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Friday, June 17, 2016

About My Friend Billy

I haven't written this blog since I ran for office. I have a lot of catching up to do, and need to make my virtual book a real-life one, and yada yada yada, but my life has been crazy.

It's stable now. Normalizing. Feels weird. And awesome.

So I'm starting back by writing about somebody else, somebody who I just lost recently. Somebody who I can't get out of my head, but at the very least I know I can always find him deep in south Louisiana, in a place where almost nobody's heard of. I can always pull up a lawnchair next to his section of the wall and talk to him.

I met Billy after I had a broken neck and was helping BikeLafayette set a cycling route. He was helping too. I could not believe this tall lean muscular man had cancer! He told me that the chemo was making him sick, and so he stopped taking it. He wanted to enjoy the rest of his life. We became instant friends.

I was compelled to be standoffish with him at first. This is not usually my way; I'm usually full-forward gung-ho steamroll ahead and bulldoze down everyone. But, we were both in vulnerable spots. We both were struggling with our significant others not coping well with our ailments. I needed as little complication in my life as possible. It would be easy to fall into regret about that now; I missed out on a lot of time I could have spent with him. I can also say our friendship stayed healthy, and that is worth everything.

I ended up living alone with my son, and he ended up moving in with his parents. We did things with our kids; fishing, went out to eat, and to see movies. We went to Agave downtown Lafayette once. It was the first time he ever had fish tacos. He raved on them.

I haven't been able to eat fish tacos since. They remind me too much of him.

Rare photo when we took the kids fishing.
Billy was so busy hooking worms and unhooking fish that he
was the only one of us that didn't catch anything.

He stopped being able to ride his bike, or even travel all the way to Lafayette, and they came out with a different type of chemo so he started that. 43 is an awkward age to have cancer; your closest friends may shy away from it, and not be strong enough to handle all that you are going through. I think people get better in that respect as they get older.
I made it a point to go to his parents' house once a week. It was my Monday mornings with Billy. We were both crazy poor and I couldn't always make it. I ran for office to be able to stay in Acadiana, that started taking up all my time. I worked every other weekend out of state to stay afloat. I eventually had to move out of state. He died less than a month later. It was the saddest voicemail I ever got, Billy's daddy letting me know he passed.

My heart is still broken.

But enough of the framework.

Billy took this. Hummingbirds on the back porch.

Billy died of colon cancer in the prime of his life; a loving father, avid cyclist, fisherman... He could fix just about any vehicle you put in front of him. He was so good he could fix them over the phone. He was so good he could take a girl with a broken neck to walk around a junkyard and find things to fix her truck.
He had tremors since he was born, I think they were "essential tremors", but he never got them officially diagnosed. He did all that stuff even with his tremors. He laughed at them.
My friend was sweet and loving through the end. Very loud and outspoken on the topics he felt strongly about. Never wanted anything from anyone; hard-headed even in his worst pain. He was definitely a Cajun boy! He didn't speak Cajun (most of us don't; our grandparents were beaten in school for speaking it) but his parents do. His dad has a good relationship with the squirrel in the backyard and I'd swear she speaks Cajun. Their little dang Chihuahuas are so cute and smart too. T-Boy sings when certain songs come on, and growls and bites you if you say, "bath." Ha! We'd drink coffee, watch the birds, talk about the weather, and anything else. I had started going there to visit Billy, and those visits became the only solace I had in my life. It meant way more to me than I ever consciously knew. Know this, Billy, and I know you know. I visited as often as I could. I wish my life then was as stable as my life is now, just a few short weeks later. I wish we could have gone to the haunted trails in Scott like he wanted, and other things... I remember him calling me and telling me he knew he was going to die soon. He just knew it. Billy is not drama; it's one of the reasons we got along so well. My friend was dying. What do you say? There's no sugar-coating reality. That sucks man. At least, everybody you love knows you love them. And we love you. I wish things were different. Life's not fair. We're not perfect, but still, can't worry about what we get wrong. Life's too short, so fuck the haters.

Billy's daddy and his squirrel

I miss that guy more than I ever thought. We don't have one picture together, never thought about it. We knew each other less than three years. Life for us was always about living, not reflecting. He was so so much my partner-in-crime, my stability, my rock that was as tough and loving as me. Now I'm all alone. Without even me realizing it, he was the one person that shared everything I went through: all the pain, hurt, abandonment. Trying to be a parent and dealing with our children's feelings. How to still stay effective when society unknowingly casts you aside.
I don't know why I miss him so badly. I'm trying to figure it out; we saw each other at most once a week. There were other people in our lives. But for whatever reason, though I moved away and things are finally okay for me, I have a huge crazy void in my soul. I guess it's love. Whaddaya do. Love ya, Billy. I love you.

I'll always know where to find you now. So, we still have that.