eulogy for D

He drank himself to death and I watched it happen and did nothing.

I first met D in 1989 when I started working for company X in the Public Affairs team. As a newly arrived immigrant, it was all a bit bewildering for me: new job, new country, new people, new culture. He was a bald old coot in a rumpled suit, stinking of cigarettes, just as badly as I must have. I was confused, anxious and lonely. He took me under his wing, took pity on me, showed me the ropes, got me started as a proper aussie, whatever that is.

I remember standing outside the main entrance to Company X's HQ, with D, smoking our heads off, having deep and meaningful discussions about what little use to society is a public relations practitioner. Our conversations covered a lot of ground: The meaning of life, the finer points of speech-writing, the standards of Australian journalism or lack thereof, the evils of capitalism and globalisation, how hard it was to get a decent lunch at the canteen. He was incredibly proud of his sons, M and C, and their achievements. Once he got started on that topic you couldn't get him to shut up.

Every person is unique in their own way, but for me, he was the most unique person I've ever known (except for me, of course, but then I've never really gotten to know myself very well). You couldn't have any interaction with him that was boring.

We were very similar in many ways, and also very different. He couldn't understand my interest in computer games, for instance, and I couldn't understand his obsession with crossword puzzles. So in the end we agreed to argue about anything and everything all the time.

Some might call him stubborn. I say, determined. Some might call him cynical, I say realist. Some might call him abrasive. I say, abrasive.

He had a keen intellect, a sharp mind, a very broad general knowledge.

He was volatile, argumentative, stubborn. He drank himself to death. He hit on my wife. He was a cunt at times. But underneath all the crap, he was just a big softy at heart. Always willing to give of himself, like the times he spent with my kids helping out with maths tuition. He helped me get through a particularly bad period of my life, an extended period of unemployment and self-doubt. Self-pity, and all the rest. He shook me out of the depression and gave me a few swift kicks up the backside.

D enjoyed life. More than most. He lived life to the fullest. Music. Theatre. Food. Drink. Wine. Women. Song. I don't know if you can call cigarette smoking one of the good things in life, but certainly that was one of the many interests we had in common. We would always be firing off stories at each other about our latest attempts to quit. In between really fierce arguments about life and deity and politics. He was a rabid atheist. I was a cowardly agnostic. Lily-livered. I guess those arguments especially the ones about death, are resolved now, at least for him. I'll have to wait a little longer.

Another fence we were often on different sides of was politics. Talk about robust discussion. Sometimes we'd get so angry with each other we wouldn't speak for days, weeks even. And then he'd call me, or I'd call him, and we'd apologise and make friends, and then one of us might say, "By the way, have you read today's Telegraph?" And then it would be on again, for young and old. He didn't suffer fools gladly. I guess he made an exception in my case.

I'm ashamed of my behaviour toward him in the last months of his life. It must have been terrible for him. V had divorced him, after forty years of marriage. Shafted him in the settlement. His kids and grandkids were estranged from him. He had no friends, except me, but I let him down. He moved to the Coast, 90 minutes drive from the City, into a tiny little bungalow in a low-rent trailer park in walking distance from a cheap hotel. With a bar. And that's where he spent his last days, drinking himself to death. Wondering what had happened. And why he had no friends. And where his life had gone. Occasionally calling me on the phone, and having long rambling slurred screaming sessions. I always promised I was going to go up and visit him but never did. He died alone, and lonely to the last. (I'm truly sorry D, I let you down in the end. I was too consumed with my own problems. But that's no excuse. I know you're hearing this, and I know you forgive me. I love you.)

My life was richer for having known him. And that applies to everyone he came in contact with. He was a good mate. A good man.

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