Dear Frank,

All year long I planned to write you a letter on or near the anniversary of your death. Sometimes I considered writing you letters throughout the year and saving them as email drafts, and I have very often done exactly that in my head. But as the important date(s) crept up on me, I’ve found myself having a terrible time getting started. And for a while I was not sure why.

Somehow, over the past year, I’ve trained myself not to talk about you. And it’s not because I don’t miss you or I’m totally over it or I’ve forgotten about you. It is none of those things. But still, it was something I subconsciously felt was necessary, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever adequately explain it to anyone, but somehow I know you would understand it, if you were here.

I feel kind of bad, though, because not talking about you so much means I haven’t done the job I should have done when it comes to helping support your people through this. Jeramy, Maria, Chris, Jared, Gregg, your sister, your parents…I planned to reach out to all of them frequently. I planned to help take care of them in your absence. But I found I couldn’t talk about you much, and it was strange, me at a loss for words, me having trouble expressing my emotions, and so I withdrew and I barely talked to anyone about how I felt. I am sorry I didn’t do this for you. I hope, if any of them reads this, that they sort of understand and aren’t too disappointed in me.

I’m doing okay, mostly. On balance, my life is pretty good these days. But I miss you terribly. I miss celebrating the good stuff with you. I miss talking through the hard stuff with you. I miss the last ten-plus years of knowing you were never more than a phone call away, through my late lonely nights, through my musing early mornings, through my triumphs and my challenges. I never had a close friend for as long as I had you. You, who didn’t need my backstory, who didn’t need to have things explained, who could tell how I was doing by a mere change in my breathing or the pitch of my voice. I miss your strong scarred hands and the graceful arches of your feet and your deep eyes and your mischievous grin and your stupid occasional beard. I miss you more than I ever thought it was possible to miss anyone.

But every day I get up and I go to work and I take care of my people and I try to be the person you insisted I have always been. I keep doing it and sometimes it hurts a little less.

Of all the songs on all the mixes you made for me over the years, the one that touched me the most was “Colorblind.” It could have been written about you, and kind of about me, and I know you know that and that’s why you made it the first track on that disc. But I don’t think I ever talked to you about it. I’m listening to it now, and I’m letting myself cry for you for the first time in a while. I wish you were here.

I’ll write you again next year. I love you forever.

2 Replies to “Dear Frank,”

  1. The pain is so forceful for us that I am afraid my heart will break, literally. Karen and I have been on the phone two and three times a day since my birthday, the first of April. I hate the month of April now and forever. My mom was born the 19th, and died the 7th. My son died the 13th but wasn’t found til the 16th. There is no peace in April. But it gets worse in May – his Dad’s birthday, his birthday and then we have the hardest of all, Mother’s day. Then June comes rolling in, my sister’s birthday(she died at 52 22 years ago), my daughter’s birthday, and the worst, Father’s day.

    You have done nothing wrong. Grieving is a private thing. We have just started grief counseling because I couldn’t hide anymore, and I broke down last month and scared the hell out of my husband and our best friends. Anti-depressants, sleeping pills, even Xanax, doesn’t help. My ’emotional bladder” was too full, and it spilled over in public. A violation of my privacy code. But, I did feel a little less burdened. Being home and retired gives me lots of private time, and I have used it to vent my pain and anger so my husband and daughter would not have it to deal with. Now, my fakery is exposed, and so is my broken heart.

    If he loved you, you were blessed. If you loved him, he was given a great gift. Concentrate on that and your friendship, and know that he sees us from his star, the one I bought him for his 30th birthday. I know he is there and watching us, so we better pull up our socks, right?

    Love you,

  2. I do kind of understand, and there is no disappointment whatsoever. We’re all just trying to find our way through this, on our own terms. Being distinct individuals, while the hurt is similar, the specific details of the aftermath are unique to each one of us.

    For me it seems to come in waves, often without warning, and in order to catch my breath again I have to dive under the undertow and just fight like hell to kick my way free. It sucks, it’s HARD, and it hurts worse than anything I’ve known. But I do it. Maybe I get a reprieve before the next wave (or maybe not), and then I do it again. And again.

    Though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, knowing that the people who love Frank, and were loved *by* him, just…get it, I think gives us all freedom to deal however we have to. We’ve seemingly become diverse members of this rather unique, turbulent club. There’s the secret password of unconditional support. Instead of a fancy handshake, we just pass along a hug and a head nod, and repeat our “I know, I know” mantra.

    Those who were lucky enough to bask in the strength of Frank’s unique love had, for much too brief a time, the most amazing gift. That it was taken from us so abruptly is just not right. He’d be livid about it, I think.

    He’d probably have a better phrase for it. My saying, “It’s just not right!” would probably also launch Frank into the oft-retold story of my adolescent expression of anger: slamming my (very solid) bedroom door in its frame hard enough to shake the house. Why? Well, sometimes your anger is just bigger than you are. I’ve felt that often since last April.

    Frank and I spent so many years wrapped up in our own lives, confident in our youthful assumption that we’d have all sorts of time together, “later.” We were finally on the path to enjoying our time together as adults…but then I suddenly lost “later.” And I’m still pissed. Kate lost “later” too (and doesn’t even know it), which still rips me raw.

    However, I dare to venture that the absolute LAST thing Frank would want would be to have his sudden departure hold hostage the people he loved. So, yeah– cry if you need to, and talk if it helps– but not crying or talking about him doesn’t mean you’re not still who he saw in you, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have failed anyone. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite.

    As much as it hurts, we ARE still here. Without him, yes, but we ARE still here. Bearing in mind what he loved in, and wanted for, each of us, I think means you take your “still here” status as a gift. So, do what you have to for yourself, with the bittersweet knowledge that there are many similarly wounded hearts who know and live the same hurt… whether you/we/they say it, or not.

    We ARE still here, after all.

    Hugs to you,

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