Gilbert was Bob’s best friend; that’s how I met him. He was probably 25 or 26 then. I was still a gangly, bushy-browed pre-teen.
Bob was the younger brother of my mom’s best friend, Theresa. Terry was—and still is—like my second mother. We were all family. (We still are.) We were the motliest crew.
Bob and Gil were the two older brothers I wouldn’t have otherwise had. They were loud and fun and hilarious. They teased me and protected me and took my first shots with me.
They took me—and every other kid in our family—under their wing. They would teach us and experiment with us and grow with us—and they loved us. Far more than I realized then.
We used to gather at Terry’s house on any special occasion.
Christmas? Terry’s house.
Super Bowl? Terry’s house.
One year old’s birthday party? Terry’s house.
The crew was always the same; the spread (piles of food, even more alcohol) was pre-determined. Most times, we’d have a bounce house (only partially for the young kids) in the front yard. We would all be there—and with us, there’d be shots and cursing and laughing…and occasionally, a kitchen floor set on fire.
A few times a month, for over a decade, we’d all be there. We’d find any excuse to have fun; to drop everything and just be together.
This was my childhood. These were the people who helped raise me.
Gil passed away on November 18th.
He had a heart attack in his sleep. I hadn’t seen him in five years.
I saw it first on Facebook. It was otherwise a normal Tuesday night. Aaron was working late and I was sitting with my laptop propped up against my legs on the living room couch, my eyes darting between my computer and television screens. But, as I scrolled through my News Feed, something caught my eye and my heart stopped. Bob had posted a collage of photos of Gil—alongside a goodbye.
I had to reread the post a few times. I thought it might be a mistake. Perhaps he had posted the wrong photos. It couldn’t be Gil. He couldn’t be gone.
I sobbed quietly, sitting there alone in my living room, salty tears stinging my eyes and pooling at the corners of my mouth. I texted my mom, who’d loved him too, but she was already asleep; she’d be hit by the news in the morning. And I tried to share my pain with Aaron—he sat next to me when he got home, stroking my hair and cradling my head; telling me how sorry he was. But he never met Gil; he never got to witness his magic, laugh at his ridiculous jokes. He couldn’t get it.
And I didn’t get it. I couldn’t believe he was gone. I was always certain that I’d see him again.
We all gathered again this past Saturday, brought together after years spent apart, to say goodbye. It wasn’t just Gil I hadn’t seen in years; it was all of us. We had drifted apart; not in love, but in location. In priority.
We are all married now. Some of us kids have kids of our own. Gil had moved to Arizona. Bob had moved outside the city. I didn’t even know where some of us lived now. And then, some of us still lived only minutes apart, but life made the distance seem farther.
We hadn’t all been together, in one place, in years. But Gil did it. He gave us a reason.
I looked around at all of my friends, my family, as we quietly said goodbye.
We hadn’t spent all of this time apart because we didn’t want to see each other. Life and location served to push us apart. But then again, we didn’t think we wouldn’t get the chance to be together, all of us, ever again.
We always thought we’d have another opportunity to take one more shot together.