Party at Sanditon began as the dialogue among a group of dead addicts at a party who had tried to live in recovery and failed. The letters I have from the real-life individual who was the model for this story were to be part of the dialogue.
Leif died when he was thirty. This year he would have been thirty-six. I knew him as a baby. He was an adorable child.
He was an adorable adult. He was an addict and a liar, and his life was a mess. He was a beautiful spirit and a horrible object lesson. He was manipulative but not mean-spirited. He was as simple as a child at times, but you could never, and would never trust him to tell you the truth.
He was an angel. He loved fishing and dogs and simple pleasures. Actually, he was not an angel; he was as beautiful and talented as an archangel when he blew on his horn. He could also cook, and he was a whiz on computers, yet he blew it. He blew his life away for nothing, really.
That is the truth. Drugs lead nowhere, and life becomes meaningless. I tried to help him so many times. There were episodes at the methadone clinic that I remember as if they happened yesterday.
We spoke to the counselor at the clinic, and the counselor was honest and forthright. I was there when he was told to his face that he would never live past thirty if he didn’t change his ways. I also wrote to him in jail, when he was arrested for the second or third time, I don’t remember which.
He was ostracized by many, but still managed to sound very chipper when you spoke with him on the phone. He was so interested and so interesting in so many ways. There were any number of sports that intrigued him, and there was a love of history. He loved the Civil War, and we spoke of it many times.
He loved to read, and he loved not to just cook, but to prepare food. He was quite a chef. There were so many interests and pastimes to reel him in. He loved movies, and we went together often. But in the end, are life’s small quandaries and sideshows ever enough for some?
A favorite quote of mine—I believe it was from a biography of Montgomery Clift—was this: “All we could do was hold his hand as he walked to the grave.” I am holding hands a lot these days. The older we get, the more hand-holding we do. I held Leif’s hand, too.
It’s not because you’ve “given up” on somebody—you never, never, never, never give up, to misquote Churchill. You keep fighting; you keep trying, but—
The older you get, not the wiser you get, but the wiser you get about not being fooled by human nature. History will repeat itself, the cycle will turn, yet you try and you try, and you know you will fail A LOT!
Sometimes you will fail in life. Sometimes you will fail big. That is something they don’t tell you as a child. And you need to know this fact even as a baby coming out of the womb. It is part of life. Part of life is trying and failing, failing badly sometimes, yet we keep trying—always.
There are those who are searching. And there are those who are never satisfied with what they’ve found. He was one of those. Something drew him into that darker point on the horizon. I cannot see this point now, but I know it exists.
When someone dies, and death is not expected, there is always one word that pops up, why? That question is so cliché and so tres chic and so banal and so hard to answer. There is no why in death (death is the period), but there is always someone who is left on the other side of the question.
Why do I care so many years later? What draws any of us to a darker place during our time on earth? There is here, and there is now, and some have no God to latch onto.
My God is not a judgmental character, and he knows no reason or logic may comfort me. I thank him for that. He will comfort me at times, even against all reason. But we two cannot expand the circle just yet. I concede that there is a circle of love and trust and hope that is found within our family.
And then there is a circle of my life that is a wellspring, and it is found solely within me. I acknowledge after these many years that we cannot bring comfort to the dead, but only know the comfort we extend to the living. That is our curse and our blessing.
I find comfort in knowing him. There is something of our God in the dead that we love. We see things that we could never recognize before and appreciate the person, long gone, as a spirit that we never could truly know while they lived. That is our blessing and our curse.