A Tribute To and Reasons Behind My Friend Gus's Death.
We drink from the memories of what we've been told
like a map of scars traced with hesitant fingers
played and replayed, then memorized in our psyche.
You drank their Kool-Aid from a shot glass, my friend;
you guzzled it down and made it a part of you
until it became the biggest part of what made you, you.
When friends remember you on your birthday
or the anniversary of your death, September 19, 2019,
they’ll raise a pint up in the air and declare it to Crazy Gus!
I find this remembrance bittersweet because you were more than a drink—
more than a 'good time' and 'that crazy Gus'—
you were a loyal friend, someone to count on when things went sideways.
I also find that toasted glass half-appropriate though,
because you were so much about a good drink or fifteen:
and it was your choice from the tender age of eighteen.
Thirty-six years you drank to excess, often until passing out.
People who knew your story didn't have to wonder why:
finding your mother deceased in her bed from an overdose.
It broke you since you were the son that was disrespectful,
you said you gave her hell.
Be that as it may, I'm sure she too could have done better.
So you ran farther, harder than anyone has ever ran away before;
from your siblings, from your family, your friends—
from your entire life.
Some of the friends you kept until your sudden demise
recall opening their doors to you,
a homeless 'kid' from the streets with the belligerent attitude.
But oh you were funny Gustopher, as I liked to call you,
you were always quick to laugh loud, and straight from your belly;
no wonder people just gravitated to you.
Now here's a dude who knows how to have a good time!
Sure, he may be so wasted by the end of the night he gets a bit mean,
but man is he fun—the likes which I have never seen!
They say it was diabetes in the end.
Something that came on suddenly, and you were only in the hospital
for one week.
But I doubt this sincerely, knowing your health as I once did.
Yes, diabetes raises blood sugar levels and nobody should be drinking with it.
Yes, it can come on later in life after years of abuse and neglect,
and while it could be a causative factor, I would think it wasn't the main cause
which I would certainly attribute to alcoholism and liver disease (cirrhosis).
I last saw you four years ago and was shocked at your appearance.
Most might think you 'just' fat but I knew better, even then,
as you were terribly bloated, very unhealthy looking—to the extreme.
But you were just as ready with a huge hug for this ex-girlfriend, now friend,
as you always gave hard hugs to show how much you really cared.
I am so glad I stopped by while in California that last day,
the last day I ever saw you.
It might be easy for others to judge you by your drinking
and they'd likely be right, too,
although I find it's what memories make a person run away so far
to be the answer in how an active fifty-four year old man can suddenly die.
The math says perhaps Gus lived a long life,
and in his last years he did seem to be finally doing some real living:
fishing, traveling, meeting friends and family, even.
So much so that I have to wonder if Gus knew he was ill,
and like many people just ignored medical advice
so he could continue on with his passive suicide.
Regardless of the stigma—that I am actually trying to break—
I will always say to myself, remembering:
Gus my friend, you made it many years
and in the end, you did the best you could. Amen.
Written in Free Verse for the "Honoring the Dead" Contest