Wednesday, October 24, 2007

PILGRIMAGE (Dennis L. Perrault)

I'm better now.
My life has been a whirlwind for the past 10 days or so. I have just buried my best friend, confidant & partner in crime - Dennis L. Perrault. Allow me to share:
Upon returning from Mr. Adam's 40th Birthday in Vegas, I quickly turned around the next day, and went up to Boston to visit my very ill friend Dennis in the hospital. I won't lie and say Dennis was well, but he was certainly better than the last time I had visited him, pre-hospital. Dennis and I had a good time, rehashing memories and just being us. Chit chat, chit chat...oh and he beat me at a round of Scrabble. I returned to NYC on Saturday morning and by Tuesday, October 16, 2007, Dennis had died. His brother Lenny had contacted me, as he was the person who told me specifically what Dennis' doctors were saying all along, because Dennis couldn't share all of that information with me for various reasons. Dennis had died, I was numb. I now had a funeral to attend. Mr. Adam wanted to come with me to support me. What a sweetheart. But I said "no, don't come." I needed to do this alone. This was something I had to do myself. This was now my own personal journey, and I had to do it alone. I can't explain why I thought this way, but I did. I had to make this trip on my own terms. This much I knew in my heart.
Numb, I was numb. I had to make it through the week to get myself to Easthampton, MA to bury my friend. I didn't know the specifics of his death, but I knew I would know them soon enough. The rest of the week I was in a mental fog. I wouldn't say that I didn't feel anything as much as I "couldn't" feel anything. Perhaps it was my body doing what it needed to do to get me through? The news came Wednesday that the viewing & service would be on Saturday. I had three days to prepare. First I had to do the obvious things, arrange transportation, pack, set myself up for work to leave early Friday. Then I had my personal issues, as I had just returned from visiting Dennis and previous to that Las Vegas, so I hadn't really been home all that long. I also had my annual physical scheduled for Thursday. Which my doctor told me I had high blood pressure and they wanted to monitor me over a 24 hour period. Meaning wearing it while I would be traveling the next day to Easthampton, MA. So I got this blood pressure monitor attached to me and it was big and bulky and everyone on the street thought I was bionic. If only. What a time in my life to have my blood pressure monitored. Also, Dennis had, on several occasions, asked me to speak at his funeral service. I had to write, and I had to write something worthy of my 24 year friendship with Dennis. Aye yai yai! Pressure.
I made it through the wearing of the blood pressure monitor, I made it through the laundry I had to do so I would have clean knickers. I wrote my eulogy for Dennis, packed and purchased my train tickets. Luckily, Dennis' brother Lenny had arranged for a hotel room for myself for Friday & Saturday nights. This was such a blessing that I didn't have to worry about the hotel, as I didn't know the area at all. Thank you Lenny. But now, now I was ready, ready to travel, ready to eulogize and ready to be a true friend until the end. And this was our ending. Our sad, bittersweet, senseless ending. Oh God please no...
Traveling is always a treat on the train. What I do enjoy is plugging my phone in and chatting. Chatting away the miles by my anytime minutes. Also I like to read. But none of this was going to happen on this trip, my numbness had reached it's all time high. I couldn't concentrate on anything, no iPod, no books, no phones, no magazines, no work from the office. Just me, tearless, fearless me, my bionic blood pressure monitor and my concentrated numbness. I was beginning to think I was never going to react to my friends death. Which struck me as odd, because I had such horrible personal reaction to the news that Dennis was terminally ill.
My pick up from the train station was seamless, thanks to Lenny again. Not only had Lenny arranged for my hotel stay, but he also took care of making sure I had a ride everywhere I needed to go. This task, was assigned mostly to Lenny's oldest son (Dennis' nephew) Mike (approx. age - early 30s). Extra special thank you to Mike. Mike, Chris & Matt (Lenny's sons), Laurie (Dennis' sister) & Al (friend of the family) picked me up at the train. We stopped at the hotel to drop my bags off and finally remove my blood pressure monitor, then off we went to dinner. The whole crew of us Lenny & Ruth, Mike, Chris, Matt, Al, Laurie, Jillian & me. Chinese Food! God, don't 'cha just love it! This was a genuine treasure and I'm so glad we went. It was Chinese food from my child hood, not the NYC stuff. The kind of Chinese restaurant that has the Polynesian drinks like "scorpion bowls." And we ate, and ate. I also had my first drink since the news of Dennis' passing. A Cosmo. In the back of my head, I kept thinking "is my eulogy good enough? is it?" This thought would continue to plague my every other thought until read my eulogy aloud at Dennis' service. I wanted no one to read my 'scripture' that would be hearing it. I know this made no sense, but to me, it made perfect sense. NO ONE CAN READ MY EULOGY FOR DENNIS THAT WILL BE HEARING IT. I'm weird. Later after Dinner, thank you again Lenny, I went out with Dennis' nephews, Al & Laurie.
Out we went. We went to a straight bar/club. The kind with a live band. Big gay Ryan Charisma at a straight bar, that has live music, in the suburbs. Get your cameras out cause this one isn't going to be pretty. The name of the bar escapes me, but the band playing was great. Big Floppy Disc was the band and they were really good. Mike was friends with just about everyone at the club and walked us right in. No cover charge for us. Then, the drinks began. Dennis' nephews just kept them coming. And comming. I started with a Cosmo, after that a shot that was called a "lemon drop" - but turned out to be tequila. I thought I would breathe fire. Then, another shot called a "woo woo." Way too much booze for a simple gay boy like myself. 1:30AM - time for Momma to go to bed.
Saturday, that day, that horrible, horrible day that I bury my friend had come. Smartly though, before bed I laid out a bottled water and two aspirins for the morning. I made phone calls and touch up ironed my suit for the day. I worked out in the hotel gym and had a good breakfast. Today I needed to be in tip top shape for my friend. Dennis wanted me to keep his service 'light' and that was going to be my job. A job I accepted. The day began at 1:30pm when all of Dennis' family began to arrive . Sad hellos and bittersweet greetings - a theme that would last the entire day. Fortunately, Lenny, Ruth, Laurie & I went to the funeral parlor early to set up. When we arrived Laurie had informed me that Dennis had planned everything. He hand selected the pictures that would be posted, the people who would speak and the picture that would be next to his closed casket. Dennis did request a closed casket, but this prop casket was empty as Dennis' body was already cremated. His ashes are to be divided amongst his 6 siblings and mother. Numb, I'm still numb. Amazed that Dennis, who I had just seen and played Scrabble with only 7 days earlier, had arranged all of this.
Before the doors were opened, Ruth (Lenny's wife) and Laurie pulled me aside and gave me something sentimental. After Dennis had died, the hospital offered to make hand prints of Dennis' in clay. The hospital gave Dennis' family 2 sets, I got one. The other went to this wonderful woman named Joan. Joan was Dennis' friend & confidant. She took Dennis to all his Dr. appointments and was the person who knew of his illnesses before anyone and basically everyone else. She was good to him, asking for nothing in return. A good person, and a good friend of Dennis'. I was happy she shared the honor of receiving these impressions of Dennis. Touching.
The service was difficult. Practically unbearable, my numbness had melted and I could no longer "hold it together." I wept, and sobbed. There were only 5 speakers and I was 4th. The more kind things I heard the less I could understand. The entire first reading was a blur to me. I know Dennis' brother Mark was speaking, but for the world, I couldn't tell you what he said. My grief was taking over. Calm down. Next were two speakers, Dennis' nieces. One read a letter that she never got to mail to Dennis, the other read a paper she wrote in college regarding when she discovered the news that Dennis was terminal. Both very touching. More sobbing. Pull it together Ryan Charisma, you're up next. The walk to the podium was unbearable, I heaved and I sobbed. Nothing was going to stop me from doing Dennis' wishes. Pull it together Ryan Charisma, do it now. I spoke, I sobbed, I spoke again. I told of Dennis' great qualities, I shared an intimate yet funny story of our friendship and I ended with a quote from a current Broadway musical, as Dennis was always active and appreciative of plays & musicals. It was over, and Lenny was the final speaker. Concentrate, concentrate - my grief had taken over. I was now free falling. I was listening to Lenny speak and his mouth was moving but my mind flew away with thoughts of "Was I good enough Dexi?" "This is the last time, this is the 'goodbye'" I was aching inside yet so still on the outside that I could have been a wall, or a stair. Help me! I was drowning inside of myself. I was going under quickly. Focus, focus on Lenny! I pulled it together enough to actually hear the remainder of Lenny's eulogy. It was beautiful. A true credit to him and his relationship with Dennis. Pain. Here comes the goodbye! Everyone was walking away, it was over, only the family and I were left. I was seated with his large family, they included me in everything as though I were one of their own. And now, I was sharing in their grief and it was time for all of us to say goodbye. For me to say goodbye. I can do it. I have to do it. Done.
Boy was I hungry. I hadn't eaten anything but M&M's and that was hours ago. Around 8pm we all went to a lovely dinner hosted by Dennis' friend Joan. She invited what appeared to be 40 people to a lovely restaurant for a meal. And eat we did. I had the good fortune of being seated right next to Joan (our hostess) for this dinner. I had questions. I think I always will. But it was great to meet her. Dennis spoke so highly of her when we did talk. It was good to meet someone so special in his life. I'm sure eventually we would have met, but under different circumstances would have been nicer. I drank, I ate, I drank, and I ate some more. I was then ready for bed.
Sunday morning was hard. My train was at 10:15AM and I had to pack. Luckily, I had no issue with getting up early. As I got ready to leave, I chatted with Dennis, I had things to say that he needed to hear. I hope he heard them. I briefly stepped out of my hotel room to find Dennis' entire family packing up and getting ready to drive to their homes up in NH. Sigh. I said my goodbyes & thank yous and watched the Perrault family caravan of cars drive away. I'd like to say that's where it all ends, but it's not that simple. I began sobbing. Inconsolable sobbing. I then had a bite to eat. Rounded up my luggage, and waited for Mike to pick me up. Which he did, on time, like a trooper. Poor Mike had to endure my weeping. I confessed to him something that I had never told anyone. Something Dennis said to me several times, on his death bead, in private; that hurt to hear. No, no I won't tell you all. It's personal, but I wonder if I had done the right thing in sharing this information. Not that I don't want or care about Mike repeating it so much as the information hurts my feelings to this day. I was weak.
I sobbed, I wailed, I cried, I wept all 3 hours and 45 minutes home on the train. I was pretty much inconsolable when I got back in NYC for about 2 days. but Mr. Adam sure tried. And I love him all the more for it.
I'm better now.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous mklanjello said...

Oh my friend. Your strength always amazes me. I know you're hurting, but you're right about the beautiful scar you'll have eventually - not to mention how beautiful it is that Dennis' life shines on through you.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Stephii said...

hey there Ryan, this is Stephanie, Uncle Dennis' Oldest neice. Jill gave me ur blog site. I just wanted to tell you that this was an amazing write.

Of course, It made me cry. Not a day goes by without him in my thoughts. I'm just so greatful that my uncle dennis had such a great friend.

just because he has left us doesnt mean you have to also. I'd like to apologize for not really being so chatty with you, but as you know, it was a terribly hard time for me.

but you are an amazing person, and im here if you ever would like someone to chat with.

email me sometime, i would love to hear from you.

stephii.perrault@gmail.com

love always,
Stephii Perrault

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your site after "googling" Dennis Perrault. I was saddened to hear about his passing. I knew Dennis back in his high school years. Even back then, he always knew how to enjoy life to the fullest. I met up with him again in 1987 when we both ended up working for the same company. It was probably a job he needed to support his passion for theatre. Even though we never kept in touch, I always wondered where he was and how he was doing. He was a nice guy who touched many lives, and he will never be forgotten.

10:18 PM  

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