Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #338

 13 things my friend Henry loves. He is the hospital right now, after having undergone two separate surgeries on his brain. His prognosis is not good. But I am trying to send love his way in every way I can. And so here goes.

1. Church music. His favorite part of any church service is the hymns. He much prefers religious Christmas songs to secular, Santa ones.

2. Hospitality. He wanted everyone to feel welcome at his table.

3. Gazpacho. He is very proud of his recipe.

4. Doing the dishes. He not only finds it therapeutic, he's convinced no one does it correctly but him. Really, it made him nuts to watch someone else wash. "Are you going rinse that or let me to towel the soap and food away?"

5. Dogs and cats. His home has always been full of "fur babies." At one point he played father to three dogs and two cats.

6. Frida Kahlo. He loves how she turned her suffering into art. I don't care for Kahlo one bit. Henry feels sorry for me.

7. Books. He loved to read and be around them. At one point he was very happily juggling two jobs: at the public library on weekdays and at a bookstore on weekends. His taste is eclectic. Two of his favorites are The Diary of Anne Frank and Valley of the Dolls (I'm not kidding).

8. Stained glass. He loved admiring it and created a few pieces on his own.

9. Languages. He enjoyed comparing/contrasting the romance languages. He could toggle effortlessly between Spanish and English and could get by in Italian. He could read/write in French but had no confidence in his accent.

10. Travel. I don't mean visiting different lands. Henry enjoyed simply going from hither to yon. Car rides, bus rides, bike rides and walks, even through neighborhoods he knows well.

11. Sophia Loren. He believed she was the most beautiful woman ever and was fascinated that, if you took her face feature by feature, it wasn't so great but put together, she was stunning.

12. Hardware stores. He enjoyed home improvement projects and could wax eloquently on having the right tool for the job. He also insisted that if you're about to take a long road trip, you should make note of all Home Depot stores along the way because they have the cleanest public bathrooms, free to use with purchase. And there's always something you need to buy at The Home Depot.

13. Dressing up. He enjoyed choosing the right shirt for the occasion, whether a dinner he was hosting or church service where he'd be reading the lesson.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.



This is the message Reg sent out to his 532 Facebook friends. I give it to you verbatim:

Decisions are sometimes easy, sometimes difficult and occasionally, impossible.
Tomorrow I must make a life or death choice.
The Doctors at [Hospital Name] have asked me to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" waiver.
It's just a formality.
He does not even use Henry's name. With his every action, Reg reminds me that this tragedy is about Reg. Not Henry or those of us who love him. 
It was cruel for him to allow me to receive this news as I scroll through the cat videos and holiday hacks on my Facebook feed. I should know by now to expect nothing better from Reg, but he continuously surprises me. 

To make this even more inappropriate, Henry HATED Facebook and Instagram. Even before the accident, he refused to look at social media. He believed the artificial oversharing was as inauthentic and tasteless as reality TV. So it bothers me enormously that, since Henry's bike and that van collided, Reg has shared his husband's private information in a pubic forum. He knows Henry would hate it. His need for attention is greater that Henry's desire for privacy, I guess.*
So I guess this means Henry is going to die soon. I think of him, unconscious and head shaved, in a hospital bed surrounded by strangers. His recent hallucinations were all about his family in Puerto Rico. His mother, his father, his older brother, Raul. (Interestingly, not his younger brother.) While his English was perfect when we last spoke on November 22, he seems to have lapsed into Spanish exclusively. 

I think that means he doesn't belong here. Not on the mainland. He is longing for his island home.

I know Henry is a man of deep Christian faith. One of the great wounds of his life has been his rejection by the Catholic church, simply because he fell in love with another man. That was Enrique, an older man he met in school in Ponce on the southern coast. Enrique encouraged Henry to attend graduate school at Northwestern, to follow his dreams of higher education. No one had believed in Henry the way Enrique did. And so they came to Chicago. 

While Henry was working on his PhD and acting as adjunct professor, Enrique was diagnosed with AIDS. For reason he never understood, but was totally grateful for, Henry was spared. He stayed by Enrique's side to the end and, just as importantly, translated all the medical jargon for Enrique's mother in Ponce. For financial reasons, she couldn't get to Chicago and her son. Henry did everything he could to alleviate her confusion and grew very close to her. This was 1988 or 89. He was in his late 20s.

By the time I met him in 1992, Henry had abandoned Northwestern and was working as a Mac production artist at the agency that had just hired me. He pursued our friendship. Insisted on it, in fact. From the moment we met, Henry saw only good things in me. He told me all the time that I was the smartest woman he'd ever met and he couldn't believe I had no college. He had just recently taken up with Reg, who also has no degree. It amazed him that his life in Chicago, the city he came to for his Masters, was anchored by two people who had nothing to do with academia. 
I could do post after post about Henry's spontaneous acts of kindness to me and to others. About how he loved me and always, always assumed I had the best intentions -- even when I didn't. The love of animals we shared. His reverence for mothers, everyone's mother. My own mother led a very sheltered life, and Henry was both her first gay and her first Puerto Rican friend.

He was not perfect. He never met a conspiracy theory he didn't at least entertain. He could slide into persecution easily. He was massively stubborn -- as am I -- and that led to our clashes over the years. It is important to remember him dimensionally.

I love Henry. Just knowing him has been a gift. I am making my peace with the fact that I'm going to go on without him. 

*I sort of get that, because I vent here. But names are changed. No one who has ever met Henry in real life has ever read these words. I offered to help Reg set up a blog so he could work through his feelings in a more private forum, where he could keep his own identity and Henry's secret. That never happened. Of course not.


Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash