Friday, January 6, 2012

Strele: Four Years Later, He's Still Right Here With Us

Time is a curious thing. Here, on the fourth anniversary of the loss of my best friend of 30 years, it's impossible to believe that so many years have passed. Carlton, my Strelie, died suddenly this week in 2008... How the hell is it possible it's been this long?

So much has gone down since that he's missed; things I wish he'd been here to share, to participate in, to giggle with me about... and to council me on.

As most of us unfortunately know, death is a wiggly phenomenon: the many phases endured before the loss becomes gentle acceptance, knowing that the presence of a lost loved one will live on, albeit now perhaps in the background.

The anger subsides, the irritation of not having that touchstone ebbs and so many memories claim their place in one's collective historic consciousness. Time, thankfully, allows the best to return to the surface and the painful blank spot gradually grays—if you're lucky (as I have been)—with new friendships... constructing new history together, with the building blocks firmly in place from the dearly departed.

There will never be another Strelie, for sure. At his memorial services in Richmond and New York proved soon after his burial, I could not believe how many folks said to me, "When I talked with him last week..." or two weeks ago... never more than a month. Carlton was the great communicator, with his blessed cell phone pressed to ear every spare minute.

Today, I connected with mutual best friend Perry—not because of the occasion—but we of course acknowledged the date. As anyone who has lost a loved one or family member knows, those calendar moments stand out year after year.

This summer, I at last visited Carlton's grave in Bedford, Va., in tow with longtime pals Trixmoose, Donna Mae Moose and J.T. No tears... It was just what I had hoped for: a joyful celebration of the flamboyant, ever-positive Strele. Which is exactly how I remember him now, four years later. *