Featured Column
Week of 3.7.2005
"A Certain Sadness"
          There was a distance between him and his father. His father made him feel like a boarder in the house where they lived. His mother was critical of his every move. Nothing he did was good or acceptable. His father had died when Calvin was seven years old and Calvin found no tears to shed. It was just another occurrence in his young life. If anything, his young shoulders felt a sense of relief.
          I had first met Calvin in 1968 and his first sentence to me was, “Please don’t call me Calvin, call me Cal.” We were in the same business. He had two children, a boy and girl and an attractive wife. Although a stretch of ocean separated us we became close friends. Our families grew to be close. We water skied, played tennis and had picnics together.
          Early one morning Cal phoned me and asked if we could have lunch together. He said there was something important he wanted to discuss with me. Cal hopped a commuter plane, I picked him up at the airport and drove to my favorite restaurant. Even before the water was poured Cal began, “I just had a fight with Marvin, my best friend. He doesn’t want to be friends anymore. I really don’t know what to do, I can’t sleep.” My first reaction was to say, “Well, hell with him, Cal.” But, I didn’t. There was something grey and sad about Cal sitting there before me. Troubled and disturbed. I listened as he described their disagreement. It didn’t sound like much to me. They were waterskiing together and Marvin got upset about something and walked off, saying, “That’s it, Cal, we’re through. I don’t want to see you again.” I didn’t understand the depth of his pain, but I listened and when we parted he hugged me and I hugged him back. He still looked troubled.
          In 1980 Cal and I found ourselves working in the Midwest, a few hundred miles apart. Our families would meet in Chicago and attend stage plays together. I was back in Honolulu in 1981 when Cal phoned me to say he was coming to Hawaii on a vacation – alone. I was delighted to be able to see him again. He phoned me from his hotel and we made arrangements to have dinner together. I told him I’d pick him up at his hotel that evening. He said, “No, no, I’ll meet you at the restaurant.”
          I waited outside the restaurant and watched a small, convertible sports car pull up. Driving was a handsome blond man wearing a tank top. Cal was in the passenger’s seat. I waved at Cal as he slid out of the car and watched as he gave the driver a small wave and a smile.
The main course was taken up with small talk. Just before dessert was brought to us Cal said, “I want you to know I’m getting a divorce.” He explained that his wife and he were growing apart and this was a mutual decision. I consoled and we parted. That would be our only time together on his vacation.
          By 1981 Cal had moved to Arizona. We talked on the phone, mostly about incidentals. One day I told Cal that I was going to Manhattan with my daughter to see some stage plays. He arranged to meet us there, where we attended three of Broadway’s best plays.
          Cal had a job he enjoyed in Arizona. He told me he had friends and was active in the community. I told him I was happy for him. We stayed in phone contact, but not as frequently as in years past.
            Then, one day, Cal phoned me and said, “Ron, I have the virus.” My reply was, “Oh, that’s trouble. Stay in bed and drink lots of fluids.” Cal told me, “Not that kind of virus. I have HIV.” Staggered, I said, “Jeezuz, I’m sorry.” He tried to salve me by saying, “I know.” He told me about his good friends, his great job and his desire to beat his disease. He also said, “You know, until this, I had never been happier in my life.”
          We talked on the phone every week and Cal would bring me up to date on his condition. Three months after his initial diagnosis Cal re- married his former wife, with his two children in attendance. He wanted to be sure that in the event of his passing she would be legally entitled to all he owned.
          During one of my phone calls to see how Cal was doing he told me, “I’m not feeling well today.” A cold shiver ran through my body.
           I let a day pass, but worry got the best of me. I dialed and waited. A strange voice answered. When I asked for Cal, the voice said, “Cal isn’t feeling too well today, can I leave a message?” I told him my name and the stranger said, “Oh, yes, Cal told me about you. I’m sorry, but it’s gone to his brain and he’s in a coma. I’ll keep you informed, I’m Cal’s partner, Arnie.”
          Arnie called me two days later with the news. Cal was gone. All I could say was, “Damn.”
I spoke to Cal’s wife. She told me that she didn’t really know about Cal until the divorce. Never guessed. Neither did I. I wish I would have.
          I asked her if there was anything I could do. She said, “We’ll see.” She told me she still loved Cal, always did. She told me about a certain sadness that was always attached to Cal. I told her that I knew of his certain sadness.
          A month after Cal’s death I went to my mailbox and found a heavy box about a foot square. Attached to the top of the box was a letter “I hope this isn’t asking too much of you. One of Cal’s last requests was that his ashes be spread at the mouth of Wailua River on Kauai where he enjoyed water skiing with his friend Marvin. Would you mind too much spreading his ashes there.”
          The next day I flew to Kauai, rented a car and drove along the sparkling white beaches to the mouth of the Wailua River. I parked, removed my shoes and waded into the warm waters and spread my good friend’s ashes. As they floated towards the ocean I placed three leis on the same waters. In a few minutes the waters had taken my friend and the leis to another place – hopefully a place where a certain sadness will become an _expression of happiness.
A friend has AIDs
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger