Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dear Larry

On Thursday a friendship of twenty-plus years came to an end when my mom called with the difficult news of death. My first pen pal (besides Lil and the foreign kids from the back of Archie comics), my first professional boss, and the first gift sobriety gave me: Larry King.

Do you ever picture a certain friend or relative, and just sense they'll never be an ailing 97 year old in a nursing home? This friend was like that, and I'm relieved he is no longer constrained by his earthly body. Larry was somehow ageless: eternally 55 or so, but in many ways a carefree 17-year old guy. He personified the gratitude a recovering addict carries with them --- to be aware of a generous universe, our rightful place in it, and the immutable hand of a loving Creator. And he was a good counselor. Maybe that's why he stayed in the chemical dependency field when he could've chosen a half dozen careers with relative ease and acclaim: music, activism, educational guru, and so on. But he remained a counselor, walking with lost souls trudging towards clarity --- witnessing all the pain and madness without being swallowed by it. He was a real shit disturber where it mattered, and a voice of perfect trust in God when life seemed too much.

Among the things he illuminated for me was an absolute riddance of self-pity and fear. As a clinical director he was patient, meticulous, and funny. As a friend he was endlessly comforting without losing his own serenity. He let me bring my dog to the office every day, wryly declaring her a therapeutic presence. He spoke highly of both of my parents, and had great stories from the 1970s and 80s about many people in our town. I think now about his monk-like existence, the confidences he took to his grave ~ he instilled in me the sacred trust (not to mention a near-holy fear of federal privacy mandates) of receiving another's pain or joy, which is especially vital in an isolated community.

Larry intentionally lived by the ocean, nesting and creating stability wherever he roamed. He was somewhat itinerant in his mission -- knowing when to move on, but fully immersed while he lived in a place. He really was the kind of personality that helps knit a small town together. His physical presence was fixed, immovable: keys jangling, quips exchanged, tie dye and denim blazing through. Spiritually, things settled a bit when he asked questions. The world slowed to a pace of wonder and hope.

He was alternately known as Easy Eddie and the Frog King, both nods to personas and passions. On any topic, he had a joke you saw coming but didn't hurry along to its conclusion, since conversation was an art in which he delighted and excelled. The currency he traded in was profound, sincere, and exacting of truth in himself and others. There was no pretension in Larry. To say he "looked for the best" in people would be trite, since I think his skill was a deliberate routing of the best in a person, inviting them to live better and do better in a most unselfish way.

While I reflect on the magnitude of his service, the tenderness of our bond, and the role he played in so many lives, I trust that my grief will subside while his impact will remain. My life has been fortified by a thousand tiny points of light that Larry delivered, always allowing me to claim the discovery as my own. It's sobering to learn of the hundreds of people who felt precisely the same way about him. May God grant eternal peace and majesty to his soul.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely tribute to Easy Eddie. Everything you said was spot on, girlfriend.