all that." I told him. "Dude, YOU!" It's also true that during that time I had other amazing friends who stepped up and helped out in ways that were beyond reason. My brother had friends who were also very amazing.
I will be grateful to Tom and these other friends until I keel over and die at the age of 120. I can never ever thank them enough or love them enough for helping me through that.