My friend Richard Thompson died yesterday.
Richard had been suffering with Parkinson’s Disease for years. The past few years had been as awful as you can imagine. Richard’s body was twisted and turned and frozen into contortions you can only imagine if you’ve seen them before.
I want to write about Richard, but it’s too soon. Richard was special to the world and special to me and that kind of description requires careful thought and even more careful writing.
But this is just a blog.
This is just where I go to share things I hope will help others….or, in many cases, help me.
The journey to the end with Richard has been a mish mash of extreme emotions and more emotions piled on top. From anger and more anger to frustration, resignation and pure sadness, each trip to Richard’s house has been a reminder that life sucks.
I’m sure another person could write that same sentence and end up with life being beautiful – and I know life is beautiful – but it sucks. At least sometimes.
I became part of the cartooning community in 2010. I worked on the comic strip that ended up being published for a year while it was either officially or unofficially in development with the syndicate.
During that year, I became fast friends – more like sisters – with my wonderful (understatement!!!) editor, Amy Lago.
And, after the strip began publication, I met a lovely cadre of local, long-distance and international cartoonists who were SO DAMN DIFFERENT than the lawyers I was used to and with whom I was comfortable.
When I first entered the cartooning world, I was still entrenched in a day job related to law and disability.
Disability was familiar territory for me since I had practiced disability law for two decades and worked in the field for longer than that. I was confident of my perspectives, opinions and judgments as they related to disability issues.
Contrast that with the world of cartooning where I felt like the odd man out.
I loved the other cartoonists and believe many of them liked and/or loved me too.
But the other cartoonists were real artists, most having worked in or been trained in drawing. I had never taken a class or read a book on art. I knew nothing.
And there I was, learning to draw little by little. I was starting from scratch. My cartoon had become syndicated not for its pitiful sketches, but for the writing. I knew how to write.
When I met Richard for the first time, my confidence was at an all time artist low. I couldn’t draw and the process of learning – while my work was being published – was S.L.O.W.
I met Richard at Baltimore Comic Con, introduced by the lovely Mike Rhode. In short order I met Chris Sparks and Nicky G and Bono and Amy T. (the other Amy) and a host of other sexy, smart, unceasingly silly clowns. I got pulled into that world and gladly accepted the seat that was always saved for me.
And then, of course, Rudy, the Pill Whisperer, came along…and, well, let’s just say Rudy and RT should have had a reality show.
Let’s just say it would have been très real.
More on Rudy later.
Richard reminded me of so many of the men I had been in love with over the years. Wicked smart and equally stubborn and ridiculously cute. I remember meeting Richard and thinking immediately that I would have dated him in a different lifetime.
There were so many things I wanted to say to Richard, but we were never alone long enough to talk.
And talking to Richard was laborious.
Richard lost his ability to speak easily early on.
Waiting for his slow whispers meant deep conversation was halted, at best.
Plus, there were always caregivers and friends and family around whenever I was with Richard and so I could only play the part of visitor, friend and random entertainment-provider.
So I just brought food.
Cause everyone likes the person who brings food.
But I really wanted to talk to Richard.
I wanted to tell Richard that I understood what he was going through more than he knew….even though, of course, I couldn’t really know.
I wanted to ask him what he wanted most of all and tell him he could have anything he wanted…that we would try to make anything he wanted happen.
I wanted to know if he could hang in there long enough to be showered with our love, respect and friendship.
I wanted to tell him that I would have traded places with him in a second so that he could live the life he loved and I could finally be helpful in a meaningful way.
There is so much to say about Richard and the importance of our friendship.
I can’t say it yet.
I’m just too sad.
And I’m working hard to not let the way-too-early deaths of two cartoon world friends in one week mess too much with my head.
I don’t understand death, but I don’t want to fight it.
Perhaps more cogently articulated, I don’t understand how to live life joyfully while accepting the inevitability of death.
Perhaps I just haven’t found the right book to explain it to me.
I wish I had been able to tell Richard more often, more loudly, more assertively and more insistently that his life changed mine in important ways.
But we were never alone enough for that kind of conversation.
But it did.
His life changed mine.
In important and lovely and cruel ways.
And I hope to hell he’s running around (even though he’s not really the running around kind) in heaven, free from his body on earth and free of pain. I hope he’s eating everything in sight and laughing, laughing, laughing.
I hope the library in Heaven is really excellent and that they give him the old fashioned kind of library card, not a fingerprint or chip-driven card.
I hope he’s happy in amounts outnumbering the immense amounts of happiness he gave to others.
I am sad in those amounts.
I miss you, RT.