A lot of stuff has happened over the past few weeks and for the past four days I’ve been trying to write about all of it in one post… which, it turns out, is impossible. So I’m breaking the last two weeks down into separate posts. This is the first one…
My friend Buck recently lost a fight with diabetes…
both one of his feet were was amputated. I haven’t spoken to Buck since moving back to my home town to start my recovery four years ago. But he was, along with three other people, directly responsible for keeping me alive during my last untreated year.
Buck and I were roommates in a dry-house near Toronto for a year. He was on his own path to recovery from years of alcohol and drug abuse. I was trying to connect for the first time with two of my sisters, while at the same time I was living in the city where most of the clinical depressions I have started in… I was also interviewing the people associated with those clinical depressions for a book I’m writing about that time period.
So it was a fairly messed up time in my life.
At one point I had no money, no job, no prospects and I was crashing hard. So one night Buck took me to the house of someone he knew… I know I walked there but the image in my head has him carrying me the four blocks on his back. That night Buck talked his friend, Angelo, into hiring the two of us for a job landscaping.
The three of us spent the rest of the spring and that summer becoming close friends. Buck and I tore out lawns and put back large installations… like three tiered gardens, we worked side by side weeding gardens, digging in the soil and travelling around Southern Ontario.
In his previous life he was a cook so after work he’d teach me how to cook things like steak in bacon grease… he actually taught me how to cook bacon. He made sure I had food of my own by taking me to the food bank once a month, then walking home with me carrying boxes of tin cans and vegetables.
One of the jobs we hated was tearing out gardens… all of those healthy plants going to the community compost, it never made sense. People paid huge amounts of money for plants like those, while other people were tossing them out. So we started taking our pick for our own garden.
The house Buck and I lived in — with a dude named Ken who used to hijack pharmacy delivery trucks — was set back from the road by roughly fifty-feet of lawn. There were also a couple of really nice maple trees next to the sidewalk.
So Buck and I borrowed some of Angelo’s tools and started tearing up the lawn and replacing it with chunks of plants we had torn out from other people’s gardens.
By August we had roughly twenty different species of plant and two or three pine trees in our front yard. Buck was talking about tearing up the old concrete walkway (3feet wide, forty feet long), then burying the chunks in a shallow ditch we’d dig along the our side of the sidewalk, creating a berm so no one could see us sitting on the porch… and, I think more importantly, we couldn’t see Them.
I’m pretty sure he would have done it if I wasn’t there… I wasn’t against the idea, it just seemed like a whole lotta work to be doing after working all day.
By the end of the summer we had been picking up small construction jobs, like roofing and installing dormers and balcony’s. Buck had spent the first few years of his own recovery trying to find a direction… and now he was using the money he had saved to start collecting tools.
His idea was to move back to the Ojibwa reserve he had grown up on… the place where he had been abused and neglected as a child, and work on restoring some of the homes.
I always thought that our paths ran pretty close together, maybe only separated by time and distance. All of that sunlight, all of those hours and days of talking and engaging and taking care of each other, all of those nights talking and listening while sitting in front of a blank TV…
…Buck’s child was born that summer and he asked me to take the first photos of him and his child together. I was one of the first people he introduced his son to… that kind of thing meant something to him and to me. That summer Buck really started to develop his spiritual side. He started making art and crafts and even started selling them in a downtown storefront.
I don’t want to eulogize Buck. I want to see him and shake his hand. There’s so much that I have to do and so much that I have to say to so many people.