Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Memory of Kevin


A snapshot from the old days in Dave's basement
It's a peculiar thing, the way the brain works. Yesterday morning, I arrived at work and decided that I wanted to put an Easter photograph of my daughter on my computer's desktop, to use as a background picture. I had a bunch of photos on my Facebook account, so I logged on in order to grab one. I glanced at the recent updates that some of my friends had posted. Then I noticed a news feed item on the left side of the screen. "In Memory of Kevin Blitzer 1969-2009." 

"Wow, that's not funny," I thought to myself. "That's not even a little bit funny." 

Then it occurred to me that maybe Kevin himself had posted something, perhaps a photo of himself at a party where he had been "generously over-served." Something along those lines, maybe. Kevin has always had an offbeat sense of humor, howling over British comedy that always left me scratching my head (I think I'm the only person on the planet who is not even vaguely amused by Monty Python). I clicked on the link, which brought me to a memorial page. 

I read a few entries. What the? Why was everyone saying these things about Kevin? What is wrong with people? My brain had the scoop at this point, but it would be a few more seconds before it would inform my heart. Kevin, my friend of some 24 years, was indeed gone. I found myself sobbing quietly in my cubicle, still in shock, still struggling to process what I had learned. I packed the items I had just unpacked and went home. It would be a long, weird, weepy day.

I do not yet know the cause of Kevin's death, as I have been unable to find an obituary. I suppose that the "why" doesn't matter too much, though it pains me to think that he died alone. Kevin did have diabetes, though I believe it was generally under control. He was healthy and worked out a lot (as seems to be the requirement for all gay men living in large, metropolitan cities). Last year he bought a small condo in Washington, DC and was very proud of it. I visited him there last summer when I was in town, along with our mutual friend J. Kevin was quite the host, laying out snacks and fetching drinks. We chatted about old times and admired Kevin's interior decorating skills. It was my job to bring mixers for the drinks and I mistakenly got pure, unsweetened cranberry juice to mix with the vodka. We joked that I was unlikely to contract a urinary tract infection for the next decade at least. It was a giddy sort of girls' night out, though I was technically (or at least biologically) the only girl.

I met Kevin in high school (he was a year ahead of me), though we only really became close sometime after graduation. After I completed my freshman year of college at Texas A&M, I decided to transfer to George Mason University and moved back to Virginia. It was around that time that a core group of us - me, Dave, Kevin, Chris, and sometimes Khau, started spending a lot of time together. We'd hang out in Dave's basement and goof around. Sometimes we'd go to a movie. Sometimes we'd pile into Khau's BMW and drive around DC, doing a whole lot of nothing.

It was during those basement days that we made a funny discovery about Kevin. As we were talking, Kevin leaned back on Dave's water bed and looked up at the ceiling. I can't recall who discovered it first, but one of us said, "Kevin, do you tuck your shirt INTO YOUR UNDERWEAR?" When he leaned back we could clearly see the waistband of his Fruit-of-the-Looms, into which he had neatly tucked his shirt. Suffice it to say that we got a lot of comedic mileage out of that one. Kevin was the type who could dish it out AND take it, though. He didn't mind laughing at himself. When talk would turn to sex (and this was before we knew Kevin was gay), we'd tease Kevin about who his "first" had been. "Let me guess," one of us would say, "She lives in Canada and we wouldn't know her?"

"No," Kevin would say, raising his chin defiantly. "She lives in upstate New York!"

Sometime later, I was at the mall and stopped to visit Kevin at JC Penney, where he worked in the shoe department. A friend of mine had met him, dug him, and wanted me to ask him if he might have an interest in her. "My friend Jennifer seems interested in you," I told him, poking at some Reeboks on display.

"Oh, um . . . " Kevin stood there with an odd expression on his face. It came to me then, this thing I had missed for so long.

"Wow, you're gay!" I blurted. Yeah, I'm classy that way.

"Shhhhh, this is the shoe department at JC Penney," he reminded me.

It was never a big deal, of course. I just felt a bit thick for having missed it for so long. Eventually the basement crew disbanded and we all went our separate ways. A few years later I married and moved out of state, though Kevin and I always kept in touch. For a time he moved to California ("to be with his kind," I always teased him) and then later moved back to DC. He worked for the Washington Post for many years.

I convinced Kevin to join Facebook a few months ago. When I brought it up to him initially, he said that he thought he was too old to join Facebook. I told him that my gay cousin is 42, is on Facebook, and sure has a lot of cute boys on his friend list. Kevin joined later that same day.

Before I knew it, he had more friends on Facebook than I did, and posted updates regularly. Say what you will about Facebook, but it does make it easy to keep in touch with friends old and new. Kevin posted his last update on Thursday. "Kevin is bored shitless," it read. Sometime after that he also posted a funny link from Failblog. And then he was gone.

In February, Kevin called and left me a voicemail a couple days before my birthday. He wished me a happy birthday and then made fun of the outgoing message on my answering machine. I wondered why he'd called early, but then decided that maybe he just wanted to beat the rush. Ha! He then called and left another voicemail on my actual birthday, realizing that he'd goofed the first time. I smiled when I heard his message, just happy to be remembered by an old friend. Kevin was always a good friend to me, though he did seem to have a knack, from time to time, of saying the wrong thing on the wrong day. One time he got me so riled up after making a snarky comment about my blog that I "unfriended" him on Facebook for about a week. He begged me to take him back. Eventually I realized I was being childish and "refriended" him.

I am flying out tomorrow to attend Kevin's funeral. The timing is terrible, of course, as funerals always are. But I know I would regret it endlessly if I did not go and say good-bye to the friend who meant so much to me. I feel numb, all cried out, but I know the tears will come again on Friday. I did not expect my friends to start dying for a few more decades, and I am still struggling to get my head around the fact that such a bright light has been extinguished. My heart, suddenly leaden, hurts.
Kevin, I don't know what I am going to do without you. We are supposed to get together in July, remember? I was looking forward to rolling my eyes over your terrible jokes. I would have peppered you with the usual questions. Are you seeing anybody? Are you testing your blood sugar? "Yes, mom," you would always say. But you smiled when you said it.

13 comments:

Cristin said...

My heart is breaking for you. May you find peace in the coming days, weeks, months, years.... He sounds like a great guy gone way too soon. I am so sorry.

Susie said...

I'm nearly sobbing myself. Losing such a great friend is a terrible thing. Praying that you find peace in this tragedy. Hugs to you, my friend, and may Kevin rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Claudia, I am so sorry. Your blog post took my breath away - what a wonderful, wonderful person he was and how lucky you were to have been friends with him.

Jen

Beth said...

{{{{Hugs}}}} and sympathy coming your way! I'm sorry for your loss.

Audreee said...

I'm so sorry, Claudia. I always liked Kevin. How could you really not like him? It's a shame to lose him so soon.

Mandy said...

Claudia, I am so sorry for your loss. ((Hugs)) I hope that you will be able to find some sort of peace soon . . . :(

Jen said...

Claudia:

I am SO sorry to hear about your dear friend. Here's a BIG *HUG* from me to you!!

Lisa said...

I am so sorry Claudia.

Tina said...

Claudia i am so sorry to hear about kevin! My thoughts are with you.

Mary said...

I'm truly very sorry to hear you have lost such a dear friend. I swear it's the season of our loved ones leaving us, I know of too many right now and hearts being broken. That vast feeling of emptyness is so hard.... prayers for all of you, I'm so, so sorry...

Sammy said...

I'm so sorry. Losing a close friend is heartbreaking. I've been there, and I can sympathize with the tremendous sense of loss.

This post is a lovely tribute to your dear friend.

Brenda said...

Claudia, I am so sorry. It was quite an event when I had the chance to meet Kevin and he couldn't have been funnier that night! I hope you got the chance to share some great stories at his memorial.

Steph K said...

I'm so sorry, Claudia.