Hugo was a good man. He joined our family late in life: Aunt Ellen met him when her daughter was mostly grown, when I was in my early twenties. Still, he gave my aunt almost 20 years of happiness, and it is her loss for which I grieve, much more so than my own.
I remember for my grandmother's 80th birthday, even though he didn't know most of us, he invited our entire family our to his summer house on Shelter Island, NY. He and a friend shared ownership of a yacht, and took us out on the water. It was a beautiful sunny day, and he strode along the decking pointing out sights and hoisting ropes. I had a mild crush on his boat boy, which everyone politely pretended not to notice.
I remember him packing us lunches to take with us on the plane, and being so impressed that a millionaire would take the trouble to make sandwiches for his girlfriend's extended family.
She was not to remain a girlfriend long though, and I remember the beautiful wedding they had at a camp/resort in Northern New York, and how well-fed and well-entertained they kept us the whole weekend.
I remember shortly after S died, when I was lost and heartbroken, Hugo and Ellen invited me out to visit with them for a weekend. They took me to a show, we had some nice meals, and - best of all - Hugo took me ice skating in Central Park. I had skated in Rockafeller before, and wasn't impressed with the crowds. Hugo turned out to have figure skated in his youth, and still enjoyed the occasional whirl around the rink. Thus he knew the Good Spots to skate, and the times when they would be uncrowded. We skated a freestyle session outdoors, in the middle of the trees of Central Park, but the skyline of NYC looming over us.
I remember as he suddenly started aging rapidly, watching Parkinson's take over his life and rob him of his vitality, his humor, his dignity, his thoughtfulness. He battled to find the right balance of medications, many of whose side affects were worse than the disease. He battled to reclaim his life -- and he never fully succeeded.
I watched my aunt suffer every time he would get sick, or fall, or be left alone. I watched her gaze on his face with fear, knowing the disease was killing not just him but all the dreams they shared together. My heart breaks for her, knowing how much she's had robbed from her. It's not fair: partners are supposed to get to grow old together. I wish that was a rule I could keep from ever breaking.
* * *
Saturday after I learned of Hugo's death, I moped my way through an uninspired afternoon. I got a few things done, but nothing I'd planned on doing. Finally, five hours after I'd planned on starting, I got out of the house and to the gym. That perked me up some, so I decided I had enough energy to visit ConClave.
At the Con, I found lots of friends. Some gave me special hugs, because they knew of my family's loss. Some gave me normal hugs, which are just as good when they come from friends who care about you. I had lots of good conversation, most of it focused on the joyful parts of my life.
It was good to be among others. It was good afterward to go home and to crawl into bed with my most special other. Friends are what keep us sane, and we all take turns lifting one another up when it's needed. Thank God for that.