Eighty-Eight years old. That’s how old my friend Caz is. I’ve known him about 15 years. I met him in a bar. He was a lifelong confirmed bachelor, as might be said of men of his era. That era seems nigh to close now. He was a PhD in Music, and a highly rated piano professor for 60 some odd years. And he was always a mentor to my piano music, untrained though I be. “I don’t know how you can play like that, without a lesson,” he said, “and you never make a damned wrong note.” He compared me to modern classical music, not that great, but we’ll live. That was a high honor. Now I shall miss him, I can tell. At least he got one year for every note on the keyboard.
He’s the guy for whom I’ve been doing the driving, and cooking, the gardening, and attending to all the things that an man of plus 80 might require, while I’ve been traveling, and the last year blogging. That’s how long I’ve been helping him. Each year brought the need for a little more help. Then it was each quarter year. Then each six or seven weeks. Onward it progressed this need for help. Then in the past week he collapsed. And now he needs every moment, almost. I had gone to Pennsylvania to see my own mother in the last stages of her life, and came home to a completely changed man. From robust and practicing Robert Schuman’s Papillion – a rather complex piano work, to feeble old man. I don’t think there’s any more dulcet notes from his hands, sadly. Blunt I am, yes, yet such is the cycle of life. We’ll all get there one way or another. He and I had talked about it. We settled on the words “accepting it.” Accepting, yes, the most stark of all realities.
Today was the second time in five days we had to take him to the hospital. Words of impending passing are suggested, though hoped not to be. The obvious not stated is death, mortality, and the great beyond how ever you, or he, might believe in it. That’s why many medieval and renaissance thinkers kept real human skulls on their desks. To sort of remind them of the passing fleeting time of life. Those machines on the walls of modern hospitals are sort of our version of the same thing – our impending nothingness. Fleeting memories at best, such as we can preserve them, until we too are gone.
Needless to say, blogs shall be scant as we figure all this out. [the phone rings, uh oh.]
And at that point I got the call from our friend Nanette, who tells me soon is the end. The family and friends assemble, the necessary details portend. Such an unfair thing we have to work so hard at the toughest times. Then he calls me, too, to tell me this and that about this month’s bills, and students to cancel, and he can barely put strings of words together. Grief.
He loved the classic cars. I went all the way to Kalamazoo Michigan to see a Classic Car Club of America with him. He knew people, they knew him. And he knew every year, make and model of every one of the two hundred plus cars. And if he was such a car he’d be a 1922 Royals-Dusenberg combo that he ran at full blast for 88 years. Now the engine is burned out, the rings shot. It’s in the garage.
Say good night, Caz, and off to the angels.
He will leave behind various relatives, nieces nephews and cousins. They didn’t really know him. They never asked, he didn’t tell. But he leaves behind a huge devoted group of gay men, his family. Me almost like a son, others like his brother, and his “real” nephews, etc. too. He asked that donations in lieu of flowers be sent to Gay Men’s Choral Groups, nationwide. That’s where we hide, when we’re not singing at the local Episcopal, Methodist or Presbyterian Church. And you wonder why we see everything through a gay prism. 88, and they’re still asking about his wife and kids, wondering if I’m the son, and he’s till afraid to say “no, that’s only my friend Hlavac, the one who understands me most, because he’s like me.”
He was a World War II veteran. He joined the Navy to avoid the draft. He served th duration, as pianist. That’s were they, you, put that sissy boy. Surely, in your hearts, minds and courage, you can send us, we gay, to the music corps at least. We’ll even pronounce it better than Obama. But should Caz have had to lie for so many years? He was was a veteran of America’s greatest generation. Shouldn’t he have been unafraid to tell, regardless of who asked?
No more till later.
Now I’m off to our garden, where I can mediate. And get your mind out of the gutter, we were just friends.
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