Home > Uncategorized > The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye

I’ve agreed to write a column for the new local paper in San Luis Obispo, “SLO City News.” It’s one of those freebies that comes out every two weeks and is mailed to all SLO homes. There are also some places around town to pick it up, but don’t ask me where.

Anyway, I like the editor Chris Gardner, formerly of New Times, and I miss having a local outlet for my work, so we’ll give this a try and see what happens. I call the column “Big Yellow Taxi” in honor of Joni Mitchell.

Here’s the most recent column. Enjoy.

The Long Goodbye

It happened again the other night. It’s been happening a lot lately.

Charlotte and I had gone to the movies. That comedy about the funny-speaking guy from that funny-sounding country, supposedly doing a documentary about America. I laughed and laughed, held my stomach and almost gagged a couple times from laughing too hard.

Later, we went for coffee and I was still howling. Couldn’t stop. Big smile on my face. Feeling good. Feeling great. Then a thought crossed my mind and suddenly I turned quiet.

“I wish Dieter could have seen this movie,” I told my wife. “He would have loved it.”

There I go again. Thinking about Dieter. Not that I’m counting, but it has been exactly two years, two months, three weeks and two days since my friend Dieter Nickelsberg left us. Death is certainly not a stranger to me—I have endured the loss of relatives, friends, colleagues, students and beloved pets over the years, but losing Dieter has been especially hard. It is an ache that will not fade away.

Almost anywhere I go in San Luis Obispo sparks a memory. Pick a spot. Laguna Lake Park—we ran our dogs together there. Madonna Plaza—that’s where Dieter sold beds. Upper Monterey Street—that’s where Dieter sold waterbeds. Morro Street—he had a little specialty business called That’s Advertising for years.

There is the movie theater where we saw Kingpin and roared so loud that people stared at us. Don’t forget the restaurant where we used to tease Evelyn the waitress, or the Chinese place where Dieter, twice-divorced, first introduced me to his new girlfriend Tina. I stole his blue VW one afternoon while he was preoccupied with the ATM at Wells Fargo. He swiped all our patio furniture from the front porch on Pacific Street.

We hatched our scheme to vacation in Baja over beers at McCarthy’s. He rode shotgun with me on every single trip from the storage unit on Tank Farm Road to the new house in Atascadero after our 1997 house fire. Chorro Street. Mitchell Park. Uptown. Downtown. Doesn’t matter. There’s Dieter with that sly grin.

Our friendship lasted twelve years. We never argued. Never competed. Never judged. Only laughed. Charlotte learned to tolerate Dieter and his antics — no, our antics — over the years. But she always made it clear to others that Dieter was David’s friend.

Then came the cancer. I was the first person outside the family to be told,
and I was with Dieter at Stanford when they took out a lung. I was sitting with him in his hospital room when the doctor came in. Dieter introduced me, telling the doctor that I was his best friend. I excused myself so they could talk privately. No one had ever called me a best friend before. Standing in the hallway, I started sobbing.

We lost Dieter two months later, and I assumed that my overwhelming grief would eventually pass, as it had before with other friends and loved ones. But it hasn’t, and the long goodbye continues, often turning grief into a quiet, simmering anger.

I miss my friend. I find myself feeling angry that he’s gone. Angry that he got cancer. Angry that he didn’t do anything about it sooner. Angry when he’s not around when I need to laugh, and then when I do laugh, well, he’s not around to share the moment. San Luis Obispo just isn’t the same.

I ended up calling my friend Ingrid Pires, who spent years with Hospice and helped Dieter enormously in his final days. “Why am I feeling this way?” I asked.

“It’s entirely normal, and it is still early days for such a deep friendship,” Ingrid said. “There are some things you can do, but you will still have some sorrow as long as you continue to feel the connection.”

Ingrid and I are supposed to have coffee and talk soon. Just the two of us. Well, actually the three of us. Dieter is everywhere else I go these days, so he’ll probably be hovering nearby then, too.

My friend Dieter. My best friend.

Advertisements
  1. Guy Murray
    December 16, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    and I miss having a local outlet for my work,

    That’s what a blog is for Dave. And, very touching tribute to your best friend, Dieter.

    Regards,

    Guy Murray
    Nipomo News

  2. JerryDinAZ
    December 16, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    GREAT PIECE DAVE. IT SPEAKS FOR ALL OF US WHO HAVE LOST SOMEONE SO CLOSE AND CAN’T QUITE PUT IT INTO WORDS. IT CAME AT A GREAT TIME AS WELL.
    WISHING PEACE AND COMFORT AS YOU TRAVERSE THIS SEASON OF GRIEF.
    MANY OF US ARE HERE FOR YOU…BUT SOMETIMES THIS IS A PATH ONE MUST WALK ALONE.
    I WILL KEEP YOU IN MY PRAYERS.

  3. Christopher Gardner
    January 2, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    We are pleased to have Dave’s words grace our paper. We don’t mail to each house, though. We driveway deliver just like the old days. We have over 60 locations around the city you can pick up a copy. Just call the paper and somebody will tell you the closest.

    Take Care

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: