Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

Bitching and Moaning

Tony is a very easy person to love, but in high school, Tony and I hated each other.

Yesterday I breathed a sigh of relief when Tony, one of my best friend’s, wrote this to a number of us:

“I got great news late last night that my father's surgery was successful. His test results also came back negative for the remainder of his colon and hopefully he will make a quick recovery. The cancer has not spread so he most likely won't have to go through a lot of further treatment. This is extremely great news!”

He went on to thank all of us for our support, our phone calls, our bullshit conversations, and our incessant jabber. It went without saying that we would be there for him; Tony is a very easy person to love. The largest Asian man I have ever met personally, his physical size is equaled by his heart and sense of humor. Both are huge.

In high school, Tony and I hated each other’s asses. At a party one time I had been sitting at a kitchen table playing President's Asshole (its a drinking game with cards) for over an hour when he came over. "You're in my seat. Get out." As I told you, Tony is huge. We jawed back and forth a bit, probably exchanged a few "fuck yous" and in the end he pulled up another chair and let me stay in "his seat." I spent the whole time thinking I was about to get pummeled.

We became friends 5-years-ago, back in California for my friend Mike’s mother’s funeral. She was a woman who, after my own mother walked out on (read: abandoned) me, my sister, and my father, had emotionally adopted me. I called her “Mom” M, she called me her son. I took her passing very personally, and still do to some degree. I was forced to stay at Tony’s house because Mike didn’t have room in his, and neither of us were happy about the arrangement. Then we rented Kevin Costner’s droll The Postman and quickly bonded over how stupid we thought the movie was. Something had happened on screen, something absurd, and we simultaneously said, "Oh, puh-lease." That, and a similarly inappropriate sense of humor and friendship became pretty easy.

His mother had passed away two month’s before Mike’s, so we were all 22, and all officially motherless. People who’ve lost a parent break things down into two groups: Those who have both parents and those who don’t, and one group cannot understand the ways in which the other sees the world. It’s something I think accelerated the bonding of our friendship, but we would have ended up there regardless.

All of us have been calling, e-mailing, staying later at bars than we wanted to, seeing movies, etc. Tony is great company. But I think we all, at least I know I did, worried about the aftermath. I didn’t know what he would do, and I don’t mean in some bullshit After School Special, “oh my God, is my friend going to kill himself” sense. That’s not his style. I worried, if things went wrong, where something like that would take him, how much of himself he would lose, and knew that he would probably never really be able to come back from there. Survival is definitely an art he has mastered, so it’s possible my worries are just the nagging sentiments of someone who cannot stand it when his friend’s lose anything.

Warning, editorialize exposition ahead: The crystal difference between me and my friends—including Bob, whose father passed shortly after he was born—is that my mother, Jennifer, is still out there, still around, still alive. We talk infrequently now. After 10 years of being shit, they finally have some substance to them. She will never be “mother” again to me—that’s a title that you earn, it’s not given to you—but she and I are connected in a unique, powerful and special way. I hate her and love her at the same time, sometimes in equal measure.

All this though is sound and fury. I don’t have to worry about Tony. Remission is a break, a pause button, and for now everything is fine.

(Note: Tomorrow I’m flying to Oklahoma to see my grandmother in the hospital. I’m sure I will write about her at some point over the weekend, and I’m sorry for the, perhaps, wingy tone these posts have. I know it doesn’t come across here, but I truly do laugh more than I scowl or frown. Writing has always been cathartic for me. I’ll try to make these as balanced as possible, but this is the shit that goes on in my head.)