Monday, November 16, 2015


I slept a solid nine hours.

That's a lot, considering that a typical night's rest is anywhere from half that amount to six hours. During the week, I get to bed late and rise early. I don't plan that schedule but my body has become accustomed to short periods of rest.

A lot fills my head as I lay in bed. I need to sort things out before my mind can rest and let my body fall asleep.

And so, yesterday, I slept an undisturbed nine hours.

I rose, slowly, got my sore body down to the kitchen. My wife, who was upset with me for not getting up in time to go to the gym, remained in bed while I went downstairs, to check on the kids, to see if they had fed themselves.

They hadn't, but didn't seem to be suffering. Too late for breakfast, and so I prepared a pseudo-lunch of fried spinach, potato, and cheese perogies with salsa and corn. Not the most elaborate of meals, but my head was swimming from the abundance of sleep, and so it would have to do.

We were all in a lazy mood. No energy to clean or go out, and so we sat and watched episodes of Father Brown on Netflix.

And I fell asleep, again. I dozed through the episode, hadn't really felt like following along. So I lifted my energyless body from the sofa and returned to my bed.

Where I slept for another eight hours.

I didn't stir from the bed. Not when my wife asked me to do a chore. Not when she asked me to help prepare for dinner. Not when she asked me to come down to eat. I stayed in bed, and slept.

After eight motionless hours, I got up, to pee, to drink some water, and then I returned to bed, back to sleep.

In a 24-hour period, I slept 18 hours.

I needed it. I needed to recharge, needed to reset. I had been depressed all week, hadn't been myself, but yet, through the week, I carried on as though nothing was wrong. Even as I went to work, saw friends, and even performed sketch comedy in front of a crowd, tried to make people laugh, I was sad inside. Even as I dined with friends, watched Howard Jones perform at a Byward Market club, I wasn't really myself.

I don't know why my friend's death hit me as hard as it did. We weren't really that close: he lived in Toronto. At the height of our friendship, he and his family would come up to Ottawa, and we would have them over for a few drinks and a chat, or even to play a game. Sometimes, we would go out for dinner. On a couple of occasions, John and his wife would be in town for a wedding, and we would get together.

There were times when my wife and I would pay a visit in Toronto. She had known John's wife since high school, had been close, had been a bridesmaid at their wedding. We stayed with them at their home just off the Danforth, in the Greek neighbourhood.

From the moment I first met John, I liked him. He had a sense of humour that was infectious, though sometimes you didn't know if he was pulling your leg or not. But you rolled with him anyway. He always made you laugh, always had a smile, always seemed happy.

It wasn't until one of his visits to our house, in Ottawa, when I offered him a drink and he declined, that I realized that I had never seen John before without a drink. Without a bottle or glass in hand.  We were always gathered in a social setting, and a beer or glass of wine was never unexpected. It was when he made the declaration that he was limiting his consumption that I took any real notice.

Even then, I didn't understand the severity of the problem.

John didn't merely drink socially. He drank all the time. And, over the years, it was becoming a problem with his marriage, with his kids. The marriage ended after it became evident that John was continuing to drink, was refusing any help for his addiction. Over time, he withdrew into himself, pulled away from friends. His personality was changing. He was no longer that happy man.

I reached out to him, once. His birthday was three days after mine, though he was three years younger. On his first birthday after he and his wife separated, I wished him a happy birthday, by e-mail, let him know that we loved him.

He never responded.

Earlier, this year, he did reach out to me. He sent me a Facebook friend request, which I accepted. I wanted to send him a message, but I didn't know what to say. It had been a couple of years since I sent that last birthday wish. I looked at his Facebook page and noticed that there wasn't a lot of activity.

I don't know when he unfriended me, but it was only this past Friday, when I went through the painful task of removing him from my list of contacts on my phone that I also noticed that he was no longer listed with my Facebook friends.

I don't know why John's death hit me as hard as it did. Last year, in the space of one month, I lost two friends, both to illness. Perhaps it was because their illnesses, as bad as they were, were not preventable. The cancer was aggressive with one friend; the other friend had battled health issues all of his life. He could finally battle no longer.

John had an illness: an addiction. And yet, he refused to have it treated. His death was a self destruction. And, perhaps, that is why it is so hard to accept.

Last weekend, in Toronto, we gathered to say goodbye to this once healthy, creative, funny, caring, and happy person. We watched slides of him in happier times, saw some video footage that was the John we all knew and loved. His sister, in her eulogy, admitted that the John we knew has been gone for some time, that he had changed and pushed away the people who once mattered to him. Those who were the closest to him, towards the end, could see it coming, and they couldn't stop it.

In the past week, I had been too sad to write, too sad to socialize, and I think yesterday's long sleep was the culmination of emotions, of sadness and depression, and my body needed to reset itself.

I'll never forget John, will always remember the happy man. But now, it's time to move on.

1 comment: