Today, I learned from a comment on my blog that a friend had killed himself. His name was Gary Wadham, but I always thought of him as Daffyd ap Moran, his name in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).
We lost touch years ago, but there was a time when Trish and I considered Daffyd one of our closest friends. We were living a few blocks from him in New Westminster, and frequently saw him several evenings a week. On weekends, we often saw him at SCA events, where he served as a marshall during fights and played his guitar at feasts. He had a thin voice, but enthusiasm and a large repertoire of SCA songs more than made up for it. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, playing “Duke Paul,” the “Sam Hall” parody about Paul of Bellatrix,” and, later in the night, the off-color “The Ball of Ballinor,” and, more reluctantly – because he hated the song for its mediocrity despite its local popularity – “Lions Gate the Fair.”
In fact, we were close enough that he presided over our medieval wedding in Druidical green. Although not a pagan, he took his duties seriously, fasting beforehand despite (if I remember correctly) being borderline diabetic, and taking the trouble to pick the exact marble goblet for use in the ceremony. I still have that goblet, enclosed by the wooden ring used in the ceremony.
However, even then, we knew he had troubles. He had a taste for greasy spoons and seedy rented rooms, and his engagement fell through partly because of his moodiness, although it lasted long enough to get him into a marginally more upscale apartment. But he seemed to take a stubborn pride in living, not just simply, but on the edge of squalor.
Even more seriously, he was a mostly functional alcoholic. He did manage to hold down his job as an engineering designer, although he sometimes arrived at work hung over and his idea of breakfast was a couple of beers. But in his own hours, he often drank steadily. I remember one evening in particular when he left our group at the Simon Fraser University pub without saying anything, and a half dozen of us spent an anxious hour or two in the cold night, wandering the campus trying to find him – only to find him, eventually, asleep in his own bed with no memory of how he got there. He was never a nasty drunk that I heard, but his binges often alarmed his friends.
Trish and I lost touched with Daffyd when we moved and quit the SCA; in the circles we had moved in, if you weren’t in the SCA, you didn’t really exist. But from the rumors that reached us from time to time, he continued much as he had been when we knew him, but going slowly downhill, increasingly withdrawing and increasingly ill. In the last few years, I gather, he had largely dropped out of the SCA, and was going blind.
I regret, now, that I never got around to looking him up. Not that I suppose for a moment that I could have done much for him – if anyone ever had their fate written on their forehead, it was Daffyd. But I’ve learned a little about being solitary in the five years that I’ve been widowed, so the feeling persists that I could have done something. But the fact remains that I didn’t keep up the connection, and I lost the right to mourn him long ago, no matter how sorry I am that he died alone.