My darling friend Henry has always believed that if he loves you and he loves me, you and I will love each other. A lovely notion, but not practical. Over the 30 years of our friendship, I can think of at least three dear friends of his that I've been thrown together with and had to pretend to adore because if I didn't, he'd be hurt or disillusioned. But to be honest, I couldn't stand them. (And that doesn't include his husband Reg, who pisses me off more with each passing day.)
One of these friends of a friend is Kate. She was an associate creative director Henry worked with briefly before he met me. She and her girlfriend palled around with Henry and Reg and, being Henry, he was sure she and I would also get on like a house afire. I pretended to, but I always found her competitive and pretentious. You see, as advertisers, we were creative but we didn't produce art. We sold people shit they didn't need. I'm not embarrassed about my career and I'm proud of much I accomplished. Advertising is important to marketing and commerce. But I ain't F. Scott Fitzgerald and Kate isn't Hemingway, no matter how high-flown her rhetoric.
I'm the only one in our merry band who is still in Chicago. Henry and Reg moved to Key West about 25 years ago. Kate broke up with her lover and started anew in Washington DC. She married a similarly successful woman and they built themselves a fine life. A country cabin in Virginia for long weekends in summer and winter getaways to Italy, Spain and, just last year, Cuba.
I admit it: I resent the living shit out of Kate. For though, since Henry's accident, she has given considerable lip service to loving Henry and Reg, she is not there for them in any meaningful way. She ♥'s Reg's Facebook posts about how hard their lives have been, but that's the extent of her involvement. Oh yes! To be fair, she did pay their mortgage one month back in 2018, while Henry was still in the hospital. That was generous and most appreciated. But her checkbook has not opened again.
Yet every three months or so, she reaches out to me. Always after she's checked in with them. An hour on the phone, once a season. That's her involvement. Which would be fine, if she didn't feel the need to instruct me about them. How hard Reg has tried (we can debate this), or difficult Henry is (you think I don't know that?). It occurs to me that she spends as much time recounting her calls to me as she does talking to them. I don't know why she bothers, except to share her superior understanding of the situation to me. Why do I bother? Because she always says she has something important to share with me. She never does.
I have suggested all the ways she could help them. Maybe instead of driving to Fredericksburg, they could fly down to Key West for the weekend to spend some time with Henry and give Reg the break from caregiving she insists he needs. Oh, she can't. Busy, busy, busy. What about in the winter, when it's too cold enjoy the cabin? Why not go down then? Oh, she can't. Busy, busy, busy. It really burned my ass that they flew OVER Key West to vacation in Cuba! It didn't occur to her to add a few days to her trip to spend some time with these "dear friends" that she claims to care so much about? Come to think of it, in the 25 years Henry and Reg have lived in Key West, she's visited once. ONCE! And that was before Henry's accident.
She reached out to me Wednesday afternoon. To tell me all about Henry and Reg. Am I aware that Reg is drinking too much? Yes. Duh. Do I realize that Henry has not been receiving the cognitive and occupational therapy that was recommended years ago? Yes. Duh. Does it bother me that Reg sold the house without lining up anywhere for them to live? Yes. Duh. Do I know how "insane" Henry has become? No. NO.
All this hand wringing about how hard this has been for Reg, who has a functioning brain and is the responsible spouse, and no compassion for how confusing and terrifying life can be for Henry! He doesn't understand why he has to leave Key West. It upsets him to see his belongings thrown in a dumpster or sold. He is scared that Reg is just doing all this to be rid of him. "Insane," Kate? No! Henry is vulnerable and suffering from dementia and the untreated after effects of a bike accident and a TBI.
I disagreed with her assessment of Henry as "insane." She agreed "impaired" might be a better word. Ya think? I told her about how dear he can still be, about how during our call last week, frightened and agitated as he was, he was concerned about my unending dental work. Kate dismissively deemed that "typical gay guy and straight girlfriend." What a bitch! I responded that as Henry fades away, that thoughtfulness is a cherished memory.
There's something liberating about that.