There But for For·tune …
What can I say about a life filled with puppy kisses, disco, and laughter?
I was one of the lucky ones.
I had a best friend to share it with.
No matter how most people define a best friend, I feel we can agree that a best friend is a person who you value above other friends in your life, someone you have fun with, someone you trust and someone in whom you confide.
Let me tell you about my best friend, Van.
Van has not only seen every episode of The Golden Girls, he has them all memorized. He has been the Dorothy to my Blanche although I have no doubt that he would argue that I was Rose and he was more the Blanche.
Apart from knowing all things Golden, he knows from fashion, he is a Virgo, his real name is James, he is a great cook, he’s an animal lover and an activist. He has been my partner in crime for over 20 years.
We have shared several homes together, all the while co-parenting several dogs and cats. We have seen each other through good times and bum times while somehow maintaining our own brand of humor.
We met in the late 90’s when I was going from boyfriend to boyfriend, job to job, roommate to roommate and jail to jail. I am not at all proud of that life. I know I had matured and grown in some sense but I had regressed where it mattered. I am certain that whatever destiny I had settled for was not going to be pretty. I had friends, close friends, that were there for me at that time, but I could not be derailed. I am thankful to them for trying.
Then one day, my butt intervened. Now I am not making this up, I am not that creative. I had run cross-country and track in high school and I continued running well into my thirties with glorious results. I maintained a 28-inch waist during that time as well as staunch and impervious legs and a behind so round, so firm, you’ve got to fall down on your knees and cry out at its magnificent regal beauty.
Well, as the story goes, one look and Van had to stop and get to know me better.
It feels like another life altogether, those first three years that we knew each other. We tried being a couple but soon realized that although we loved each other, that love was not romantic after all, it was comfortable and transcendent and that was enough.
I have no doubt our chance meeting that night, along with my glutes, and his continued friendship changed the course of the destructive trajectory I had destined for myself.
He saved my life.
I wouldn’t realize that until many years later.
Lately, I have been looking back considerably at our timeline together in a state of nostalgic delirium. I’ve been thinking of our first apartment, first pets, road trips and concerts we attended wondering how many more would we have together. Would we have time to Thelma and Louise it to West Texas again?
You see, my friend has cancer for the second time and has decided that he will not seek radiation therapy or any other aggressive treatment this time around. He has been through this before, quite recently, in fact.
It is no secret that he has been HIV positive since the late 80’s and one can get a sense that we have been living on borrowed time and that this friendship might not have happened at all.
I knew of his decision to forgo any treatment before he got his results and before anyone else knew. I didn’t argue with him. He had made up his mind and I didn’t torture him by asking too many questions or trying to coerce him into changing his mind. He was going to Barbara Bush it. It was decided.
The first time he went through treatment he managed to maintain a healthy attitude and did his best to soldier on through the necessary ordeal. He did as well as what was expected but it drained him. He had been losing a lot of weight prior to being diagnosed and he had become frail. I did not experience the physical pain that he experienced and had tried to describe to me during that time, so I was not about to try to talk him into going through all that again. He knows how I feel without me having to say a word. He can also be sure that I would walk through fire if I thought it would help.
I lived next door at the time of his cancer treatments so I would help out with laundry and housecleaning and walk the 4 fur babies. We have Dexter Clinton Boone, the eldest at age 9, Dixie Carter 3, and two of the nine puppies they had together: Bowie and Bailey.
I remember well the night the puppies were born.
Van texted me that Dixie was having the babies. The backdoor to my apartment is one step away from his door.
We watched three puppies come out of mama bear, one puppy-bear was already cleaned up and suckling by the time I got there.
We googled “what do I do when my dog has puppies”, just in case.
After about an hour or so, no more babies had come out, so we assumed she was done. We took her out to the courtyard to pee. She did just that and we took her to lay in her large crate to feed the babies.
“Wow!” I said,” Four puppies is not too bad.”
Van agreed and we were very grateful for that tiny litter. I returned home and went to sleep.
The next morning, I stopped in to check on mama and counted nine puppies.
“Oh My God Van! She had five more while we slept!” I happily shouted.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t live there anymore. He has rented a room in a Northeast Dallas residence and was able to take Dexter with him. He is receiving disability benefits and although he wants to work, his health will not let him. He had no choice but to move somewhere affordable and I simply couldn’t afford to continue helping him financially.
My place is too small to accommodate Van, myself, my partner Michael and his cat and my 4 dogs, otherwise, we would be roomies again.
So now what? Where do we go from here? Do we acknowledge this? Do we avoid the topic?
We will embrace it. Carefully.
He had assigned me Medical Power of Attorney a couple of years back after an alarming episode where he was missing for over 24 hours. Thankfully, he was eventually found by local police and taken to a nearby hospital. He had been lost in a city he knew well and had not been able to clearly communicate.
I feel honored that I am delegated with this directive. Although, in some measure, I feel I could fail and that it may prove to be too much responsibility. No matter what happens, he chose me which means he trusts me. I will make sure that his choices are clear and he is heard. I can do this if it ever comes down to the wire. We had always joked that we would pull the plug for the other in our old age. I am sure we had a conversation about preserving just our heads just as Rose Nylund and the girls did in a dream Rose had on an episode of The Golden Girls. I still laugh out loud when Blanche Devereux screams, “We’re heads!”.
We had imagined ourselves in our rocking chairs at a Shady Pines type of home for the elderly, many decades from now obviously. He once posted a meme on my Facebook page that read: We would be friends until we were old and senile and then we’d be new friends. I still get a kick out of it. We do not know the when or how much time we still have together, does anybody ever really know? Besides, Lazarus here has come back from the dead so many times that I do not worry too much.
Eu·lo·gy for the Living
Van Boone instantly became an honorary Navarrette when my parents first met him. My mother will always consider him her son too. He is family, and just like family, we have had our share of fights. We have shed tears together at the loss of our pets. We have celebrated many many birthdays and holidays together. We’ve shared the greatest group of friends possible. We’ve eaten our share of cheesecakes.
Van is no longer at the mercy of the alcohol that once had power over him, no small feat to be sure, and I am proud of him for that.
I hope there is time for another road trip. I can still remember the laughter we shared one night in the Davis Mountains as we anxiously awaited the mysterious Marfa Lights to dance in night sky as we joked about how our cat Shelby Lynn sounded like the alien spaceships from the movie Close Encounter of the Third Kind as they attempted to communicate with the earthlings through music.
Is there another concert in our future? We already saw the big names we wanted to see like Erasure, Lady Gaga, Elton John and Cher.
Will Van bust – a – move at bedtime in Roswell, NM again?
What more can be said about a life filled with laughter, kitty tummies, and cheesecake? We were two of the lucky ones.
I happened upon the word Boon Companion while surfing the web, I was not looking for this and I had never heard of it. I was pleasantly surprised at what the word meant.
Van reluctantly created a Go Fund Me for himself. He has always earned his money through diligent and steady work, most recently as a Restaurant General Manager. We had mistakenly comprehended that once his disability benefits were approved and monthly payments commenced, that he would also receive back pay for the 6 months or so that he went without income while he awaited the decision on the benefits. He did not get anything for that time and I did my best to pay what I could on my rent and his. I will catch up some day but Van doesn’t have many options at the moment. I have assisted with groceries and will continue to do so. If you feel compelled in your heart to assist Van: Click Here.
Thank you to the people who have given. It warms my heart and it means so much to him.