I didn’t know Wally really well. But from the stories I heard at his funeral reassure me that even folks who didn’t know him that well were usually permanently affected by his personality. I don’t even remember the first time I met him. I’m sure it was at mom and dad’s house, probably on a visit while we still lived in Baltimore. It was during the month that I was living in Ohio while the rest of the family was still in Baltimore, that I remember him most. Another friend of the family had some deal where she was able to arrange for us to work at Kings Island for a shift during Halloween Haunt (probably fear fest at the time), in exchange for two tickets. We were mostly working the entrance and scanning tickets and such as the performers did their thing behind us. It didn’t matter where I was in relation to Wally, but you could hear him just about the entire time. After our shift had ended I got to walk through the park with Wally and Jenna and some other friends and just see his enthusiasm for life. I know few people who I could say radiate life… Wally was one, in fact I can’t think of another right now.
During those 2 months that I was there, I started at a hotel, but ended on the floor in one of my parents spare rooms. It was the time that I was at my folks house that I felt like I got to know Wally. It was possibly only 2 weeks that we overlapped, but the damage was done. My life forever changed. Nothing in particular happened except that I got to experience Wally that those close to him had more than I did. At this time I’m not even sure how much Wally I knew wasn’t high. I know now that he was in a downward spiral, that he had been using, staying with addicts next door to my folks, and trying to hide it. Through lots of phone calls and tears Dad had arranged for him to go to Dunklin for inpatient treatment. My heart broke when we took Wally to the greyhound bus station that Sunday morning. My heart broke for the man that was missing….that was being squandered. My heart broke to think about how many more chances Wally would get. My heart broke for the pain of my family and friends as they poured out so much into him. My heart broke to recognize all of the sins in my life that keep me from having the fulfilled relationship with my heavenly father, and yet he still loves me, and we loved Wally the same way.
I told myself that I wanted to invest a little in Wally. That I wanted to be there for him the way my dad was. That I’d get the address and write to him, to encourage him. I didn’t. I hate myself for that. Not in a self-deprecating active way, just for not being obedient. Over the years on a few occasions I was around Dad when he’d received a phone call from Wally. My heart would skip a beat, hoping beyond hopes that he had gotten a handle on his addictions. That he was making some progress. I heard the ache in Dad’s voice when he told Wally that he’d have to ask Mom if Wally could stay with them again, knowing that it wasn’t going to happen.
I don’t do “what-if’s” often. They’re not productive. And even up until this minute, the “what-if’s” weren’t even, What if I’d have followed through with those feelings. The what-if’s of this week and last are: What if dad was still alive? Would dad have been there for him this time, as he was so many times before? Was dad’s death somehow an impetus for this current episode which ultimately led to Wally’s death?
My heart was uplifted as I saw Wally enter the chapel at dad’s funeral. All of us knew that he was incarcerated at the time…. but Wally being Wally, sweet talked his parole officer into letting him come. Dad loved him, and we loved him, and he’d do everything in his power to make it. Wally got to talk about Dad’s impact in his life during the funeral. I wish I remembered it. I’m grateful that he had the opportunity, because I’m sure that while Dad wished/prayed beyond all hope that he’d outlive Wally, I’m sure Dad didn’t really expect to. That’s the life of someone dealing with addicts and in recovery…. especially recovering yourself. The lives you invest in are always one step away from a relapse and to destruction, Dad told me so many stories, showed me so many pictures of folks who were living a life of recovery who were now dead due to an overdose.
My heart broke and still breaks for Wally’s passing. Though I only knew him for a short time, my life was changed. My mom, brother, sister, and neice all knew him for a much longer time that I did…. I can’t imagine the grief that they’re feeling. But like dad’s death, it’s not really the end. It’s the end for us, but not them…. and for that I’m jealous.
Wally is hanging out with my dad somehow. I imagine Wally giving dad a piggy back ride, telling jokes and it hurts so bad. It hurts so so bad.
Dad, I love and miss you. Wally, you now get to live in freedom with both my dads! I love and will miss you too!