I got the phone call from Frank on a unusually cold Dallas winter day in 2001. He had not been feeling well for quite some time. On and off bouts with the flu, so he thought. After all, He lived in Chicago. Brutal winters. An outdoor job. Like me, Frank was a cocaine addict. My trips to Chicago to visit him always involved tense visits to seedy parts of town to score from his dealer. Hotel rooms and all night cocaine binges were a regular staple. The cocaine money would run out. The weekend would end; I would head back to Dallas and my addict life. He would stay in Chicago in his. Addicts never really think about the lifestyles of other addicts. We count on them being the same. The quest for white powder to drive the masking of pain, guilt, childhood and loss.
My drive was for the acceptance of a thirteen-year-old bullied little boy. To change a horrifying reflection I saw in the mirror. The drive for the elusive feeling of being loved. Frank’s was wrapped around loss. The loss for Frank was profound. The loss of a son. His only son at the time. A tragic July 4th weekend years before. The pain. The guilt. The blame. He would never recover. His marriage would never recover. The descent into addiction. My problems seemed trivial in comparison. Addiction does not distinguish between the trivial and the tragic.
I picked up the phone that winter day in 2001. The news on the other end was tragic. His words ingrained on my brain to this day. “Brian, I have stage four colon cancer”. I am going to die”. I had known Frank had not been feeling well but we went fairly long periods without talking to each other. Busy in our lives. Busy in our addiction. Too busy to be that one person who is told all. The person who can help. Until that moment that hopefully moves us into recovery, no addict wants to help. We want enablement. I wanted to make those trips to the seedy areas when I visited Frank. Our only talk about life’s problems came during the inhibition released cocaine binges. Binges that would begin to mask the changes his body was going through and tell his brain that it was simply the hangover, the all nighter, the drinking. He would ultimately recover. Nothing permanent. One day his urine changed color. That was not the cocaine.
A long silence on the phone as I processed what Frank just told me. Going through the stages of denial and grief within a split second. If I couched the response properly I would hear something different.
“Clam Down Frank, tell me what’s going on” Are you sure? He was sure.
December 13, 2004. A trip to Chicago. Brutal Cold. Snow. One last time. We would see the Dallas Mavericks play the Chicago Bulls with his other son and another good friend. There was no venture into the seedy to obtain drugs. We were still addicts. I knew Frank was still using despite undergoing chemo and experimental treatments. Frank had to wear extra heaving clothing to compensate for the chilling effect of chemotherapy and experimental treatment. The cancer was spreading. He had given up hope. A new son did not ease the pain. A marriage that had failed in the midst of guilt and blame amidst the loss of the first. Talk became useless. We never spoke of hope. We would no longer speak of our demons that drove us to the crack house underbelly of Chicago. He was still making them. Addiction became all he had left.
November 15th 2014. Free of the drug demons and cocaine binges for almost eight years. Dreaming. I am thirteen years old in the house I grew up in. Searching for the cold blue lock box my father often kept money and coins from his trips abroad. As a child, I loved to explore it and steal mementos of his trips to foreign lands so mysterious to me. I would look up the counties in the bound volumes of Britannica Encyclopedia that was a staple in so many baby-boomer homes. I think he purposely left it unlocked to allow me to begin my exploration of other cultures. Once again it was unlocked. This time there were photos. Photos of Frank and myself. In my dream, I began to cry uncontrollable heart retching sobs of a little boy mourning. Mourning a loss that had not yet occurred. I awake from my dream in the middle of the sobbing.
Frank Passed away from colon cancer on June 5, 2005. He was 46 years year old. In his life, he was a father. A husband. A provider. A friend. An addict. I miss him.