Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mourning and Morning

Walter in his youth

Part 2
(link to Part 1)
Like many who have dealt with loss, there are good days and there are bad......Today is a bad day.  
I'm back from NYC where good friends and neighbors joined me in saying goodbye to our friend Walter, who was almost 92.

I go for a run every morning at 7:30 and that's when I would make my first check-in call to Walter.  After he complained about the noise I was making while running on the gravel,  he would tell me every detail of his morning.  Who put the garbage in the wrong can, who tossed something personal (which he would share with me if it was juicy) and if there was anyone interesting staying in the apartments the landlord used as a mini hotel.  The conversation usually moved on to "should I shave today or not?" or "I really need a haircut, but, I have to figure out how to cover up this spot on my forehead first."  Even at 91 (almost 92) he wanted to look his best for everyone he encountered during the day.  That spot was most surely cancer that he claimed started in the 1980s while watching the pride parade.  I actually think it was cancer, but in all of his 91 years
NEVER saw a doctor even once.

Walter in my plaid shirt "running" from the camera in September

Walter had sticky fingers, but only when it came to things in my apartment.  I traveled a lot for work and he would take in the mail and take out a bottle of wine, or my NY Times or my new bar of fancy soap.  "You weren't going to drink, use, read, eat that whole thing anyway!" he would say when I asked about something.  Honestly, I really didn't care because he did so much for me.  Everything really.  Luckily for him, we also wore the same size and he was not shy about "borrowing" a thing or two or 3,4,5,6 from my closet.  He wasn't fond of shopping in department stores and didn't like to try on clothes so my closet became his own personal Macy's.  I've had such abundance in my life so if he wanted to "borrow" a shirt here and there, it was no big deal.  Plus, the upside of working in TV is the free clothes.  He always had a pep in his step when he was rocking a new shirt.  Even in September he was wearing one of my favorite plaid shirts that I thought for sure I'd left in a hotel room on some trip.  When I inquired about it he had no idea what I was talking about! 

Two years ago before Christmas he sent me a ripped out magazine page of a Hugo Boss coat he thought would look amazing on him....HINT HINT!  He was really reaching that year, but I actually found a very similar coat, tried it on and sent it to him.  He told me it was too nice to wear and was going to wear a used coat someone else had given him.  Joking, I told him if he wasn't going to wear it to please send it back because I loved the coat.  He said "no".  Last year he was telling me how he was needing a new coat and miraculously he found a beautiful coat that he did not know he had in his closet, absolutely forgetting who sent it to him.  I let it go.

Walter LOVED to watch television in my apartment because I had cable and a huge comfy chair which he confiscated when I moved to LA.  He would settle in to watch AMC or The View and then call me to tell me how annoyed he was by Joy Behar.  Something we had in common.   Anyone who has a parent or grandparent in their 80s or 90s, knows that the remote control is as difficult as flying a jet.  I photocopied the remote, wrote out instructions, taped over all the buttons he should not press and yet every day at some point I would get a call.  "Mark, Eddy (my maid) was watching TV again and messed up the remote!"  That's right, Walter blamed it on Eddy every time.  It never failed to make me laugh.......NEVER!

A few months ago Walter told me that we couldn't speak on the phone as much because he was busy cleaning out his apartment.  Still, I called and spoke to him every day.  It annoyed him, but too much time had passed to break our daily routine.  He knew his time was coming and he wanted to tie up loose ends.  I made sure we had some face time in September whether he wanted it or not.  He "let" me walk with him on an errand and then told me to shove off after he handed me a pound cake he'd just baked.

A few weeks ago, I called him on a Friday morning at 7:30, then at 8:30 and about 10 more times throughout the day.  My heart sank, but I hoped he'd just forgotten to charge his phone or left it at the bottom of a shopping bag, which he did often.  That night I tossed and turned, dreamed about walking down the street with him, woke up in a sweat and hoped he was ok, and then tossed and turned until daylight.  I called all day Saturday and then called a friend to check on him.
His lights were on, but no answer.

He was cremated and spread in few secret gardens in the East Village.  Places he played as a child and places he loved and walked by every day. 

Now every morning at 7:30  I put on Pandora as loud as possible and try to avoid the obvious emptiness I feel.  I run harder in hopes that somehow I can get everything out before I start my day. Inevitably, about 9:30 a.m. when we would have our 2nd conversation,  I lose it all over again. 


  1. Oh, Mark. What a beautiful, dedicated friend you are. I am so sorry for your loss of this dear man. Much love and hugs to you. <3

  2. So very sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing guy (and quite a character!) and you were both clearly blessed to have each other in your lives.

  3. How amazing for you to have had a friend like Walter who was definitely one of a kind! Such happy memories too.
    Hugs to you for your loss, he will pop into your mind often when you put on a shirt or coat I am sure.
    Carol x

  4. Mark, your story was so moving... today is such a hectic day for me... I really don't have time to read posts, but your story of Walter was so lovingly written that I felt drawn in. Now I sit here with tears in my eyes and my heart going out to you. Beautiful tribute to a wonderfully interesting man who made an important impact in your life. My love to you during this tender time. ~Cindy

  5. Such a moving story..... May he rest in everlasting peace, Amen <3 May God give you the strength to cope with your loss <3

  6. It is so wonderful that you have had someone touch your heart so deeply. What a lucky guy you are. As time passes things will seem easier but there will always be something that triggers a unexpected emotion. I love these stories you are sharing. That is the best way to keep them with us. ((hugs))

  7. Sounds like the two of you had a beautiful friendship. My dad hates to talk on the phone but I love to hear his voice when he's stateside. He and my stepmom live in Loreto, Baja half the year so when he's in CA I like to hear his voice often. He is 87 so when he left in October to return to Loreto I was very sad. I'd glad that he's living the life he wants, but miss him when he's gone. Your friend and my dad are from the same generation and they saw a world that we couldn't understand but are glad to hear about. (((((((hugs))))))

  8. My heart aches for you and with you! Sending love.

  9. What a lovely and moving tribute to someone that clearly meant the world to you. I love that you were so close to someone who is so much older. I also believe that anyone we choose to embrace can become someone to treasure.

  10. I feel your pain I to have lost some old friends as iv'e grown older they helped me thru alot of growing up times, when I didn't have a clue they gave me one. They not really gone I do and say alot of things they taught me so in that way they are always with me keep that thought huggs mark.