July 16, 2023
I recently found out an old boyfriend, Dean, passed away in December. I’ve known something was amiss for a very long time because he’d call to check in every few weeks and I hadn’t heard from him in months. His phone was disconnected.
I called some of the hotels on Pacific Highway. I knew he was staying at one since he’d moved out from his girlfriend’s apartment two years ago. I called local hospitals a couple of times to see if he was inpatient. He’d just disappeared. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to Google his name with “obituary” after. Maybe I didn’t want to know.
Dean was an alcoholic. He’d started drinking at 15, and never stopped for any substantial period of time. It took him down at the age of 66. His favorite was whiskey; a pint a day. When we met, we were big time drinking buddies, but in 2008, I stopped drinking. I was sober for 9 years. But that’s another story…
The last few times I spoke with him, he was suffering from liver failure. He told me how his leg swelled with fluid until he couldn’t walk. He’d had to call an ambulance; I don’t know how many times. At the hospital, they removed liters of fluid from his abdomen. I realized he had no idea how sick he was. I knew he was dying; I’m not sure he knew.
I’d sometimes ask if he’d stopped drinking. He’d respond yes, and then explain he didn’t drink hard liquor anymore, only beer. I knew he couldn’t stop.
I met him in 2006, after I’d moved back to Washington from Hawaii. I lived in a farmhouse on three acres in Puyallup. He lived in Fife. I met him at the Silverstone in Tacoma, a gay bar. He walked in with a friend and slid into the barstool beside me. It was the Fourth of July, I just remembered. So, I was 43 and he was 50. He flirted with me pretty hard, and I finally explained it was a gay bar.
“I know! But I’m not gay!” he responded with enthusiasm and his ever-charming smile.
I went home with him. It was a one night stand I turned into something more. I’m pretty adept at that.
We dated off and on for about six years. During that time, he saw other women, and I saw other men. We both pretended we were faithful. I didn’t press him, but I knew he met and slept with other women, including his ex-wife. He was extremely jealous, something I no longer tolerate, but I lied and lied and apparently, I was pretty good at it because I think he believed me. Maybe not completely, but enough.
After I moved to Centralia, the relationship changed. It’s partly why I moved. I just couldn’t seem to break it off with him. I don’t know why. I think I’m too forgiving, I don’t hold grudges. Plus, I recognized it was the alcohol that made him mean. When he was sober, he was so incredibly sweet. We remained friends because that’s what I do. I am most often friends with my ex-es. I don’t know why, but I do like that it happens that way.
There’s so much more to say about Dean, the things he taught me, the ways I changed. He was physically and verbally abusive and said some of the meanest, most vile things I’ve ever heard. I have absolutely no idea why I forgave him, time and again.
When we were dating, I was a super enabler. But after the dating relationship ended, when we no longer saw one another in person, he’d leave me foul voice mails. I’d block him. And then he’d leave me one of the sweet voicemails, and the memory of what he’d said faded and I’d call, and we’d have another interesting conversation.
And now, no more voice mails from Dean. Some of them were so incredibly sweet, I’d save them for a long time. Then he’d be a dick and leave me one of the foul voicemails, and I’d delete them all. I’m sorry I deleted the sweet ones. Maybe, maybe not.
He’d fawn over me; tell me I was a great love. I probably was, I don’t know. He was a charmer. He knew what to say to women and he especially knew what to say to me. I do think he loved me. But he was never safe. Eventually I figured that out and stopped seeing him. It took me a long time. I didn’t think I deserved to be treated well, and for many years of my life I actually sought out abusive relationships. But that’s another story...
I count Dean as a great love. I don’t know why, exactly. He was horribly abusive. Our relationship was never solid, it wasn’t something I ever wanted long term. But I did love him, very much.
I think of him often, and sometimes I imagine he knows I’m thinking of him. Sometimes I imagine he knows how much I did love him and how I’ve forgiven him, this time for the last time.
I Persevere. And life goes on.
"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with It as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts." -George Eliot