Thursday, May 30, 2002

Damn it, Robert.

I first met Robert 20 years ago when he was 13, mowing my Mom's lawn. I lived down the street and had him start doing my lawn, too.
He was a smart kid but lacked confidence, I suppose because he was dirt poor, wasn't a particularly handsome kid and didn't do very well in school.
As the years went by, Robert met Sylvia and together they had three sons. They never married, but they have been together 16 years. Their firstborn Paul is now 13.
Robert dropped out of high school at 16, but he spent his idle time wisely, learning about plumbing and electrical work by helping out old pros on their rounds.
Turns out Robert was like McGyver, he could fix anything with a screwdriver, a bit of sandpaper or wire and maybe some duct tape.
Robert's only huge flaw was he was entirely unreliable with regard to time. He came when he wanted, sometimes he didn't want to, and calling to cancel was beyond the scope of his reality. Keeping an ordinary job was never something Robert could wrap his mind around.
But he was a loving, patient father and faithful husband, so Sylvia supported him all these years.
I'd been waiting a month for him to come by and do some yard work, patch a hole in my roof and do a few other chores around my house. I knew he'd be here eventually.
So, last week he called me, saying he was in the hospital with back pain.
I was busy with Zed and didn't get back to him right away.
His Mom called me last week, and in her own gibberish Tex Mex way, told me Robert was going in for open heart surgery. I thought she must be confused, but I asked her to call me and let me know what had happened. She didn't.
Last night his wife Sylvia called me to say he'd had a double bypass, has advanced cirrhosis of the liver and is in end-stage renal failure.
Seems Robert had heroin, cocaine and alcohol problems he'd hidden from me for the last five years. Basically he's destroyed his heart, liver and kidneys by hanging out with his homies and getting loaded. All I'd ever seen him do was drink a beer or two after he'd finished working at my house.
Now he's on a ventilator doctors say he'd die without. I am heading to the hospital to see him today, probably for the last time.
I feel horrible, knowing I am about to lose a friend who hid his horrendous addictions from me. Say a little prayer for him, will you?

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