Over the years I’ve had to part company with a few friends and many casual acquaintances. Everyone has. It’s an unavoidable part of life – you can’t stay in touch with everyone even if you want to. Granted, some of the people I’ve lost touch with were because I made the decision to sever the ties and move on, but sometimes it was simply because we lost touch over time. I’m now faced with the harsh reality that I’m soon going to have to say goodbye to a friend that I’m closer to than anyone else. Not because either of us want to, but because he’s leaving the continent to start his family and take his life in a new direction. It’s less than a year away, but I’m trying not to think about it just yet; because when I do, I feel like I’m losing one of the best people in my life right now.
Terry and I have been friends for about 4 years now, but it seems like so much longer. We started out having one or two classes together during our undergrad degree, and by the time we were seniors we were taking every class together. We worked flawlessly together and I was amazed. I had never liked working in groups or having to rely on anyone else to complete any portion of a project, but he was the exception to the rule. The most prominent example I remember was an English project we worked on together. It was the final English course we had to take, and we took on a major project just the two of us instead of working in a bigger group. The project ended up being a very lengthy paper with massive amounts of research necessary, all organized and put together in a binder to be turned in on presentation day.
Writing the paper and putting the binder together took weeks, and we saw each other almost every day during the meantime. I’m pretty sure I drove his wife nuts being over all the time, but there wasn’t any way around it at the time. The hours flew by when we worked together and everything we did seemed almost perfect. We also had to put together a PowerPoint presentation on our research paper and present our research to the class. We practiced the flow of the presentation over and over until we had it down perfect, and when we presented it was as smooth as could be. When all was said and done we were commended by our professor for a job well done, given the highest grade in the class, and asked if she could keep a copy of our binder to use as an example in future courses. Terry helped me realize that with the right people to lean on, there’s nothing wrong with relying on someone else to help, and that when you do the results can be far better than anything you did alone.
I remember the first time we hung out together outside of school. His wife had gone home to Australia for her sister’s graduation I believe, and he invited me over to have pizza and play xbox. It was awesome. We had a blast and I didn’t leave until well after midnight. Hanging out and playing xbox became a frequent occurrence throughout the rest of our degree studies, and a little more infrequently afterwards. I remember staying up late one evening playing Halo together, racing around in vehicles on a level with a beach, and just ramming into each other in an effort to force the other player to go flying through the air. Once they did so, the one still in a vehicle would chase them down and run over them. We spent hours doing this, laughing hysterically each time it happened. Terry taught me that there’s nothing wrong with having fun and acting like a kid every once in a while. He is one of the goofiest guys I know, but he is also one of the most mature. There’s a time and a place and he knew where to draw the line.
I remember taking a road trip with him and his wife up to New York to pick up a vintage car he’d bought online. We drove up in one car and back in two. The three of us spent two days in a car together on the way up there, then his wife and I spent 3 days in the car together on the way back while he drove behind us by himself. To pass the time, I had Melinda tell me all about how they met and about when they’d first started dating, then describing their wedding in Australia. I got the chance to see him through her eyes, and it was a sensitive and caring side of him I’d never seen before. On the drive back we got lost and Terry got frustrated since he didn’t know where we were going or what was going on. He text messaged me to pull over and when we all got out of the cars he was more angry than I’d ever seen. He was tired and hungry and frustrated that we’d been driving around the city for half an hour looking for a motel that we couldn’t seem to find, and he let it all out. I stood there in shock and fear, not sure who this angry person was in front of me. A few hours later, once we’d found the motel and got settled in for the night, Terry apologized and made sure everything was alright. I was shaken for a little while, but realized that we’re all human and sometimes our emotions get the better of us. Terry taught me that there is no shame in being humble and admitting you messed up. He knew he’d gone too far and he made sure we knew that he felt bad about it. Since then, I’ve never seen that angry side of him again.
I remember the day I decided to come out to Terry and tell him the truth about my sexuality. I’d never said anything before, and he’d never asked. I wanted him to know the truth because it killed me that for the first few years of our friendship I’d been essentially hiding who I was from him. I was terrified that he’d be revolted and angry and want nothing more to do with me, and every time I worked up the courage to admit I was gay, I’d have nightmares that he would turn his back on me and walk away, never coming back. I wanted to tell him in person and texted him to that effect, but he could tell something was wrong and wanted to know what it was. I told him we could talk about it that night, but he didn’t want to wait. I eventually told him via text, and this was that conversation (yes, I saved it):
Me: Can you not wait…?
Terry: Gosh…. Now you’re just making me crazy! Nope…. Tell me!!!!
Me: I’m gay. Whether you knew or not, I don’t know for sure, but it scared the hell out of me that if I ever said it out loud you’d never want to talk to me again. You are my best friend and I never wanted to lie or withhold the complete truth, but I was too terrified that I’d lose you. Now I just have to wait and see. I’m so sorry.
Terry: I’ve always been your friend… I’m your friend now… And I will be your friend as long as you want me to be your friend!!
Me: You don’t know how much that means to me. You have no idea.
Terry: Why wouldn’t I be your friend?
Me: You don’t know what it’s like. I’ve lost so many friends. None as close as you, but people just want to get away. To distance from it. To be scared to let something slip and have someone have their suspicions confirmed, and to watch them turn on you so suddenly. … To worry your best friend might be repulsed and want nothing to do with you anymore. I couldn’t stand the thought of it. I just wanted to pretend it wasn’t there.
Terry: If I didn’t stand by you… I wouldn’t be much of a friend… Would I?
Me: I wouldn’t have blamed you though. But no, I guess you wouldn’t. As much as I knew that deep down, fear can twist that.
Terry: So… Why did you wait so long to tell me?
Me: I was scared Terry. I can’t tell how often I had nightmares that I told you and you just turned your back and never spoke to me again. You have no idea how real that can feel. I have wanted to tell you for so long. I hate that I’ve lied to you. I hope you can forgive me for that.
Terry: I think under the circumstances… Its understandable!
Me: Thank you.
He came over that night and we talked it out for a couple hours. For the first time that I can remember, he hugged me that night and told me he loved me, and that nothing would change. That wasn’t entirely true though, because things did change – we got closer. There were no more lies or half truths, and it felt so liberating to be able to talk to him about anything. And Terry was genuinely interested and wanted me to be happy. He stayed up past midnight one night when I went on a date so that I could call him afterwards to let him know how it went. He knew I was excited and nervous, and as a friend he wanted to be there for me. I don’t think I ever told him how much that meant to me. Our friendship moved to a whole new level and everything just clicked in a way it never has with anyone else before. He’s been there for me when no one else has and told me the hard truths I always needed to hear, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Terry taught me that real friends will love you and respect you no matter what. It was around this time that he started referring to me as his little brother, and it was only then that I began to realize we had become closer than just friends, and that he truly was like an older brother to me.
Last month he told me that he and his wife would be having a baby. I was happier than I thought possible, and it wasn’t even going to be my baby. Unfortunately, that means their planned move to Australia would be coming a little sooner than I’d hoped. Terry and Melinda had always planned on moving to Australia to raise a family. It’s something both of them had mentioned to me since when we first became friends. I began to realize that they’d be moving to Australia before the baby was born and I wouldn’t even get to see it unless I went there to visit; upon this realization, I immediately began saving up money, knowing it’d take a long time to save up enough for an intercontinental flight. Just recently Melinda let me know that they wouldn’t be ready to move before the cutoff time for her to still be able to fly, so the baby would be born here in the states. I was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement. I was so happy that I’d actually get to see and hold their child before they left, that I temporarily forgot they’d still be leaving. It all just faded to the background.
Terry stayed over at my place this weekend while he had a training class in Dallas that he was attending. He came over Friday and Saturday night and we played Dungeons & Dragons on the xbox all night, just like old times. We had a blast playing for a few hours, laughing and making references to games we’d played when we first met. It was like time hadn’t even really gone by. When I asked him if he wanted to watch a movie instead for a little while he said no, and asked “how often do we get to play games like this?” I realized then that not only do we not play often now, but once he moves we won’t be able to play or hang out at all. The past few days I can’t stop thinking about it and it’s over 9 months away before they leave. I need to figure out how to just set it all aside for now and not worry about it until the time comes for them to go.
I’ve never had to truly say goodbye to someone in the way that I’ll have to say goodbye to Terry. Part of me knows it won’t be forever, but I am also realistic in the sense that I know neither of us is going to be flying back and forth every year. He’s my best friend, my older brother, and probably the person who knows me better than anyone else. It kills me to know he’s leaving. I told him last night that I had been avoiding writing about it because if I sat down to write, it made it real. I’d dredge up old memories and that’s not what I wanted. But I think he knew that. It’s important to remember those things. Even the people who are most important to you won’t always be around. People move and people die. It’s life (and death). In this case, I’m just glad it’s the former and not the latter. He’s not gone yet though, so I’m going to make sure I make the most of the time we have left, because once he’s gone I know I’m gonna fall apart for a little while.