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For Walter

July 3, 2009

walter1.jpg

Walter Minter Tarpley was my best friend.   We had a strangely initmate love/hate relationship that only a gay man and a straight woman can have.  Our disagreements could divide a nation; our good times often bordered on criminal, but life with Walter was fun.    It was an amazing, in fact.  

He didn’t believe in much, except that a good time was had by all .    His circle was small and I always felt quite honored to have stood at one of the corners.   Circle in a square; square in a circle and somehow, it…we always fit.     He could be extremely cavalier at times and his carelessness bothered me, but then again,he made me realize that I wasn’t really the hip, happenin’ chick I thought I was.   He was liberal.   Tim Robbins liberal.   I was Conservative and becoming more so as each year passed.  It had gotten to the point that I was inching toward being politically on par with Elizabeth Dole, save for the fuel injected Southern hair.  

We argued about the ever growing abyss between the two parties, but we learned to sway the topic if politics reared its head.   And despite our differences, we cared a great deal for each other.   Our first outing together was  Halloween in 2005.  We had a wonderful time that night and the next day, I had a tough time working because I kept laughing at the things we’d done..said…felt.  I remember thinking that day that we’d be friends forever; but forever only lasted just  under two years.

He died on July 4th 2007.   

I think of him daily, so it stands to reason that I can’t let an Independence Day go by without  honoring my best friend and remembering how his life changed mine and how his death, altered the way I look at life.

I wrote this post two years ago.     I republish it today.

For Walter.

 

Twenty years ago, I dreamed of meeting one man that I could be friends with for the rest of my life…one man to laugh with, cry with….share my most intimate thoughts with.

He was given to me on a warm and sunny August day in 2005.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Walter came into my life quite by surprise, but hardly by accident. He sent me an e-mail at the radio station where I worked. It took no time at all for us to become friends and when we did, I found that I adored Walter.He was devilishly handsome, brilliant, crass but polished, opinionated, fearless, acerbic, openly gay and hilarious.

To me, he was Perfection.

He was also a tortured soul. As was I, when we met. One would think that two fractured people would just create a pile of emotional shards. But that wasn’t the case with us. We seemed to provide the bonding needed to keep each other together. I think it was laughter that served as the consummate adhesive. We became best friends.

My relationship with Walter was rather cloistered. Few people understood our connection. I’m not sure even we understood the degree of our closeness. That was fine with us; we preferred it that way. When other people listened to us speak, it was as if we were speaking Esperanto. We jokingly said we spoke “TarKen”; our own language which was interspersed with many expletives and the requisite “Filthy” and “Dirty”, all spoken in a feigned British accent we used.

Few “got us” and that was OK.  We held on to each other, only letting go only when the other stepped free, but even so, the bond was never broken.Nor can it be. We were content  knowing that we’d found each other. We were happy to have found a certain “punctuation” to the paragraph of our lives.

We just clicked…my cup to his saucer—mismatched, chipped and crazing down the center, but still beautiful, even in it’s damaged state. Perfectly flawed.

Walter entered my life at a time I needed him most. He brought joy and laughter where there was none. He helped me learn to live again.   In fact, he was best time I’ve ever had. He felt like home. Comfortable, safe and secure. Like a hug, accented with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in a soft, familiar blanket.   He never dismissed me or made me feel anything less than extraordinary.

He was never aloof, nor did he ever exist passively in my life. He was a willing participate–fully involved, concerned and more importantly, he was there when I needed him. We were good about being there for each other. Walter understood that Life is inconvenient. So is Love. Neither will ask for permission. Both can be obtrusive. He was never too busy for me, even when I was. H e was kind in the sense that he never decreed me as anything other than one of his very best friends. What an incredible honor!

We had our disagreements. They were legendary. And vicious!! Imagine a film recording of Joan Crawford telling off the board of Pepsico on a continuous loop that plays at painful decibels.We never stayed mad at each other;  at least, not that long.

Ultimately with Walter, I always felt loved. Unconditionally so. I could be thin, pudgy, hair perfect or teased up to a dizzying Elsa Lancaster’s Bride of Frankenstein height. I could be sans make-up or with a full compliment and wearing something that fashion-wise, would’ve have been considered only luke-warm from five seasons earlier. That didn’t matter.

To Walter, I was always just Laurie. No pretense.

To me, he was always Walter. No pretense.

One night he asked me why I couldn’t have been born a gay man. On that particular day, I had to fire six members of my staff. I was crying in his arms. I was wearing this silk blouse with, pink feather scuffs. I looked up at him, mascara streaming down my face and said, “Take one look at me, Walter. Look at what I’m wearing then take a gander at my make-up! I have to ask you, what makes you so sure I’m not?”

Our friendship was enduring and so incredibly special.  We had this idea that we’d grow old together. That we’d live long enough to comb gray hair, use our AARP discounts at dinner, complain about arthritis and those damn kids and their crazy music. We thought surely one day, I’d be Blanche to his Baby Jane. Aging wouldn’t matter as long as we could view the process through each other’s eyes. Together.

But the Universe had other plans. It gave me Walter, but the one thing it couldn’t give me was a relationship with him that could be measured in years. He was only in my life for a mere 23- months. That was all. Even though I have many brilliant memories that could rival the most dazzling, star-filled constellation, I must state that this is all so incredibly unfair.I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I’m still not. My first hello to him–seemingly uttered just yesterday– still resonates on my lips!!

I wanted more time. I needed more time for one last look at his wonderfully handsome face; one more chance to absorb the warmth of his smile; to hear that wicked, wicked laugh; to read his soulful eyes; to feel the touch of his hand.

God, I sometimes question your existence and the pain I feel right now is representative of one of those occasions. But if you are real…if you do exist, then please give me strength.Help me fully understand this conundrum—that sometimes, people are put in our paths for special reasons. Is it because sometimes, it’s to force us to give of ourselves and sometimes it’s for us to receive? If so, then that means sadly, tragically, these beautiful, divine human gifts must also leave our lives for special reasons.

Why Walter left mine is something I’ll never, ever understand,  ut I know why he came into my life. And that was to save my life  and I’m a much wiser and richer woman for my all too brief experience with this angel.  In some ways, I’m alive,  here today because of this man.  I love Walter and always will.

His death cannot negate my feelings or the relationship I’ll continue to have with him. The love lives on because I do. And I live on because this precious man gave me a reason to do so.   His friendship gave my life back to me.

I went to his memorial service and saw his ravaged body lying in the coffin.   He would’ve hated that.   He would’ve loathed how his make-up had been applied and how badly he was lit.    I made myself look at him.   That wasn’t him, but I needed to see him one last time.   I fought the urge to cry as I touched his drawn face.   I stood there and smiled for a few fleeting moments when I thought about life and how everyone has to die.    This was Walter’s time to go, but unlike everyone else, Walter also knew how to live.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Twenty years from now, I’ll dream of how I met that one man who I wanted to be friends with for the rest of my life…one man I laughed with, cried with…shared my most intimate thoughts with.

And I’ll remember how he was taken from me on a warm and rainy July day in 2007.

.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2009 12:05 pm

    I’m so sorry you lost someone so incredibly special to you. 23 months is such a short time. But something that special – that precious – some people never find it at all, and you had 23 months more than they ever will 🙂

  2. Blanche permalink
    July 4, 2009 3:37 pm

    Here’s to you, Walter. Your presence and close friendship is sorely missed by Laurie but she knows you’re in a wonderful place we can only imagine. Please continue to surround your heavenly being in her earthly life until the time comes when you two will be united again in God’s kingdom.

    Sounds like a prayer but it’s only a little tribute.

  3. July 4, 2009 9:16 pm

    I remember.

  4. July 5, 2009 12:24 pm

    Ms. Kendrick, you never cease to amaze me. Your pointed barbs and acerbic humor often make me smile, and yet every so often you present something like this with so much heart it would be scarcely conceivable that you are anything but.

    I hang my head for a moment, in quiet respect for both Walter . . . and you.

  5. raisingsmartgirls permalink
    July 7, 2009 8:50 am

    Laurie – what a stunningly beautiful tribute to your friend. It’s so hard to cope with the loss of that kind of friendship. It’s not fair. I lost an incredibly close friend to cancer in 2002. Not that you have to read it, but I blogged about it here in case you wanted to read about her

    Dear Diary

    I still have vivid dreams about her and other special persons in my life. The gift of unconditional love/friendship is truly, truly a blessing in one’s life.

    I’m glad you had that, even though it was for so short a time.

    Peace,
    KC

  6. Linton permalink
    October 26, 2010 1:44 am

    I came to your website completely at random – and you made me cry – thankyou

  7. Jackie Waldrop permalink
    March 29, 2011 3:23 pm

    I think of Walter all the time too. I love to come back to your site and read this blog. Each time I come back I expect to not be able to find it, but some how it re-appears. Thank you Laurie for writing this and putting such a great picture of Walter on here. He was really handsome. That is probably the best picture I ever saw of him. As long as this is here I will keep coming back.
    This is the time of year when we would take a smoke break and walk down to the news stand and sit on the balcony and look up at our office and laugh because nobody knew where we were! LOL

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  1. This is how I want to be rememebered when I go « Raising Smart Girls

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