The Unwelcome Reply

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The longer you live, the more friends leave you.

I had been trying for weeks, without success, to contact my friend Brian, who also had done my taxes for years, his profession.

I met Brian years ago, in the dog park. My new dog companion, Bo, loved it there, and although he was very shy, the large expanse gave him plenty of room run without making contact with strangers. Many people who saw him and wanted to make contact with this big beautiful dog were hurt and disappointed, as he gave them a wide berth, as if they were Charles Manson. But when Bo saw Brian, he ran to him as if he were a long lost friend. This cemented our friendship. Any friend of Bo’s…

Some years ago Brian sold his house in the Valley and moved to Frazier Park, a more rural setting. I always felt he had regretted it, but was making the best of it. He had some problems with neighbors and his dogs. One had cruelly taken his dog to a distant pound, but Brian had tracked him down and gotten him back. More recently, one of his dogs decided to live with another neighbor, and Brian respected the dog’s wishes. A while ago, I learned his other dog, Buddy, had passed away.

I had some tax prep questions, but when I tried to call again, none of his phone numbers were in service. I did a little hunting on the internet and found a local business owned by his family members. I sat looking at the phone number of the business, but couldn’t make myself call to ask. What if they were estranged and I was walking into awkward family business? What if there really was bad news, and I ambushed them?

So I wrote two paper letters. I wrote them by hand, as my printer was not hooked up. One I mailed to Brian at his PO Box, the only address on his letterhead. The other I sent to his family, expressing my concern and asking for information. It seemed the least intrusive route.

Tonight, a little while ago, I noticed I had missed a call on my cell while I was out feeding the cats. I didn’t recognize the number, but there was a voicemail. It was news I did not want to hear, but which I somehow suspected, even though Brian was a younger man than I. A male voice said that he had received my letter, and that Brian had passed away a while back.

There were times when we had spoken when I did have concerns, but these calls were in the evening, when everyone is tired and may have had a cocktail. I might not have been at my best conversationally on those occasions either, but they did give me pause. I did call back the family for more clarity, but got a voicemail message. I hope they call back, so I can learn what took my friend. The Truth is better than a question mark, although perhaps more painful.

There are people who do things for you which are easy for them but mysterious to you. Brian was always so kind, helping me with tax problems, small in the scheme of things but nerve-wracking, running interference for me when he saw I did not want to dial the IRS, not charging me when things were tight and making me feel–making me know– that someone who cared about me was handling this unfriendly piece of business.

I now have the practical problem of getting my taxes done. Yes, there are many options. But H&R Block will not care about me, will not picture me and my dog running in the green fields while they fill in the 1040 fields, and won’t regale me with stories of the characters in Frazier Park. They will be a business, not a friend.

Brian, thank you for having my back all these years, I wish you still did. If there is a life after life, take care of Bo. He always loved you.

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