Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Andover Years: Ali

This remembrance was written by Thai's friend Ali O'Halloran, a friend of Thai's from Andover. I remember Thai always speaking very fondly of her and her e-mails to me have been loving and gracious, but sadly I've never met her. Hopefully some day, Ali, we can meet and you can tell me more about what my husband was like when you met him--exactly the same age as Nicholas is now.

It is past midnight, so it means that today is Thai's memorial service. How can that be? Words are hard to come by, but it is the least I can do to try.

I met Thai in 1981, when he literally swooped into view on his skateboard. "Hi, I'm Thai!" I remember that day so vividly. The afternoon sun wound through the leaves, the leaves themselves rustling and leaving dappled shadows. Nervous, kinetic energy was everywhere as we all tried to act like this sudden deposition of our young selves into a storied prep school was all cool and part of the plan.

We had an easy start to our friendship as I had just come from Thailand to Andover, a world away from my family. He was wearing a kelly green polo shirt and faded OP shorts. His hair feathered back a bit, he was tan, those amazing eyes and that California easy going vibe; that was Thai and I hung onto the name and the promise of no sweat, hang ten, take it easy. Little did I know that his particular California vibe hummed with his energy, his passion, his intensity. Little did I know that I had just been given the gift of a most wondrous kind soul, and that we'd spend 3 years closely together as friends.

Thai's first girlfriend at Andover was my good friend. My boyfriend lived in Thai's dorm. We had a lot to talk about, Thai and I, and we did. What is lust vs. love? How does attraction work? Is this because we are far from home? I don't understand my math (that would be my question) I have to get back before sign in time. See you tomorrow! Thai and I were ahead of ourselves. We kissed each other on the cheek often to say bye. Platonic kisses, kind kisses, and kisses that made sense given whatever deep revelations we had just sifted out in the time together. I'd lie with my head on his stomach and we'd both talk and laugh through stories.

I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids and rely a lot on lip reading. Thai was naturally curious, wanting to know what I could or couldn't hear. "How do I know what I don't hear if I haven't heard it,?' I'd ask and we'd dissolve into laughter and silly thoughts. I'd turn over and rest my arms on Thai's stomach and look up at him. A bit awkward for friends, but it was a way to get close and lip read. I needed to lip read Thai because he had so much to say! And somehow, we were comfortable with it.

Even as I got myself into a "heavy" relationship while Thai's relationship with my friend didn't last long, Thai and I still connected. He was alternatively the voice of reason and the total imp. He gave a weird smile once to me and I turned to my boyfriend and wondered out loud what the little knowing smirk was about. It figures--the two of them had discussed sex and Thai must have thought something had happened!

I ran back to find Thai, "No way Thai! nothing!" and he looked at me and said "aaahahah." Anyway, Thai's knowing glance was wrong then, probably one of the few times Thai was flat out wrong! Thai running with no socks on. Thai muttering about the cold, Thai asking me if his clothes matched. Oh Thai! A few letters in college to each other and a meetup in LA. He met me at the door with a skull in his hands. He was trying to get the cranial nerves down. I couldn't resist: "To be, or not to be.." we walked and sat at a park bench near the ocean. I gave him the details of the death knell of my Andover relationship--one that had had many death knells-but this was the final curtain drawn. He listened and supported and I leaned into him. Still Thai, still so easy to hang out with. He told me I was beyond and needed more, that there was so much more and so much better out there for me. "All the fish in the sea!" as he pointed to the ocean, as earnest as a vacuum cleaner door to door salesman! I had to laugh. Once again, the guy made me laugh!

And then for whatever reason, I lost touch. I had an ambivalent read of my Andover years; so thrilled with the learning, but also a measure of regret that I was just so damn needy and in this way- over -my head relationship. Part of me pushed out Andover because I didn't like my lovelorn dependency back then. I could have made many more enduring friendships and most certainly could have stayed in better touch with the friends I had.

Facebook and Thai! We chatted recently, comparing medical and anatomical differences (I am a veterinarian) and discussing odd cases that might have benefited from having both an ER physician and a veterinarian on site. He talked about feeling that sometimes he just got too rational and matter of fact and had to remember sentience/emotions and passing news gently. I have no doubt he did this well; he was just thinking about how to do it better. We chatted about sleep, drugs, snoring, swimming, kids, dogs, food, Andover, hospital revenue, insurance companies, and maybe we even hit the weather. Yes, we did chat about the weather!

I feel his death poignantly. There is another weird tangential distress for me. Thai was there to soothe Chris (my then boyfriend) when his Dad unexpectedly passed away while we were at Andover. Chris' dad was 43 and out on his bike . This coincidence has me tumbling into the rabbit hole.

I can only say, with tears in my eyes, thank you Thai, for being my friend. For finding your soulmate in Katherine (I told you you would!) and loving her fully, for your beautiful boys who will carry their mother through the dark times just as she will carry them. For knowing how much a dog brings unconditional love to a family. For building a family. I love you, my friend. I miss you. Next time I'm out that way, I'm going to walk Andover one more time for you. Be Happy wherever you are. Grab a skateboard and go!

with love, Ali

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