My husband's best friend Whitey is dying. He gained the name in childhood for the alarming white shock of hair atop his head. Now it's gone thinly sickly grey. At age eighteen he was an enlisted Marine who volunteered for three tours in Viet Nam. He came from a gruesome upbringing, an older brother wailing the crap out of him and Whitey never fought back. There just wasn't enough pain and punishment to satisfy this kid.
At Whitey's 50th birthday party I saw the brother. Paul picked up a piece of cake and rammed it in Whitey's mouth so violently the guy crashed into the wall behind him sending a framed picture of water lilies to the floor, glass everywhere. Whitey spent his youth beating up carnies and taking outrageous dares in bars. He was perfect Marine material.
After the war he returned to the states with a liver full of Agent Orange and addictions to cigars and hard liquor that eventually earned him malignancies in all his major organs.
Of all Dave's friends Whitey has always been my favorite. Underneath the tough guy image is a soft-hearted intellectual. When I first cut my hair my Dave was displeased. We were with Whitey and wife for a ravioli dinner and Mister started his lament about HER HAIR. "I think she looks sexy," said Whitey and he lifted the beer bottle to his lips and held Dave's gaze. Topic never came up again.
PTSD clamped its ugly jaws into Whitey big time and Dave won't tell me about the guy's experiences, just as well. He has served time in several mental institutions and once he posted negative remarks regarding the Bush administration on a facility bulletin board when the asshole was still in office. Whitey got whisked away by FBI agents, all sunglasses and crew cuts. They grilled him for three days and they had photos of Whitey's front lawn where he routinely displayed anti-Bush placards. Whitey said he got the feeling the guys were on his side.
Whitey wants to have a celebration of life party. These have come into vogue lately and I'm uncomfortable with the concept. One of our town's greatest benefactors for the arts, an old woman with a fabulously decorated apartment did the same thing when she learned of her Alzheimer's diagnosis. A week later she marched herself into the Mississippi river.
Whitey has invited 287 people. There will be six kegs of beer and a fried chicken dinner from a local caterer. A funeral service in reverse.
Godspeed, Whitey, my good man.