I have been in a seriously crap mood of late, feeling exhausted and lightheaded and generally unmotivated, wondering if I’m sick with a bug or just generally sick of everything. Sometimes life is like that, I guess, especially with winter on its way—so what if we’ve had beautiful weather? It doesn’t change the fact that soon it will be icy and the bitter wind will cut and sting.
I think I warned you about my mood.
I miss Dean, although I never met him in real life. On Facebook, an entirely different realm than the one in which we feed and clothe ourselves, we were friends, and months ago he all but disappeared from Facebook. I found out from a friend that he was sick. And last week, after a long struggle, he died.
Dean was Dean Faulwell, a poet and co-founder, with Paul Hoover and my former (and beloved) grad school professor, Maxine Chernoff, of the poetry journal Oink!, which later became New American Writing.
He and I were two of Maxine’s thirty thousand or so Facebook friends and managed to find each other. There’s a little group of us who became friends through Maxine: Marsha, David, Mark, Dean, me. Dean would regularly post his poems on Facebook, forcing my hyper, foggy brain to slow down and read them two or three times just to get a sense of them, full as it was of political “memes” and trite “updates” about the weather or someone’s dinner. Many of Dean’s poems were about death and dying, a bit of an obsession of his, leading me to wonder, in retrospect, if he knew for much, much longer than we did that he had cancer. Or maybe he knew without really knowing. Or it could simply be that he was getting older and was a poet, a philosophical guy, a thinker, who pondered these questions and so wrote about them.
We all mourn people we haven’t met. Crowds turn out to line the streets for the funerals of the famous; we the unknown post brief encomiums for celebs we admired—swiped from Youtube or Google—on social media. I remember the day after John Lennon was murdered, spotting a black armband on a boy at my high school, and feeling somehow comforted: someone else cared as deeply as I did, someone else was mourning among the hordes of kids slamming their locker doors and shouting in the hallway as though nothing in the world were different. My mother has told me she saw my father cry only twice: Once at his father’s funeral and once when the news came that John. F. Kennedy had died.
I miss my conversations with Dean. I miss his wit, his piercing intellect, the fierce words he had for those who lacked compassion or refused to think clearly about things. He made me angry sometimes, too, and once we argued about religion—we argued about Jesus, for Christ’s sake. Afterwards, when he posted an unrelated comment on my Facebook page, I told him I was glad we were still friends. He responded that of course we still were, why wouldn’t we be?
Dean was unbelievably sweet and supportive when it came to my little boy, so much so, in fact, that I would have loved to get the two together, perhaps even more than I hoped to meet Dean myself. I took to sending him holiday cards and once, a couple of years ago, he sent me this message:
Thanks for the beautiful card with the great family photos, Aviva. I hope you, Matt and Jonah have a super year, with many more to follow.
And I replied:
You are so welcome, Dean. I am so glad we have gotten to know each other in the strange, befuddling, and wonderful world of Facebook. And I hope we’ll all have the chance to meet in person one of these days!
That would be great.
And I said:
It would, indeed. Somehow, it will happen. I’m quite sure of it.
He didn’t respond to that. Perhaps he knew, deep down, that it would never happen. If there is a world beyond this one, it’s a realm even more strange and befuddling than “cyberspace,” a place I couldn’t begin to imagine. If that place exists, I hope, one day, that Dean and I will recognize each other there.
Photo: Top: © Michalganski | Dreamstime.com; Bottom: By Jonah