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Robert Julian Headshot

Starting Over at 62

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I was doing really well, or so I told myself until the Entertainment Tonight interview. I breezed through a sit-down on The Morning Show, promoting that evening's debut of my reality television series, Golden Gays. I wrapped a quickie on Toronto's Proud FM where I riffed with Mike Chalut, one of my peeps, in a fast and loose conversation both goofy and ribald. I was on a roll. Then, after lunch, came Entertainment Tonight.

A little delay, a sit-down -- the cameraman pulls focus and checks lighting, and then we're off. The roving reporter, a sweet young gay man, innocently leads me into murky waters. "I understand," he remarks, "you recently suffered a great personal loss." There it is: the dreaded black hole that will swallow me. My voice constricts and the waterworks ramp up. My breathing stops. The camera continues to roll. I feel the extreme close-up embracing my face. My right hand moves instinctively toward my mouth in a futile attempt to cover quivering lips. I stammer, "Yes, I... I... I'm sorry." Tears roll down my cheeks and I am sucked into the vortex of the Barbara Walters moment I hoped to avoid. I cannot recall what was said or done after this, but I remember a production assistant bringing me a box of tissues.

On a Palm Springs Sunday morning, 10 days before this round of personal appearances, I headed for the gym, shouting to Patrick, my partner of 23 years, "I have my cell -- call if you need anything." I saw him next in the emergency room three hours later, breathing through a ventilator. Having left a business luncheon because he didn't feel well, Patrick headed home on Sunrise Boulevard in his Boxster on a journey terminated by an acute myocardial infarction. His car jumped a curb and ground to a halt in front of Rite Aid. Before the ambulance arrived, Patrick was able to give my cell phone number to a Good Samaritan who called to tell me what had happened.
At the hospital, I played the chit Patrick and I always held for each other. "This is a do-not-resuscitate case," I explained to the attending physicians. It was easier to make the wager than play the hand. I am now left with a growing collection of sympathy cards and condolences. I have read each message, often in tears, tracing words of loss and remembrance that spring naturally from a cornucopia of shared experience. That stack of cards currently rests on my kitchen counter. I wonder what I will do with them.

Patrick and I had no unfinished business, no issues left to resolve. There is no store of anger or resentment left behind that I must swallow. There is only the silence of the house and the searching gaze of our dogs who sleep with me now, quietly settling for half the attention they once received. There are places in the world Patrick and I will never explore together. My grocery bill has been halved and my other living expenses are doubled. I have passed from a state of shock to a place of mental displacement. I have trouble concentrating. I begin tasks and walk away from them mid-stream, distracted by other things that need my attention. I have no appetite.

I feared I would find Patrick's few on-camera appearances in Golden Gays upsetting. But I recently watched some of these upcoming episodes with dry eyes, simply happy to see him again. Friends graciously come to my aid and I am grateful for their help. Some have suggested grief counseling, others recommend Xanax. I do not know about these things. I am in the middle of a process and philosophically opposed to self-medicating.

For the duration of our relationship, Patrick and I had no siblings, parents, or offspring; we were each other's only family. And I grew up as an only child. Now I am starting over at the age of 62. I will feel this, all of it. At some point I will feel something else. I am a writer, and I have always worked through my life on the page. I am accustomed to writing things out. I write out things. I write. Out.

Robert Julian is the star of the reality series, Golden Gays, which airs in Canada on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Slice ™.