One of my first memories was being bit by a dog in my face. I was crawling under a coffee table, probably creeping up on that dog in a threatening way, when it decided to teach me a lesson. I still have the scar. It was Danny’s dog. I found out just a few years ago, that they had the dog put down after it bit me. That broke my heart. I’ll bet that was Danny’s first heartbreak.
Danny was like a brother to me. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. I don’t really know how it all started. Were my parents and his friends? Did we live on the same street at some point? It was my real early years, and I simply don’t recall. However, I have a picture of him sitting next to me on a rock at my third birthday party. Danny was always there.
Another one of my other early memories was being back at Danny’s house after his father died. It’s a blur and I don’t recall how old I was, but I recall Danny’s mother being distraught. I believe Danny came home with us that night. His dad had driven off of a cliff. It’s my first memory of a suicide. I’ll bet that was Danny’s second heartbreak.
Did I tell you Danny was like a brother to me? He was. Throughout his early years, up until high school graduation, he was a primary fixture in my life. He lived with us at times. He went with us on summer vacations to Northern California. He and my older brother, Dave, were the same age and were very close. He was like another son to my mom. He was as much a part of our family as any of us were.
My older brother went in to the Air Force and I went into the Navy after we graduated. The next time I recall seeing Danny was when I was home on leave. He was living in West Hollywood at that time. That was when he and I came out to each other for being gay. It’s funny to recall that…he has always been in my big moments. Danny…my brother.
The next time I saw Danny was in 1996. I was home on leave and he was in town visiting. I had just gone through one of the toughest periods of my life, when I lost my mentor to my foe…suicide. Danny was struggling with addiction and had found out that he was HIV Positive. I had been clean from addiction for over three years at that point but was struggling with guilt over my suicide loss. We sat in his old brown Mercedes, that he was so proud of, and talked about our pain. I talked to him about getting clean. He was incredibly overwhelmed with his HIV diagnosis and couldn’t see past it to the desire to get clean. HIV was another heartbreak for Danny.
In 1997, I came home from a meeting one night and my partner told me Danny had called. I asked her if he wanted me to call him back and she said he told her he would call again. I wish I had, because he never did. The next time I heard from anyone, it was Danny’s mother asking if I had heard from him. They found his body a few days later. Danny drove off a cliff, just like his dad. It was another heartbreak for Karen.
I miss Danny. He’s always been with me…just ask the scar on my face. I wish he saw what I saw in him. I wish he knew how much he inspires what I do. My guess is that he does. I wish his part in it could have been without the heartbreak. That simply wasn’t meant to be.