I've been meaning to write you all for some time. In fact, I've started this blog many times in the past year, only to find I get choked up and can't bring myself to finish it. Again, if you're still associating everything I say with the previously assumed word, then you find my writing extra hilarious. In which case, I'm glad one of us does. But for me, it’s something I've been hurting over for quite some time.
You see, that four letter word.. is Drew.
I don't know if you have ever experienced death, but it’s one of the greatest losses one can suffer while still walking this earth. And people sit around and tell themselves that the person that has passed is now at peace, and everything will eventually settle into some "new" normal. I'm here to tell those people to politely "kiss my grits" and give them a courteous middle finger.
In my 28 years on this planet, I've had very limited experiences with death. I lost a few friends to reckless driving and bullying as a teenager, and my grandfather to a second bout of lung cancer that eventually spread to his brain and then took hold of his spirit. Of those, my grandfather obviously left the biggest wound, because he and my grandmother are such a big reason I am the person I am today. But with older people, especially those who have battled illness for quite some time like my grandfather, you morbidly expect them to at some point... die. It’s just something we are taught. I remember reading E.B. White's Charlotte’s Web, and the teacher trying to explain how the book was so poignant and how the ending *spoiler alert,* where Wilbur's spider friend dies, was indeed a "happy one", to a bunch of six and seven year olds. To this day, I still think she's full of crap. I remember watching Bambi, and not being able to get over the feelings of reckless abandonment the wonderful people at Disney had left my five year old self with. (As you can tell, I was a bit of an advanced thinker for my age.) My parents tried to explain this concept to me even further, with each passing of a pet, most ending up in a towel or a high top Reebok shoebox, and subsequently in a make shift pet cemetery in our backyard. Having seen Lion King, I figured this was merely my dad’s way of making sure I saw my furry friends deaths were not in vain, and also doubled as a really effective fertilizer. And before you ask, No. Sterger is not Jewish.
But still, I don't think you really come to understand the permanence of death, until it’s someone very close to you. And very sudden and totally unexpected.
While the rest of the world was sleeping during the wee hours of Jan 12, 2011, I was watching St. Elmo's Fire and the 14 inches of snow New York City was being pelted by, wondering when it would stop. (The snow, not the movie.) Though some would argue, sitting through either one of them is painful. Being a fan of everything made in the 80s, including myself, I texted the only person I knew would be up at that time of night, and asked him "When would this snow effin stop?" On any other occasion, Drew in his usual wit would respond in some snarky Al Roker reference, laugh politely at my retort, and wish me back to sweet dreams. Only this time, there was no answer.
It continued to snow the whole next morning, and into the early evening hours. I had sent off numerous texts throughout my day, generally about nonsensical things, but that was the nature of our relationship. We lived to make each other laugh and happy. And somehow even with thousands of miles between us, we managed to stay best friends.
But as the evening hours fell into night, I sensed something was wrong. My texts, my emails, even my phone calls had gone unanswered. I've often been told I worry too much about things. Very stupid things. And more times than not, I tend to agree. Not this time. This man was my best friend, and it wasn't like him to go more than a few hours without talking to me. By six o clock, I had reached for the panic button. With every email, every phone call, every text message going unanswered, I sent off one last email before I called the police.
"If you're mad at me, if there's something I’ve done... I don't care. I just want to know you're ok."
Just... Nothing. I’ll spare you the details of that night, only because most are too painful for me to write down. But after countless hours of phone calls, inquiries, and waiting I was informed that sometime, during the early hours of my brat pack marathon... I had lost Drew.
I live in a city that is so overpopulated you can't drive down the street without trading paint with someone. Where they can charge you a small fortune for you to live in a room the size of a portapotty, and you're one of the lucky ones if it doesn't smell like it. It’s the type of city that if you're not ready for it, it will chew you up and spit you out like an America’s next top model contestant at a Cici's All-you-can-eat dinner buffet. And she doesn't try to sympathize with you. Nope. New York City is a cold hearted bitch. And at times, I've wanted to quit her, but whenever I got those feelings, Drew was always there to pull me off the metaphorical and sometimes literal bridge.
Drew and I met in Spring of 2006. "Cowgirl fever" was still in full force at FSU, as my magazines were just hitting the local newsstands, and I was trying my hardest to concentrate on my studies. My true love, college football, was MIA til the Spring game, and even then it was more like Groundhogs Day: Football popped its head up from the turf, said... 4 more months without me…and Goodbye. Tease. But one day, in a heated message board discussion regarding my boredom with baseball, the board’s moderator presented me with an enticing offer.
"Come and watch an FSU baseball game with the Animals of Section B. We will change your mind."
So the following week, when we were scheduled to play Florida, I was introduced to “O Canada”, Shannon’s red stuff, Fluffy’s loud and overly drawn out Kkkkkkk time, and Dominic’s Noles cheer. And they all openly welcomed and accepted me as one of their own. Because Drew did. And like that, my new-found appreciation for baseball was born.
A lot of people will never fully understand my relationship with the man. To outsiders, we were an odder couple than Dennis Rodman and well… anyone who has dated Dennis Rodman. But, we didn't care. We taught each other so many important things in life.
A lot of people have been quick to judge me these past five years, but not Drew. The man saw me for who I was, a little girl with big dreams and a knack for just wanting to entertain people. Whenever people would attack me personally, Drew was one of the first to defend me. Whenever a boy would break my heart, he was the first paramedic on the scene. Whenever something amazing happened in my life, Drew was one of the first to know it. We shared so much of our lives with one another. My wins were his wins; my loss was his loss...
Most people’s internal compasses point north. But mine points south. South… to a place, where for me, times were simpler. You see, I’ve traveled all over this country the past few years, all because of a small twist of fate. And no matter where I was, I never felt alone. That's because I had Drew. With him I was never lost. That's also because Drew was, more often than not giving me directions to somewhere! Hell, he and I joked that he probably knew the city better than I did since he had virtually walked so many blocks via Google Maps on the phone with me. And while most would feel a bit claustrophobic, I always seemed to feel alone. But not with Drew. He’d walk countless city blocks with me, at all hours of the day and night. And while some people may find this a bit odd, we didn't in the least. Because no matter the time, or place, we always were there to share our lives with one another. Even from thousands of miles away. I took him to faraway places with me. He brought me to a place that felt like home!
One of the first times I hung out in Hollywood, I was at a meeting with this director. We were at a Starbucks discussing a film he was working on when his phone went off. I asked what he was grinning at -- and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a baseball game recap from Drew. He didn't know that I knew Drew personally, and I was soon to tell him, but he told me how those emails always made him smile. Like me, he lived 3,000 miles and a world away from Tallahassee, but every time he read about what was going on at Dick Howser, part of him was 12 years-old again. The part that was still a kid, sharing sunny spring days with his dad and not knowing how desperately he'd cherish those lazy Sunday afternoons and wished he'd appreciated them more before his father finally succumbed to his battle with cancer. Drew gave that to him. His emails brought him back to Howser. To a time and a place that's long since passed, but is so deeply engrained in his soul that it is encoded into his DNA. Drew’s gift was one that no one could put a price tag on. But what Drew did brought this joy to countless Noles.
Since the night Drew passed on, I've only written a few things. None were as difficult as this, except for maybe his eulogy. And as much as part of me wanted to just do that on the fly, I knew the rest of me wouldn't be able to muster through it without bursting into tears. For the record, I made it further than I thought I would. The reason none of my writing has been posted however, is that Drew was the only person I trusted with my unfiltered thoughts. An interweb sieve, if you will, of the right mix of edgy yet politically correctness. (I think that's a real word, if not, just pretend it is for the sake of this blog.) A lot of people, even those I trust with the raw format of me, cringe at the way I express myself sometimes. It’s because I'm brutally honest to a fault. After all, I am the reigning champion of the “Says what everyone else in the room is thinking but doesn’t have the balls to say award.” For me, the cathartic part of the writing process isn't the writing, it’s the posting and responses I get from the people who actually take the time to read it and empathize. So for the past year, that process has felt like a relatively empty transaction for me.
I know what you're thinking.." A year plus of silence and blank pages from this girl.. And THIS is the shit I get to read??" I know, I know. I've given you nuggets of goodness and hopefully a few laughs via twitter and other sources, but this is the heart of my internet presence, where you find out who I really am. And much like the pages of my blog, the events of 2010 and beginning of 2011 left me in what I would term... Survival mode. I was merely fighting to stay afloat. Suffice to say, the rest of 2011 is a bit of a blur. I don't really know where it went or what I did, though I'm sure I will unravel some of it here in these next few blogs. But this is where I had to start. It's a story I needed to write down for my own selfish reasons. So I could write again, so I could live again. So I could one day look back on my friendship with this man and not see it as something stolen from me but something that made me stronger and a much better person. Someone doesn't become such a huge part of your life and just vanish like this ... And have it not absolutely destroy you to the core.
You can look back on your life and stare at your hardships and wonder, Why? Why did this happen?? And often times, the answers don't necessarily present themselves the way we'd hope they would. I'm still trying to figure out why this happened. I think a lot of people are. I think it’s best to accept that we may never know WHY it happened, only that it did. It’s taken me months to grasp this. Losing Drew was one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with on my journey through life. But having him IN my life was more rewarding than anyone could imagine. He was what I would call a "lifechanger." He's one of the few people I can honestly say made me a better me, who saw me not as a girl in a sparkly bra and cowboy hat, but as a fellow band nerd and best friend.
I've gone through the whole range of emotions one is supposed to experience when dealing with death. Well, all except acceptance. It’s hard to think he won't be there at the end of that text message, that phone call, that email. And for that very reason I can't bring myself to delete him from my phone or Google chat. Because that would mean he is truly gone. It pains me to think that FSU baseball's greatest ambassador won't be rooting on our Noles every season as they take the mound. And worse yet.. He wasn't around to see me make it out the other side of the terrible rabbit hole that 2010 sent me down.
I guess it really hit me while I was sitting in another random airport one night, ALONE. Except this time I was really alone. With no one to call at that crazy hour of the night, I instead picked up my blackberry and started typing this…..
Of course when I got to the end, I instinctively hit send.. Only to realize I had sent it to Drew.
Which makes me wonder? Do you think they get Gmail in heaven? My guess is with Drew there, they most certainly will now. And if it could make it through the clouds, I know he’d write me back just to tell me how amazing it is. He's up there right now looking down on all of us. Maybe a tad flattered, a little embarrassed, and so grateful to have touched so many lives in his 37 years in this world. So now when the marching chiefs take the field, he will make sure their formations are straight. He was always a stickler about that. When the Animals demand to "take some guy out of this ball game," there will be a faint echo that returns back to them. Because no one was a bigger sports fan than Drew. And now, he really does have the best seat in the house. And in our hearts.